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Obama Foreign Policy: Another Jimmy Carter?

A great article from the journal “Foreign Policy” (h/t – HotAir)

In general, U.S. presidents see the world through the eyes of four giants: Alexander Hamilton, Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson. Hamiltonians share the first Treasury secretary’s belief that a strong national government and a strong military should pursue a realist global policy and that the government can and should promote economic development and the interests of American business at home and abroad. Wilsonians agree with Hamiltonians on the need for a global foreign policy, but see the promotion of democracy and human rights as the core elements of American grand strategy. Jeffersonians dissent from this globalist consensus; they want the United States to minimize its commitments and, as much as possible, dismantle the national-security state. Jacksonians are today’s Fox News watchers. They are populists suspicious of Hamiltonian business links, Wilsonian do-gooding, and Jeffersonian weakness.

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Like Carter in the 1970s, Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party, and the strategic goal of his foreign policy is to reduce America’s costs and risks overseas by limiting U.S. commitments wherever possible. He’s a believer in the notion that the United States can best spread democracy and support peace by becoming an example of democracy at home and moderation abroad.

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At their best, Jeffersonians provide a necessary element of caution and restraint in U.S. foreign policy, preventing what historian Paul Kennedy calls “imperial overstretch” by ensuring that America’s ends are proportionate to its means. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead.

Since the Christmas Day terror attack (it was 99% successful, by the way), I’ve been having a recurring thought.  Has President Obama’s “worldview” been shattered?  After all, the election of Obama alone was supposed to endear the world to the USA and cause those pesky “man-made disaster” creators (aka – Islamic Terrorists) to throw up their arms and praise Obama’s name.

Victor Davis Hanson pointed out yesterday at National Review:

But more than one-third of all terrorist plots since 9/11 transpired in 2009 — despite loud chest-thumping about rejecting the idea of a war on terror, reaching out to the Muslim world, and apologizing for purported American sins. A non-impoverished Major Hasan or Mr. Mutallab (or Mr. Atta or KSM) does not fit with the notion that our enemies act out of poverty or oppression or want.

Clearly, Obama fell for his own hype and he has been governing like that for a year.  But maybe — just maybe — the 12/25 attack on America has shattered his extreme naivety.  Perhaps he will wake from his arrogance and realize that no matter how nice he is, no matter what gestures he gives — America has enemies bent on killing civilians and destroying our way of life.

Perhaps.  But I’m not holding my breath.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

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24 Comments

  1. I am beginning to think that as bad as Carter was, this one is worse.

    Comment by PatriotMom — January 5, 2010 @ 8:52 am - January 5, 2010

  2. Bruce, there’s no shortage of intelligent, gifted, savvy and insightful people who could estimate last January that Obama’s foreign policy effort would be like a JimmineyCricket 2nd term.

    If you’re holding your breath in Hopes of some Change on that score, I’m dialing 911 N-O-W. You’re too good a pundit to waste as a martry for the cause. Keep breathing, please.

    Comment by Michigan-Matt — January 5, 2010 @ 9:14 am - January 5, 2010

  3. Interesting to see how Mead tries to cram the world into his four-factor model. In parts of his essay that you do not reproduce here, he makes the case that Obama’s approach to foreign policy is most like Nixon’s and Kissengers. He posits Carter as an outcome that would transpire only if things really dont work out at all – a worst case scenario.

    He also likens Obama to Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Martin Luther King Jr., and, in a passage that is in the quote you reproduce, states of Obama’s approach: “We need this vision today more than ever”.

    He also characterizes Obama’s foreign policy thusly: “This is both an ambitious and an attractive vision. Success would reduce the level of international tension even as the United States scales back its commitments. The United States would remain, by far, the dominant military power in the world, but it would sustain this role with significantly fewer demands on its resources and less danger of war. ”

    Sad to see that the extreme committment to Obama hatred on the modern right leads y’all into that corner whereby you end up rooting for the failure of American foreign policy, with the hope that the voters will somehow give your guys power again by default – not that y’all have any good policies, but simply because Obama would have failed.

    I dont think Obama will fail, and it would be nice to see that at least some of you would hope for such a result too – in your guise as patriots, rather than partisans.

    Comment by Tano — January 5, 2010 @ 9:40 am - January 5, 2010

  4. We need this vision today more than ever: If Obama’s foreign policy collapses — whether sunk by Afghanistan or conflicts not yet foreseen — into the incoherence and reversals that ultimately marked Carter’s well-meaning but flawed approach, it will be even more difficult for future presidents to chart a prudent and cautious course through the rough seas ahead.

    1.) I could not tell you what Obama’s foreign policy is if my life depended on it. He has farmed it out to his regional czars and made Hillary one of the weakest heads of the State Department since Carter ignored his. Obama flits about the world and says nothing other than how much better he is than Bush was.

    I do not see how a non-policy can collapse. Implode maybe, but what has he set forth that we can hang a hat on?

    Obama expected to fall right in with the other socialists, but he assumed he would be the head socialist. Which foreign leader is it that cozies up to him and wants to share his limelight?

    2.) Carter’s “well-meaning” approach flew right past my attention zone. Aside for the bit of attention he deserves for Camp David, his whole “approach” was nothing more than a Sunday school lesson and a bad one at that. The Rose Garden Strategy was to dither and whine.

    3.) Future presidents who have a backbone should have no trouble charting their foreign policy.

    4.) Referring to a “prudent and cautious course through rough seas” is how you end an essay when you don’t have a clue.

    Comment by heliotrope — January 5, 2010 @ 9:51 am - January 5, 2010

  5. helitrope his foreign policy can be summed up in one phrase, “Why does Obama hate free people?”

    Comment by The_Livewire — January 5, 2010 @ 9:57 am - January 5, 2010

  6. …… corner whereby you end up rooting for the failure of American foreign policy…..

    Thus sprach Tanothustra.

    Tano, when American foreign policy is in the crapper, nobody is rooting for it to stagnate and fester.

    I really do not pay much attention to cataloging your wit and wisdom, but I would not be surprised to find that along the way you rooted for the Bush foreign policy to fail.

    However, I do invite you to give the gist of the Obama foreign policy in a few short sentences for our edification.

    But I know you won’t. Your style is to hit and run.

    Comment by heliotrope — January 5, 2010 @ 10:00 am - January 5, 2010

  7. Obama is Carter without the backbone.

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 5, 2010 @ 10:02 am - January 5, 2010

  8. Livewire,

    Is it that “free people” are people ungoverned by socialism?

    Comment by heliotrope — January 5, 2010 @ 10:02 am - January 5, 2010

  9. Mead’s taxonomy is just wrong. First, he implicitly makes George W. Bush – a believer, after 9-11, in the promotion of democracy through well-chosen global military engagements – a Wilsonian. Interesting. But more to the point of the post – Mead says:

    Obama comes from the old-fashioned Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic Party

    Not hardly. Thomas Jefferson would never have bowed, either to the Saudi king or the Japanese emperor. Jefferson launched one of America’s first foreign wars, and the Marine Corps along with it, on Muslim kings in North Africa so America would not have to pay tribute to them. The slogan was “Millions for defense, not a penny for tribute.” (Millions being the 1800 equivalent of today’s trillions.) It is unimaginable that Obama would do any such thing.

    So what are Obama and Carter? Not Hamiltonians, not Wilsonians, not Jeffersonians, not Jacksonians. Possibly anti-Americans.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 5, 2010 @ 10:27 am - January 5, 2010

  10. #3: “I dont think Obama will fail, and it would be nice to see that at least some of you would hope for such a result too – in your guise as patriots, rather than partisans.”

    Tano, I’m sure you’re right. Obama will be a screaming success on the international stage just as soon as he can get the leaders of other nations to stop lying about their availability in order to hold meetings without him.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/01/04/obamateurism-of-the-day-181/

    Talking Points, I thought Obama was going to “improve America’s standing in the international community”? So, why is he having to crash meetings just to get some face time with the leaders of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa? Any thoughts?

    Comment by Sean A — January 5, 2010 @ 10:53 am - January 5, 2010

  11. Carter II is a best case scenario now

    Comment by JP — January 5, 2010 @ 11:35 am - January 5, 2010

  12. It gets tiring when Republican Presidents constantly have to rebuild our military and our reputation when liberal leftist Democrat Presidents imploy their naive foreign policy.
    Obama will be a worse President than Carter simply because of his lack of experience. Carter was in the military and was a governor and executive. Being President doesn’t mean being everyones friend and a nice guy. Our enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan have not retreated since Obama was elected as he had hoped. Now he needs to surround himself with adults in the Cheney mold to help him. He needs to get educated right away on how to deal with foreign policy issues. I know it bores him but he is the leader of the free world.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — January 5, 2010 @ 11:40 am - January 5, 2010

  13. And domestically Carter had 21% interest rates and 14% inflation. Lordy lordy. Liberal boobery and incompetence has been around for a long time. The public education system doesn’t teach the history of liberals and lefitsts.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — January 5, 2010 @ 1:04 pm - January 5, 2010

  14. “I could not tell you what Obama’s foreign policy is if my life depended on it”

    Well thank you for that insightful, and seemingly thoroughly honest admission.

    Unfortunately, I suspect this will not inhibit you in the least from opining loudly and coarsely on all manner of foreign policy issues regarding Obama.

    “Thus sprach Tanothustra”

    heh…can I borrow that as my tag line?

    Comment by Tano — January 5, 2010 @ 1:29 pm - January 5, 2010

  15. #9 I think you may be focusing too much on what Mean named his categories and not enough on how he described them. The introduction of the categories in the article is a bit thin, but Mead describes them in much greater detail in his book Special Providence.

    According to Mead, Bush is a Wilsonian (with an undercurrent of Jacksonianism) because he favored an active foreign policy that was informed primarily by a desire to spread values and ideal, such as the rule of law, democracy, personal liberty, and human rights, rather than by a desire to expand commercial or military influence. That is not to say Bush would have done it the way Wilson the man would have. That’s where Bush’s Jacksonian streak kicks in, a streak that is willing to use the military and can have an honor-driven let’s roll attitude about it. Wilson, would have like to see the same ends pursued through a more lovey-dovey Jeffersonian means (“If we could get all the nations of the world in a big room to discuss our differences, there would be no war!)

    Also, I much admire president Jefferson, and I do so considerably more than I admire those whose foreign policy outlook bears his name. In Mead’s taxonomy, Jeffersonianism is marked by an unwillingness to engage militarily or to project power to forcefully, favoring carrots over sticks. The Jeffersonians are those who think that national security is enhanced by being liked and that dialogues with our enemies will solve our problems better than military power (under the naive assumption that our enemies come to such dialogues in good faith). It may be an injustice to our third president that Mean named this outlook after him, but it does seem to describe Obama’s view very nicely.

    Incidentally, I find the value of the taxonomy is enhanced when one, as Mead did in the Article, ranks and combines them to more precisely describe the foreign policy of an administration, including noting internal conflicts created by differing outlooks.

    Comment by Alex in Denver — January 5, 2010 @ 1:35 pm - January 5, 2010

  16. Alex, fair points all. My overall point was that all Mead’s categories have an underlying minimum assumption of the President being pro-American, seeing America as a force for good. And I am not at all sure that Obama and Carter do.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 5, 2010 @ 1:41 pm - January 5, 2010

  17. “Mead’s taxonomy is just wrong. First, he implicitly makes George W. Bush – a believer, after 9-11, in the promotion of democracy through well-chosen global military engagements – a Wilsonian.”

    I too have some problems with the taxonomy – but this isn’t really one of them. First off, Bush was NOT a believer in democracy promotion after 9/11. Although he did good work organizing a proto-democratic regime in Afghanistan, his long-term aversion to any nation-building, and his dream of taking the war effort to Iraq, caused him to backburner Afghanistan and do little to really help establish the democracy in a healthy manner. Similarly with Iraq – if you recall, the original plan was to turn over the country to Jay Garner who would slap together some sort of government – under Chalabi, if Cheney had his way, and we would be out in a few months. The democracy promotion only became a focus when it became clear that we were going to be burdened with governmental responsibilities in Iraq for an extended period of time, and we would need to construct ourselves the eventual successor regime.

    Anyway, this last incarnation of Bushism is somewhat Wilsonian – in the democracy promotion sense.
    One of my long-term problems with Mead’s taxonomy is just that though – Wilson based his democracy promotion ideas very heavily on the mechanism of global institutions – the League of Nations. The modern neocon democracy promotors though tend to be very hostile to international institutions.

    ” Jefferson launched one of America’s first foreign wars,…”

    Yeah, but being a Jeffersonian, in Mead’s sense, does not mean an unwillingness to use force to defend the nation’s interest. I don’t see any contradiction. Mead is defining Jeffersonianism as a difference in emphasis – a desire to focus more on the domestic front and avoid foreign entanglements – when possible. It doesn’t mean avoid conflicts when they are thrust upon you.

    Thats another objection I have to how he imposes his taxonomy. He refers to Bush’s response to 9/11, in Afghanistan, as a Jacksonian move. In fact, it was a war that was supported unanimously in the Senate, almost unanimously in the House – if there were a President Kucinich back then we would have gone to Afghanistan. So the response would have happened under all four of his approaches.

    As to the quote you give ““Millions for defense…” there seems to be a rather different story about this phrase – LINK

    Comment by Tano — January 5, 2010 @ 1:54 pm - January 5, 2010

  18. My Mom, a government teacher, told me that if I ever met the Queen of England I was NOT to bow. Americans don’t bow to anyone–not out of disrespect or arrogance, but because we believe that everyone is created equal. So, when I see Obama bow to world leaders, I cringe–what did his mother teach him?

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 5, 2010 @ 3:00 pm - January 5, 2010

  19. #18 Our President is much more of an internationalist than a native American.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — January 5, 2010 @ 7:06 pm - January 5, 2010

  20. “Perhaps he will wake from his arrogance and realize that no matter how nice he is, no matter what gestures he gives — America has enemies bent on killing civilians and destroying our way of life.”

    Earth to Bruce, Earth to Bruce.
    It was George Bush who forgot who are enemies are, and went off to start a war in Iraq instead of focusing on the people who actually attacked us and murdered thousands.

    Obama campaigned on refocusing on the real enemy. In office, he sent 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, fired the commander there, installed McChrystal, and ordered a thoroughgoing review of the strategy, culminating in a decision to send another 30,000 troops.

    What are you smoking, man?

    Comment by Tano — January 6, 2010 @ 2:05 am - January 6, 2010

  21. Sorry, Tano, he doesn’t get paid by the administration to buy medical mary-j like you do.

    We’ve discussed and debunked your ‘eye off the ball’ mantra already, didn’t they send you any new material with the paycheck?

    Comment by The_Livewire — January 6, 2010 @ 7:43 am - January 6, 2010

  22. Tano,

    In #6 I said this:

    However, I do invite you to give the gist of the Obama foreign policy in a few short sentences for our edification.

    But I know you won’t. Your style is to hit and run.

    In #14 you said this:

    “I could not tell you what Obama’s foreign policy is if my life depended on it”

    Well thank you for that insightful, and seemingly thoroughly honest admission.

    Unfortunately, I suspect this will not inhibit you in the least from opining loudly and coarsely on all manner of foreign policy issues regarding Obama.

    Hit …….. and ………run.

    The invitation is still open for you to give the gist of the Obama foreign policy in a few short sentences for our edification.

    Why do I think that you won’t do it because you can’t do it? Why do I think you are about a mile wide and about an inch deep? Why do I believe that every time you get off the teleprompter you change the topic, or suck your thumb or hide?

    As a small bit of professorial contribution to your lack of logical thinking, I will offer you this: Whether I know what Obama’s foreign policy is has no relation to whether I may hold and express opinions about how Obama handles foreign affairs.

    Suppose I were to tell you to shut your yammer about the war in Iraq because you clearly misunderstand the reasons that war was waged. Surely you would reply that why the war was waged has no relevance to your objecting to it.

    You have foolishly constructed a false syllogism in which I must understand what Obama’s aims in foreign policy are before I can criticize him in the foreign affairs sphere.

    OK. You clearly understood where Bush was coming from. By your logic, you have no right to criticize him. Bravo! Q.E.D. Case closed. Idiot logic wins.

    Comment by heliotrope — January 6, 2010 @ 9:29 am - January 6, 2010

  23. The historical success of a president is framed in terms of how many of his objectives he has achieved. On that note, Obama must fail for freedom to survive. He is no Jeffersonian; the largesse of his government is a full 180 from what TJ would have EVER tolerated.

    Obama’s foreign policy is thus: the bare minimum needed to keep centrists satiated, so they won’t sabotage his nightmarish domestic creations.

    Comment by Joshua A. Schaeffer — January 6, 2010 @ 3:13 pm - January 6, 2010

  24. The Obot is fast gaining the reputation as the worst President ever. He has no real foreign policy except to blame Bush. Almost everything he touches the other side just laughs in his face. He is really quite pathetic – a know-nothing in my book.

    We know nothing about his educational background, and he has lied about his role at the university. He was nothing more than a mere lecturer, since Professor is applied to a tenured position. He lacks knowledge of history and fails to apply historical context.

    His biggest failure is his interference in the Honduras where a coup did not take place.

    Comment by StraightAussie — January 7, 2010 @ 1:07 am - January 7, 2010

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