Monday, January 11, 2010

A devastating evaluation

Eliot Cohen looks at Obama's first year's foreign policy. His evaluation is not encouraging.
If the first year of President Barack Obama's foreign policy were a law firm in Charles Dickens's London, it would have a name like Bumble, Stumble and Skid.

It began with apologies to the Muslim world that went nowhere, a doomed attempt to beat Israel into line, utopian pleas to abolish nuclear weapons, unreciprocated concessions to Russia, and a curt note to the British to take back the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office. It continued with principled offers of serious negotiation to an Iranian regime too busy torturing, raping and killing demonstrators, and building new underground nuclear facilities, to take them up. Subsequently Beijing smothered domestic coverage of a presidential visit but did give the world the spectacle of the American commander in chief getting a talking-to about fiscal responsibility from a Communist chieftain.

The lovely town of Copenhagen staged not one, but two humiliations: the first when the Olympic Committee delivered the bad news that the president's effort to play hometown booster had failed utterly, before he even landed back in the U.S.; the second when the Chinese once again poked the U.S. in the eye by sending minor officials to meet with Mr. Obama, as they, the Indians and Brazilians tried to shoulder him out of cozy meetings aimed at sabotaging his environmental policy. Even smitten foreign admirers—in the case of the Nobel Prize, some addled Norwegian notables—managed to make him look bad.

It was nonetheless a year of international displays of presidential ego, sometimes disguised as cosmic modesty ("I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war"), but mainly of one slip after another.
He has some ideas for how Obama can improve going forward. Mostly, it is not to project such an air of arrogant weakness.

Meanwhile, you can also check out this list of the six dumbest moves that Obama made in the past year. I certainly agree with the last two.

In a scarier, and less partisan critique, Bruce Hoffman, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown, writes today in the Washington Post to describe all the ways in which Al Qaeda has been adapting their methods of attacking us in their war to terrorize and exhaust our abilities to fight back.
Yet, oddly enough for a terrorist movement supposedly on its last legs, al-Qaeda late last month launched two separate attacks less than a week apart -- one failed and one successful -- triggering the most extensive review of U.S. national security policies since 2001. Al-Qaeda's newfound vitality is the product of a fresh strategy that plays to its networking strength and compensates for its numerical weakness. In contrast to its plan on Sept. 11, which was to deliver a knock-out blow to the United States, al-Qaeda's leadership has now adopted a "death by a thousand cuts" approach. There are five core elements to this strategy.
So far there is little sign that our government is adapting our methods to go on the attack rather than responding to their new methods. I'd like to think that there is a lot going on in the background that we're not aware of, but I'm afraid that we're still responding instead of truly being on the offense.