Washington Post: Obama’s foreign initiatives have been failures - The biggest failures, his own ideas

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    Jul 26, 2012 9:10 PM GMT

    Obama’s foreign initiatives have been failures
    By Jackson Diehl, Published: January 8, 2012


    The easiest one to document — and the one most likely to draw Republican attention next fall — is the busted Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Obama arrived in office afire with the ambition to create a Palestinian state within two years. But his diplomacy was based on a twofold misunderstanding: that the key to successful negotiations was forcing Israel to stop all settlement construction — and that the United States had the leverage to make that happen.

    Veterans of the Middle East “peace process” shook their heads in wonderment as what at first appeared to be a rookie error evolved into a two-year standoff between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There was only one possible explanation for this persistence in futility: The president himself was fixed on it.

    Obama’s next big project was global nuclear arms control — an initiative so impressive to Norwegians that it won him the Nobel Peace Prize before he could act on it. Yet the results to date hardly seem prizeworthy. The New Start nuclear arms agreement with Russia merely ratifies warhead reductions already underway in Russia, while imposing a modest cut on the U.S. arsenal. More ambitious multilateral initiatives by Obama — to control nuclear materials, for example — have made little progress, despite an elaborate summit the president hosted in 2010.

    Here again there appears to be a disconnect between Obama’s 1970s-vintage ideas and the real world of the early 21st century. There’s nothing wrong, and modest good, in extending Cold War nuclear conventions with Russia, or extracting highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Chile. But the most dangerous proliferation threats emanate from countries that don’t attend summits or sign international treaties, such as North Korea and Iran. In terms of nuclear capability, both are ahead of where they were in 2009.

    This brings us to Obama’s most distinctive — and most ill-fated — idea, and the one most identified with his 2008 campaign: the determination to “engage” with U.S. adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Obama promised “direct diplomacy” — even one-to-one meetings — with the likes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Il. More broadly he made the case that the United States could benefit by reaching out to autocratic regimes, while dropping the George W. Bush administration’s moralizing “freedom agenda.”

    In his first year Obama dispatched two letters to Khamenei while keeping his distance from the revolutionary Green movement. He shook hands with Hugo Chavez. He launched a “reset” of relations with Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin and dispatched envoys to reason with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. He delivered a sweeping address to the Muslim world from Cairo.

    The results have been meager. Khamenei spurned the U.S. outreach. Relations with Putin warmed for a time but now have grown cold again. In Egypt and across the Middle East, the president’s popularity is lower today than when he gave the Cairo address.

    That’s largely because, in pursuing “engagement,” Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy. Detente with dictators can sometimes yield results, but Obama’s outreach turned out to be spectacularly ill-timed. Following the failure to back Iran’s Green movement, the strategy caused the administration to lag in supporting the popular uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.


    To add another not mentioned in the Washington Post that has proved extremely damaging.

    Obama unilaterally pulled out of the missile shield in Eastern Europe without demanding any concessions from the Russians. Undoubtedly the pros at the Dept of State advised otherwise, but Obama and his equally ignorant and arrogant advisers from Chicago knew better. Many experts are convinced that some concessions could have been achieved regarding Russia's support to Iran and Syria, such as the sale of missiles. Now with the leadership vacuum, the world is a less safe place, and many are paying the price in Syria.
  • HottJoe

    Posts: 21366

    Jul 26, 2012 9:15 PM GMT
    I didn't realize that it was the president's job to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... OK, then,so why didn't Bush, or the presidents preceding him solve it?????
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    Jul 26, 2012 9:22 PM GMT
    Wall Street Journal, July 26, 2012

    A Tale of Two Worlds - Romney offers a contrasting vision to the Obama record abroad.


    The presidential campaign continues to clarify differences in economic philosophy, and this week brings a timely and useful contrast on national security and foreign policy.

    Before embarking on an overseas tour, Mitt Romney appeared before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, a day after President Obama. Both men invoked Henry Luce to declare their determination to see the 21st become another "great American century." The concordant notes ended there.

    The Republican candidate offered a vision made to contrast with the four-year Obama record. Billed as Mr. Romney's hallmark statement on foreign policy, the speech offers a worthy template for a new Administration.

    Mr. Romney marked out a substantive difference on Iran. He declared that Iran's regime surrendered any right to enrich uranium by lying for years about its atomic bomb plans. Going back to the second George W. Bush Administration, the U.S. and Europe have tried to strike a deal with the mullahs to let them enrich "peacefully." The Romney approach is the safer one with this regime. The Republican candidate added that he'd end the Obama practice of carving out exceptions to sanctions on Iran.

    Mr. Romney was right to score President Obama for ordering a premature pullout from Afghanistan this summer to satisfy his left-wing base in time for the election. But the Governor left the details of his own Afghan policy vague, opening himself up to Vice President Joe Biden's counterpunch that "it is hard to know where he stands."

    He also might have fleshed out a clearer position on the worsening conflict in Syria and the broader Middle East, beyond his stalwart defense of Israel and other allies in the region. This may indeed be a play for Jewish votes, but it could be a useful opening to challenge Mr. Obama's claims that America's alliances "have never been stronger."

    As the President promised in his Inaugural Address, the U.S. extended a hand to the Russians, Iranians and North Koreans, and told steadfast friends to get into line behind this engagement. This policy flopped in each case, and whether in Central Europe, Israel or Saudi Arabia, allies have come to trust America less. This is one reason Israel may strike Iran. It doesn't believe in U.S. promises to stop an Iranian nuke.

    With little to show for its main foreign policy initiatives, the Obama campaign will play to war fatigue. The public may be tired of conflict, but Americans still expect a President to lead the world and shape it. The Obama policy of disengagement abroad is merely storing up trouble that a President Romney would have to address immediately.

    To appreciate the genuine contrast of foreign-policy visions on offer this fall, try to imagine President Obama speaking the following lines: "There are values, causes and nations that depend on American strength, on the clarity of our purpose, and on the reliability of our commitments. There is work in this world that only America and our allies can do, hostile powers that only we can deter, and challenges that only we can overcome."

    We've had disagreements with Mr. Romney, but this week he presented a strong case for more forceful foreign-policy leadership and the means to handle the global troubles that he would inherit as President.
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    Jul 26, 2012 9:36 PM GMT
    yourname2000 said
    HottJoe saidI didn't realize that it was the president's job to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... OK, then,so why didn't Bush, or the presidents preceding him solve it?????

    Shush...you're interrupting the geri-blathering. Socal's myopic soliloquies don't hold up to scrutiny. And if you stop him midway, he'll just forget where he was, get frustrated and then start the whole process over again.

    Wait until he says "get off my lawn", then respond.

    Assumed you had about the amount of knowledge on intl affairs as just demonstrated. No surprise. icon_lol.gif
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    Jul 29, 2012 8:21 PM GMT
    yourname2000 saidActually, it was an op for you to recycle my gif.

    But you probably forgot allllll about that already. icon_rolleyes.gif

    Guess so.