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
. . . 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.
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