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Thursday, October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s foreign policy now seems to be defined by a series of ironies.

Having pledged to pivot from an emphasis on the Middle East to a focus on Asia, he has announced that the two large public initiatives of his closing years will involve Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Having begun as a foreign policy realist, he found himself at the United Nations on Tuesday defending U.S. global commitments in the name of an idealistic American exceptionalism.

The last month has subjected Obama’s international strategy to turbulent tests and his performance drew the most sharply negative reviews of his presidency. His foreign policy ratings took a tumble. The Economist magazine splashed the provocative words “The weakened West” across the cover of a recent issue.

On Syria, the president (rightly in my view) proposed military action in response to a violation of his red line against chemical weapons. But he failed to prepare the public for his move and was left facing a bipartisan rebuke in Congress. He was rescued only by a Russian diplomatic initiative that the president’s allies insist was the product of the administration’s own groundwork.

In the meantime, years of very tough sanctions that left Iran’s economy in shambles and altered the country’s internal balance of political power have opened an opportunity for negotiations over curbing Tehran’s nuclear program and creating a new relationship between longtime adversaries.

In a matter of weeks, talk of war has been replaced by the promise of diplomacy. What happened?

There was an important clue in Obama’s U.N. speech when he expressed the impatience of the American people over the world’s ambivalence about U.S. power. Americans, he said, were tired of being criticized simultaneously for meddling too much and for engaging too little, especially in the Middle East.

“The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or take on every problem in the region as its own,” he said. “The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war, rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world, may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.”

  • Bill Thompson

    Once again the Obama administration finds itself in a communication deficit. A major part of being the president of United States is being a good salesman and having the ability to communicate your vision. Unfortunately many of the American people have been programmed to only understand and digest small soundbites. Over the years the Obama administration, Pelosi and Harry Reid have demonstrated the inability to get their point across. The Presidents press corps is not only ineffective but almost nonexistent. You see John Banner and Mitch McConnell and their entourage on a regular basis where is the Democratic leadership? If you would like to get your point across you have to open your mouth!!!

    • silence dogood

      People understand with the message is. It, however, is being rejected more and more.

  • silence dogood

    Vlad is doing donuts on Obama’s front lawn. Cold beats cool. The audacity of Vlad.

  • charleo1

    The sea of red ink left on the Federal balance sheets by the irresponsible, and
    proliferate spending, and, “creative accounting,” of the Bush Administration,
    weren’t the only deficits left to the new President. Perhaps never in the history
    of our Republic had our reputation, and credibility been so sullied in the eyes
    of the world, as it was that January, of ’09. As Bush and Co. left Washington
    and their international catastrophes for the new man, and his team to mend,
    and try to clean up. Much like fiscal books, with their three consecutive years
    of balanced budgets. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the outpouring of good
    will, and support poured into America from the four corners of the world.
    Friend, and foe alike, offered their condolences, shared our grief, and stood
    with us, aganist the scourge of international terrorism. This bounty too would
    be squandered by George W. Bush, and his cabal of NeoCon advisors, and
    war criminals. From the Middle East, across Europe, to Asia, Bush’s elective,
    preemptive war in Iraq, a Country that had not attacked us, was seen by most
    of the civilized world, for exactly what it was. A war of choice, to illegally gain
    geo-political power, and control of the the world’s second largest known oil
    reserves. A move we would have excoriated, and sanctioned the former Soviet Union for making just a few years ago. We were carrying out under the fig leafs
    of WMDs, and the, “War on Terror.” If I was a Right Winger, especially one that supported this loathsome, and naked attempted confiscation of the resources of
    a sovereign country,killing more than 100,000 of it’s citizens. I’d set down, and
    shut my mouth. For fear I’d just add to the ignominy, by recalling the actions of
    a President who’s name his own Party will no longer say. So atrocious was his handling of foreign affairs.

  • sigrid28

    Every parent preparing to take the family on vacation knows that if you tell the children everything, it will take twice as long to get on the road. It is the same in diplomacy. No country intent on having its way in the world is going to make its strategy crystal clear, either to its citizens or to its partners in diplomacy. Successful diplomacy DEPENDS on a communication deficit when it comes to sensitive negotiations and the time table necessary to carry them out. Most true adults understand this difficult truth. Until current negotiations are complete, almost everything public will be pure theatre–except what President Obama has said from the very beginning of his term in public office, that he prefers to govern in times of peace, not war.

    If Republicans want to be privy to international negotiations behind the scenes, they will have to run candidates capable of winning general to elections. Until then, they will just have to settle for the set choreography of international affairs like the rest of us.

  • charleo1

    As those that study such things will tell you. Around the world there are all manner
    of disputes. With a wide array of causations. Some tribal, ethnic, or religious. Many were created in the Middle East, when the European victors of the first World War,
    arbitrarily drew lines on a map, carving up the old Empires, and creating new ones, without regard to much more than distributing the spoils of war among the winners.
    Nowhere, has this rather careless way of attending to the best interests of foreign
    powers, while ignoring the indigenous people who actually made their homes there,
    caused more tumult than the creation through the UN in 1946 of the Jewish State of Israel. It has been, as we know, the Gordian Knot, that has vexed Presidents, Prime Ministers, and gifted diplomats since it’s creation. Some have come tantalizingly close to a breakthrough. Carter’s Camp David Accords, raised hopes around the world.
    But all of our Presidents had been able to do little more than maintain an uneasy
    status quo, until, enter the bungling Bush Administration. You see Bush at this time,
    mired in a vicious Civil War in Iraq, and needing a new lofty goal, having found no
    WMDs, hit upon the idea of spreading democracy throughout the Mid-East. Yes,
    that had been the real reason all along. And in the interest of, “staying the course,”
    had, aganist the strong warnings of Israel, called for elections in Palestine. There
    was the guy Bush was promoting, and Hamas. Hamas won. Bush then refused
    to recognize the elections, because his guy didn’t win. So, now to this day we
    have the original problem. And the Bush legacy of dividing the once united
    Palestinians, into two camps. Want to know the real reason the the World was so wildly enthusiastic about Barack Obama? Think about it. Just so it’s not forgotten how bad George W. Bush, and his crew really was.

  • tax payer

    Each country should solve their own problems. Mexico solved theirs by making sure their citizens came to this country uninvited.

  • Lynda Groom

    Apparently Obama is doing a terrible job at foreign diplomacy. His administration has avoided a war in Syria, the Syrian government has agreed to give up its WMD’s and the production program. They’ve allowed the UN Inspectors into the country to confirm the care of those WMD’s. Yet another failure is that fact that today Iran agreed to give up its nuke program. Yeah that Obama guy is just terrible at foreign diplomacy.