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Obama’s Cowboy Foreign Policy

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:35 am - September 21, 2009.
Filed under: Bush-hatred,Politics abroad

Recall how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took an inaccurately-translated reset button to her first meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Obama Administration’s foreign policy was going to be different from that the previous Administration. Unlike Bush, Obama wasn’t going to go it alone, but instead engage in “smart diplomacy” and cooperate more closely with other world leaders.

Of course, that notion was premised, in large part, on the falsehood that the former President did not have good working relationships with world leaders.

And now, it sometimes seems his entire foreign policy is based on the premise that everything his predecessor did was wrong and must be undone.  Even when our predecessor had been worked closely with our allies on certain issues.

Scrap a missile-defense agreement with eastern European allies that Bush had signed, as if he wouldn’t offend those allies who also signed it.  The negotiations carried out between our government and theirs don’t really matter because, well, you see, the team of a bad man with a go-it-alone foreign policy, worked out the details of those agreements.  And since the American people elected Obama, well, past agreements don’t matter much any more.  Even those made with some of our most steadfast allies.

Obama seems to have developed a foreign policy whose twin premises are (1) whatever my predecessor did was wrong and (2) it’s better to appease our enemies than our allies.

And despite the President’s charismatic presence and fawning press abroad, his strategy doesn’t seem to have yielded much in the way of results:

Foreign counterparts flock to meet with him, and polls show that people in many countries feel much better about the United States.

But eight months after his inauguration, all that good will so far has translated into limited tangible policy benefits for Mr. Obama. As much as they may prefer to deal with Mr. Obama instead of his predecessor, George W. Bush, foreign leaders have not gone out of their way to give him what he has sought.

Yeah, people may like Obama more abroad.  So, I guess it does help to some extent being the anti-Bush.  But, with Obama, it’s all about feelings, not results.

He hasn’t been able to translate the good will he has gained in foreign circles into working relationships with our allies abroad.  And what his predecessor may have lacked in popular approval, he often made up for in strong personal relationships with world leaders not bound and determined to frustrate U.S. foreign policy.

If his image were such that President Obama and Secretary Clinton thought we needed to “reset” our foreign policy, well, that has more to do with the Presdent’s standing abroad (as measured in popular polls) and media coverage of the previous Administration than it did with his relations with our allies.  Oh, yes, and the ineptitude of his Administration’s public diplomacy.  Alas, that his successor’s public diplomacy doesn’t seem much better.

RELATED:  US Goes It Alone In Foreign Policy

UPDATE:  Commenting on a Washington Post piece on the limits of Mr. Obama’s star power abroad, Jennifer Rubin writes that the Obama team seems

. . . to place inordinate weight on press reviews and foreign popular-opinion polling, while placing virtually no weight on what other countries are actually doing.

There seems to be a troubling divergence between Obama’s personality offensive and the development of an effective foreign policy that defends American interests. John Bolton observes that at the UN this week, “the greeting will be rapturous” for the new U.S. president. “It’s a triumph for Obama personally, but I have yet to see his personal popularity translate into concrete steps forward.” Obama may genuinely believe that his international rock-star status can help further American interests. But he never quite gets to the part about translating that personal stardom into positions or proposals that would, in fact, push back on our adversaries and enhance American prestige and security.

Read the whole thing.



  1. I might not have liked GWB but I give him credit for understanding the issues.

    Unlike the dingbats who claim that Bush lied about WMDs, I believe that the real problem was the level of intelligence given to him by the intelligence community. What we do know now, is that Saddam Hussein had deliberately kept it secret that he had destroyed those WMDs because of the stand-off between Iran and Iraq.

    The international community via the UN was responsible for sanctions against Iraq relating to the failure of Iraq to destroy those weapons. The Iraqi people were suffering because Saddam was playing a game with the international community.

    However, there was other intelligence that was most likely taken into consideration regarding Saddam’s financing of terror (not the Palestinians but Al Qaeda and offshoots) that was probably good information at the time. I am betting that at some point Osama Bin Laden had been a guest of Saddam Hussein (just theory, not fact), and that this was one of the stirring points over going in to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

    This is the man that gassed his own people – the Kurds. Thousands of Kurds died at his hands when the gas was dropped from the air. He is also responsible for the torture and disappearance of many Iraqi citizens. Not long before the invasion the people of the marshes had their water supply cut off (I guess not unlike the situation in California today where farmers cannot get water for their lands because the govt will not release that water).

    With the backdrop of what he was doing to the people in the marshes it is very hard for me to ever have sympathy for Saddam, and even harder to claim that the invasion was not justified.

    The war itself ended rapidly, however, there has been the need to remain and stabilize Iraq before the final withdrawal of all troops. Iraq now has a strengthened military force, and police force. The bombings etc are mostly the work of outsiders, some of whom are loyal to Iran, some of them are members of Al Qaeda. Many Iraqi warlords have paid the price of helping the Americans get rid of the foreigners, Al Qaeda.

    It might be several more years before Iraq is stable. I do see the progress over there. I do not believe it was a waste of time.

    However, countries such as Spain behaved in a spineless way when they withdrew because of terror in their own countries. Giving into the terrorists only fueled the other terrorist cells to keep up the pressure….

    Whatever we did think of Bush, I think that he was more forthright, not like the furtiveness of the present POTUS….

    Comment by thestraightaussie — September 21, 2009 @ 5:01 am - September 21, 2009

  2. That’s what we get when we elect a big purple singing dinosaur promising peace and harmony and unicorns pooping rainbows and puppy dogs.

    Comment by Angie — September 21, 2009 @ 7:53 am - September 21, 2009

  3. Angie,

    Any chance I can get a few rainbow colored pooped unicorn puppy? I would like to skin it, a la Cruella DeVille, and make seat covers for my car.

    Comment by heliotrope — September 21, 2009 @ 8:01 am - September 21, 2009

  4. heliotrope:

    You may qualify for said rainbow-colored pooped unicorn puppies free of charge (cost subsidized by the federal government) if you are currently the recipient of ADC/AFDC benefits or other similar such relief program. However, if you are a member of the class previously identified as “THE RICH” (henceforth defined as any employed person earning more than 300% of the poverty level), you will be responsible for the cost of said puppies in addition to applicable sales taxes and shipping and processing fees. Furthermore, you will be charged a nonrefundable fee of 25% of the total cost applicable to said puppies, to assist those needing puppies but lacking sufficient funds or motivation to secure said funds.

    If you agree to the above terms and conditions, click “Next” to continue processing your order.

    *Please note: Cancellation of this process by failing to click “Next” in no way releases you from your financial obligation as pertains to the nonrefundable 25% fee; you will be responsible for this fee even in the event you do not purchase and/or take receipt of said puppies.
    **Please note: No guarantee or warranty, either express or implied, is available in relation to said puppies. All puppies are sold and/or redistributed in “as is” condition.
    ***Please note: The federal government reserves the right to limit quantities purchased and reserves the right to confiscate said puppies at any time before or after purchase if deemed necessary to fulfill the needs of another individual or entity requiring puppies and unable to purchase due to lack of funds and/or motivation to secure said funds.

    Comment by Angie — September 21, 2009 @ 8:44 am - September 21, 2009

  5. Sounds reasonable. But I clicked “next” and my life savings were converted into Obamanotes. Whatsupwiththat?

    Comment by heliotrope — September 21, 2009 @ 8:49 am - September 21, 2009

  6. You do know that the missile shield wouldn’t actually work right? That as a defensive system it failed pretty much every test (the ones that they didn’t fake at least), that it could overwhelmed by an attack that simply fired more warheads than the system could handle? It’s math easy enough for even you to understand:

    Missile shield can stop 100 warheads.

    Enemy fires 150 warheads and 150 decoys.

    How many nukes would get through? How many need to get through to kill people?

    I’ll let you figure out the answer, that may take a while but I’m sure you’ll get there eventually.

    And how much has this whole thing cost so far? It’s cute the way you wingnuts will howl about money being spent on health care but cheer it being thrown away on stuff like this. I guess you think that any weapon system will eventually be used on Muslims and that you could watch it on Fox so it’ll be money well spent.

    Comment by salvage — September 21, 2009 @ 8:53 am - September 21, 2009

  7. I hope that Obama isn’t stupid enough to take advice like this from Carter Administration has-beens:

    He has no idea the kind of negative reaction something like this would generate in this country. It would be almost as bad as if we decided to fire upon the Brits without good cause, although in this case there are many that would see religious problems with it as well. I also question whether some of the pilots would refuse an order to fire upon IDF jets. In the defense of US forces this would be supported, but for the sake of Iran??? Absolutely not.

    Comment by John — September 21, 2009 @ 9:11 am - September 21, 2009

  8. Salvage: Your own poor attempt at logic shows the foolish of your argument. What if there is no missile shield at all and an enemy fires 150 nukes? How many get through then? I far prefer the odds of 25-100 getting shot down than none of them moron.

    Comment by John — September 21, 2009 @ 9:13 am - September 21, 2009

  9. Great point, salvage. The missle defense was never to be a protection from Russia or China. It was a protection from the truly unstable regimes out there, ie Iran and North Korea.

    To say, however, that the “shield’ was a technological failure is just not consistent with the facts, though.

    Comment by Croft — September 21, 2009 @ 9:15 am - September 21, 2009

  10. helitrope, careful with that car seat though. Don’t want the horn to poke somewhere painful.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 21, 2009 @ 9:26 am - September 21, 2009

  11. So, the President won’t change his course on Syria and Iran no matter how many of their own people they kill, but it takes five months to betray and ally.

    So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 21, 2009 @ 11:11 am - September 21, 2009

  12. salvage, you make half a good point. We don’t know if the missile shield will work, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is how the Administration went out annuling an agreement with our allies.

    Perhaps, had there been more behind-the-scenes work, talking things over with the Poles and Czechs before acting, I would agree with you.

    So, instead of insulting us, why not make your point in a more civil manner? And believe it or not, there are actually conservatives who have said that Obama did the right thing.

    And if you’ll note above, I don’t address the issue of whether or not it will work, but how Obama treated an agreement with our allies.

    Fascinating how many on the left undermine their solid arguments by assuming the worst about conservatives and calling them names.

    Kudos to Croft for echoing your point, addressing a flaw in your argument and maintaining a civil tone.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — September 21, 2009 @ 11:17 am - September 21, 2009

  13. Dan,

    VDH, whom I respect, is one of those people. I think he’s off, but I do accept he has an arguement.

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 21, 2009 @ 11:56 am - September 21, 2009

  14. Shorter Salvage:

    “I refuse to protect the citizens of my country from dying in an atomic furnace because I can’t provide protection for ALL of them, but only for 80%; therefore, you ALL must suffer! Ain’t I ethical?”

    Comment by DaveP. — September 21, 2009 @ 2:19 pm - September 21, 2009

  15. And how much has this whole thing cost so far? It’s cute the way you wingnuts will howl about money being spent on health care but cheer it being thrown away on stuff like this.

    Sooooo…..,missile defense for Poland & Czech Republic – Bad. Missile defense for Hawaii – Good. It’s cute how liberal wingnuts want to be taken seriously on national security, and then gut it. It’s cute how liberal wingnuts waste trillions of dollars and then bitch about missile defense for Europe and the US. It’s cute the way liberal wingnuts go on about how their messiah is going to make the rest of the world love us and then the bumbling fool offends world leaders, engages in trade wars etc.

    Oh wait. It’s not cute. It’s f’ing sad and dangerous.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — September 21, 2009 @ 2:27 pm - September 21, 2009

  16. I take that back. It’s “monstrous”.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — September 21, 2009 @ 2:28 pm - September 21, 2009

  17. And now the Obama Party is claiming that Bush caused the attempted Venezuela coup.

    After all, the Obama Party and Barack Obama have to prove their bonafides to their fellow totalitarian wannabes, don’t they?

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — September 21, 2009 @ 2:39 pm - September 21, 2009

  18. There’s more. Today the Russian ambassador to the UN attacked Obama’s explanation of why he bent over for Putin as “not helpful”. He also said Russia will not change its position on Iran.

    Kennedy’s quid pro quo with the soviets was to withdraw our missles from Turkey if the soviets would withdraw theirs from Cuba. Unfortunately, there seem to be no quid pro quos in this deal. Obama buckled, and in the process upset our eastern and central european leaders. Poland is furious and now distrusts the US. Who can blame them?

    Although some of the public may like him for whatever reasons, the european leaders seem to like him because they see him as weak and pliable. It’s been a long time since an American President has displayed so little backbone. Gives the europeans a chance to take charge.

    Here we have a president who can’t engender respect with allies or with enemies. He has revealed his weakness, and in foreign policy and in defense, that is dangerous for America.

    Comment by Man — September 21, 2009 @ 3:40 pm - September 21, 2009

  19. It’s cute the way you wingnuts will howl about money being spent on health care but cheer it being thrown away on stuff like this.


    I know you’re a liberal, which means you are thoroughly unfamiliar with the US Constitution, but were you to actually read it, you would find that National Defense is specifically mandated in it, while health care is not. Indeed, since the powers of congress are limited to those specifically enumerated in that document, Obamacare is prohibited by the US Constitution.

    You really ought to try reading it sometime.

    Comment by American Elephant — September 21, 2009 @ 4:03 pm - September 21, 2009

  20. #6: “And how much has this whole thing cost so far? It’s cute the way you wingnuts will howl about money being spent on health care but cheer it being thrown away on stuff like this. I guess you think that any weapon system will eventually be used on Muslims and that you could watch it on Fox so it’ll be money well spent.”

    Well, it would be a lot cheaper to stop appeasing evil regimes, stand up to them, and actually prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place, but the Obama Administration has absolutely no interest in doing that. It might harm our “standing in the International Community.” As we speak, Iran is building nuclear weapons and Obama knows it. He’s just running out the clock so that when it’s verified that Iran has gone nuclear, Obama can use the excuse of, “well, we can’t do anything about it now. They might actually USE the weapons against us if we try to intervene.” That’s the plan.

    Comment by Sean A — September 21, 2009 @ 4:42 pm - September 21, 2009

  21. Don’t insult the Cowboy. He, at least, usually carried a Colt and a Winchester to back up his act!!! Barak uses his “words” in the face of aggression – maybe positive in his fantasy world but, useless in reality. By the way, where the hell is Hillary???

    Comment by Duffy - Native Intelligence — September 21, 2009 @ 11:35 pm - September 21, 2009

  22. Excuse my lack of PC Duffy,

    But I find it funny our resident ‘indian’ (I still prefer first peoples) defending the Cowboy 😉

    Comment by The_Livewire — September 22, 2009 @ 9:12 am - September 22, 2009

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