Saturday, September 5, 2015

assessing Obama's foreign policy

Blaming the administration in power for problems abroad is a major spectator sport in Washington. Each administration gets pretty defensive while in office and then airbrushes its mistakes in later memoirs.

For what it's worth, I think a piece in Foreign Affairs by its editor Gideon Rose is a well-argued defense of Obama's foreign policy.

I'd especially cite a couple paragraphs on the Middle East:

With regard to the Middle East, similarly, hawks fault Obama for letting conflict rage and turbulence spread. And it is true that the American withdrawal from Iraq and nonintervention in Syria were ultimately followed by the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS, a vicious terrorist ministate, in the badlands of those countries.
But looking at recent history, the president concluded that the region’s various domestic problems are neither easily solvable nor his to solve. After all, as the former administration official Philip Gordon has noted, “In Iraq, the U.S. intervened and occupied, and the result was a costly disaster. In Libya, the U.S. intervened and did not occupy, and the result was a costly disaster. In Syria, the U.S. neither intervened nor occupied, and the result is a costly disaster.” And in Yemen, one might add, the United States relied on drone strikes and active diplomacy, and the result is a costly disaster. If the Middle East is bent on convulsing itself in costly disasters, as seems unfortunately true these days, trying to play a constructive role from the sidelines rather than getting embroiled directly represents not weakness but prudence

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