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What ARE the aims of Obama’s foreign policy?

Victor Davis Hanson published a memorable piece in the National Review last week entitled “America as Pill Bug.”  The pill bug or the roly-poly bug is one that turns itself into a ball when it feels threatened.  Hanson writes:

That roly-poly bug can serve as a fair symbol of present-day U.S. foreign policy, especially in our understandable weariness over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the scandals that are overwhelming the Obama administration.

On August 4, U.S. embassies across the Middle East simply closed on the basis of intelligence reports of planned al-Qaeda violence. The shutdown of 21 diplomatic facilities was the most extensive in recent American history.

Yet we still have over a month to go before the twelfth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, an iconic date for radical Islamists.

Such preemptive measures are no doubt sober and judicious. Yet if we shut down our entire public profile in the Middle East on the threat of terrorism, what will we do when more anti-American violence arises? Should we close more embassies for more days, or return home altogether?

Hanson makes an excellent point about the way the Obama administration’s closure of embassies is likely to be viewed in the Arab world and around the globe.  Although, as Jeff pointed out in a post last week, the administration may have ulterior motives–by trying to create a distraction–by closing the embassies in this manner, the reality is that the interpretation of the administration’s actions by our international foes is likely to proceed in a manner similar to that Hanson envisions in his article.

Hanson looks at the example of Libya and Syria to illustrate that the administration’s “lead from behind” strategy is not working, and that it appears to be counterproductive:

Instead, the terrorists are getting their second wind, as they interpret our loud magnanimity as weakness — or, more likely, simple confusion. They increasingly do not seem to fear U.S. retaliation for any planned assaults. Instead, al-Qaeda franchises expect Americans to adopt their new pill-bug mode of curling up until danger passes.

Our enemies have grounds for such cockiness. President Obama promised swift punishment for those who attacked U.S. installations in Benghazi and killed four Americans. So far the killers roam free. Rumors abound that they have been seen publicly in Libya.

Instead of blaming radical Islamist killers for that attack, the Obama reelection campaign team fobbed the assault off as the reaction to a supposedly right-wing, Islamophobic videomaker. That yarn was untrue and was greeted as politically correct appeasement in the Middle East.

All these Libyan developments took place against a backdrop of “lead from behind.” Was it wise for American officials to brag that the world’s largest military had taken a subordinate role in removing Moammar Qaddafi — in a military operation contingent on approval from the United Nations and the Arab League but not the U.S. Congress?

No one knows what to do about the mess in Syria. But when you do not know what to do, it is imprudent to periodically lay down “red lines.” Yet the administration has done just that to the Bashar al-Assad regime over the last two years.

Hanson sees the Obama administration’s foreign policy as a disastrous replay of the Carter doctrine, once again illustrating Glenn Reynolds’ frequent observation that a replay of Jimmy Carter is simply the “best-case scenario” for Obama.

While I believe Hanson is right in his characterization of the big picture and the likely consequences of Obama foreign policy, I’d differ from him in seeing Obama as being as feckless and weak as Carter.  I’d maintain that Carter’s foreign policy was guided by a number of naive precepts about the nature of the world.  At least during the years of his presidency, I’d contend that Carter “meant well” in the way the phrase is commonly used to describe a hopelessly incompetent bumbler who seems incapable of recognizing his own shortcomings.  Likewise, early in the Obama administration, Tammy Bruce started referring to Obama as Urkel, the nerdy, awkward, inept kid from the TV show “Family Matters” who had an uncanny ability to mess up almost everything he touched.  That certainly is one narrative for what Obama is doing in the world of foreign policy, but I’m not sure it is the right one.

As I contemplate Obama foreign policy, though, particularly in the Middle East, I find myself thinking more and more that although incompetence might be the simplest explanation, it might not be the best or the right one.  I see no good intentions in the administration’s domestic policy, so why should its foreign policy be exempt from charges that it is motivated more by malevolence to the United States and its role in history than by a supposed set of “liberal” ideals?

This is an administration that seems bent on alienating all of our historical allies as quickly as possible, while taking it easy on our geopolitical foes.  Obama seems to want our allies to view us as unreliable and untrustworthy while making sure our enemies view us as weak, indecisive, and either unable or unwilling to use force to protect our interests or to enforce our stated policy goals.  If there is a better explanation of the administration’s ultimate foreign policy goals, I’d sure like to know what it might be.




  1. If you think Obama’s foreign policy is bad, then couldn’t it just be because he’s liberal???

    Let’s look at domestic policy as well, for which you blamed “malevolence.” What exactly has he done that has been motivated by malevolence? Almost all of his policies can easily be explained by looking at the liberal ideology he believes in.

    Case in point is Obamacare: While it will likely raise the price of healthcare for middle and upper class people, it will decrease the price (but not the cost) for lower class people by giving them subsidies taken from the upper and middle class. Here you see a classic example of liberalism: Liberals think it is good to try to help the poor by hurting the rich. They see “moral obligations” to take from the rich to provide for anything and everything.

    You take for granted that everyone agrees with your beliefs on Obamacare, so anyone who wants to do something different doesn’t think differently but is rather being malevolent.

    Case in point: Someone who is against Obamacare might not only think that it would be bad if prices for most people rise but also that prices will rise. I have already demonstrated how liberals think it is good if prices rise for the rich and decrease for the poor. Now lets address whether liberals believe that prices will rise or that people’s working hours will be cut. Those facts are also not a given in liberals’ minds.

    The major differences between conservatives and liberals are not just philosophical but also practical. They disagree about the effects of things (which is a contributing factor as to why they align themselves with either side). No where is this more clear than in the debate about debt, monetary policy and government stimulus. For a liberal, spending a ton of money to stimulate the economy isn’t going to cause any problems in the future; rather it is going to help the economy by getting people spending again, as per Keynesian theory. There’s a well fleshed out theory on how spending money boosts the economy as does liberal monetary policy. Some conservatives thought the quantitive easing policy was going to cause inflation, but liberals didn’t think so. So its not like they want to destroy America; rather they have a different idea on the best course of action to help America.

    Calling someone malevolent is sophomoric not only because it uses an ad-hominem that refuses to address their argument; Moreover, to say they are malevolent is to say that they don’t have a fundamental misunderstanding about economic principles and other laws of reality. In short, it short circuits your best argument against them that they don’t know; and we don’t want someone like Obama who doesn’t know in office.

    Comment by Mitch — August 15, 2013 @ 4:37 am - August 15, 2013

  2. When you have a regime that persecutes a rodeo clown for making fun of Dear Leader, I don’t think you can rule malice out of the equation.

    Comment by V the K — August 15, 2013 @ 8:38 am - August 15, 2013

  3. “The devil cannot stand to be mocked.” -C.S. Lewis
    As melodramatic as that sounds, I think it’s appropriate. If you accept the notion that Obama thinks the West is irredeemably evil and that its current opposite number, Islam, is good, than Obama’s submission to Islamists and refusal to refer to Nidal Hassan’s treacherous attack as terrorism makes sense. Occam’s Razor, everybody. The simplest solution is often the correct solution.

    Comment by Sean — August 15, 2013 @ 8:54 am - August 15, 2013

  4. Obama is a product of his environment; from Frank Marshall Davis, to the faculty of COlumbia and Harvard, to Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright he has spent his entire life palling around with people who openly despise the USA. Of course his policies are going to reflect that.

    Comment by V the K — August 15, 2013 @ 10:08 am - August 15, 2013

  5. Maybe Obama is a “simple” reactionary. I don’t know if Obama is the smartest man in the room or the dumbest. I don’t know if Obama actually decides anything. I don’t know if Obama is the least bit interested in actual leadership. I don’t know if Obama has a plan.

    In The Roots of Obama’s Rage Dinesh D’Souza argues that Obama is carrying out the “dreams of his father” by diminishing the power of the United States in a rage fueled by zealous anti-colonialism.

    D’Souza poses a typical Freudian explanation that makes academics look smart. But, there has to be more to the story than just some parent pleasing complex.

    Obama and the “Progressives” are upending the United States in so many fundamental ways that it makes them look like the Mongol Horde has arrived. Yet, they are doing it all with a velvet glove and not by overt thuggery.

    I believe that we conservatives do not appreciate the groundwork that the radical left, including the communists, has laid down over the past fifty years.

    When Obama was elected, he brought a complete administration of like minded “Progressives” into his administration who appeared from, seemingly, out of nowhere. Yet they were there and known to the organizers and staffers of the Obama administration. These were not Obama’s crew, they were the choices of the reactionaries who have been plotting and planning for this opportunity for a very long time. Most of them are friends and/or relatives of people in academia and the media.

    Obama filled the Executive Office Building up with “czars.” They didn’t get any Congressional vetting. They duplicated the Cabinet members. They headed up all manner of regulatory positions. They are “satraps” who, in the fashion of Lois Lerner, know what to do and how to do it without being told.

    Obama golfs, campaigns and pretends he is outraged and going to get to the bottom of things and goes back to golfing. His reactionary helpmates run the show and Obama dodges the bullets.

    Some say that Valerie Jarret is the power behind the throne. Maybe. I think it is more likely that there is a “kitchen cabinet” of movers and shakers in the “Progressive” think tank and academic world who funnel their initiatives to the administration and that Jarrett might be the door keeper or chief of “Progressive” staff.

    But, I don’t think that Obama has either the smarts or the discipline to be managing this revolution.

    One thing is crystal clear to me. Obama has a clear tie to the Muslim Brotherhood that allows them a terrific amount of latitude. Whether he and the “Progressives” are playing off of destabilizing the Muslim world is unclear. But if they are not pursuing this strange calculation, they are doing an awfully good imitation of it.

    You have to wonder at what point China will nuke North Korea or Pakistan and India will go nuclear or Israel and Iran have at it. I think it is fair to say that John Kerry and Barack Obama carry no weight in the tribal world of settling grievances. What better position for the “Progressives” than to be impotent and is the position to shrug and walk away.

    The question of whether the US is the “world’s policeman” has been effectively settled. We have reduced ourselves to smuggling solder fired anti-aircraft missiles to selected thugs.

    When did the State Department establish its covert military operations wing? CIA, NSA, DoD, DIA, and the State Department all doing covert military operations and we expect Obama to even know about it?

    What is amazing is that with so many loose cannons flying around on the decks of theship of state that one hasn’t yet smashed into the Golfer in Chief.

    Comment by heliotrope — August 15, 2013 @ 10:39 am - August 15, 2013

  6. Heliotrope, Valerie Jarret is definitely a big player in all of this, along with others, but I point my finger at somebody far more influential: George Soros. Before you roll your eyes, look at the sheer number of groups he has bankrolled or started. This is the man who betrayed the Czech uprising against the Soviets. This is a man who crashes currencies for pleasure and profit, who has called himself God. You have to ask yourself, what exactly does this man stand to profit if people he monetarily supports succeed in destabilizing the strongest country in the world?

    Comment by Sean — August 15, 2013 @ 10:46 am - August 15, 2013

  7. Sean,

    I will readily agree that an ocean of Soros money and influence has financed the “Progressive” juggernaut. I do not know much about how much direction comes directly from Soros. However, it would likely be accurate to assume that the foundations which depend on his funding try very hard not to irritate him.

    Soros is also one of the top players in the small circle of movers and shakers at the global level. He has access to important channels of information and he casts a long shadow. What is certain is that he is a megalomaniac with little in the way of conscience.

    There is no question in my mind, that if Soros sends word to Obama “Progressives” to take a certain turn, they will take the suggestion.

    As you know, Soros is for drug legalization. Eric Holder just advised his DOJ people to essentially lay off the non-cartel drug peddlers. It is people like Soros, John Podesta, Richard Trumpka, Wade Rathke, Frances Fox Piven, Harold Ickes, Hillary Clinton, Terry McAuliffe, Andrew Stern, Stephen Bing, Antonio Villaraigosa, Peter Lewis, etc. who are networking the “Progressives” and being the shadow “Progressive” party.

    The 60’s hippy left is heading up a boatload of “527” groups: America Coming Together, America Votes, American Constituion Society for Law and Order, ACORN, Brennan Center for Justice, Campus Progress, Catalist, Center for American Progress, Center for Progressive Leadership, Change Americ Now, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, Democracy Alliance, EMILY’s List, Institute for Policy Studies, League of Conservation Voters, Media Fund, Midwest Academy,
    MoveOn, ,Moving Ideas Network, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, New Organizing Institute, People for the American Way, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Project Vote, Service Employees International Union, Shadow Party, Sierra Club, Think Progress,Thunder Road Group,USAction,Vote For Change, Working Families Party

    We must not look at Hillary Clinton as being independent in any way of the Soros funded “Progressive” machine. As President, she may be less passive than Obama, but she will be a wholly owned franchise of the “Progressive” movement. The definition of “thick as thieves” is: Hillary Clinton, Harold Ickes, John Podesta and Terry McCauliff.

    Hillary Clinton will have the “sexism” card to play and the “Progressives” will shield her and deflect any criticism of her as readily and with more gusto than they have covered for Obama.

    That will give the “Progressives” 16 years of fundamentally transforming America in their reactionary march to becoming the political and financial elite.

    Comment by heliotrope — August 15, 2013 @ 12:58 pm - August 15, 2013

  8. Ditto to V the K, Sean, and heliotrop. It could be that he has no foreign policy to speak of. He might be just winging it and uses his ability to turn a phrase to cajole the public that he has a plan of action. Remember, after he finally admitted that Benghazi was a planned attack that the perpetrators would be captured and brought to swift justice. Where are they? We haven´t seen or heard of any arrests or trial. On the other hand he might have a policy and that it is pro-muslim. At times I feel that he is a closet muslim. He was educated in madrassa in Indonesia; prior to that he was enrolled in a Catholic school in Indonesia where his application for admittance states his religion as muslim. I still doubt his citizenship. I still remember reading that his half brother in Kenya, claimed that Barak was born there, and the welcome sign of the Kenyan village states the birthplace of Barak Obama. Donald Trump made a good point asking that Obama make public his applications to
    Columbia and Harvard, to see if he registered as a foreign student and did he apply for financial aid as one. There are more clouds around Barak Obama´s past than the Clinton´s Whitewater and their other financial dealings.

    Comment by Roberto — August 15, 2013 @ 1:57 pm - August 15, 2013

  9. “If there is a better explanation of the administration’s ultimate foreign policy goals, I’d sure like to know what it might be.” Kurt, 8/15/2013

    I don’t know if it is a “better” explanation, or significantly different from what you think is an explanation for what obama is doing with foreign policy Kurt, but for my 2 cents, Heliotrope flat out nails “it” and obama in #5 and #7 above. Not much to add there.

    The only thing I can chime in on is to respond to this statement by Heliotrope: “I don’t know if Obama is the smartest man in the room or the dumbest.” I know for a fact he is NOT the smartest man in the room. I have a very close friend who went to college with him, partied with him, lived in the same dorm with him, and was called by him in the summer of ’08 to be a part of his campaign. My friend in no uncertain terms has validated he is NOT the smartest man in the room. So, as Heliotrope infers, he is a highly malleable person, and easy to manipulate as his core beliefs, such as they are, are foreign to most Americans.

    Comment by mixitup — August 15, 2013 @ 2:02 pm - August 15, 2013

  10. I’m busy with a number of projects today, so I won’t have time for responding to many of the comments until much later today, but I wanted to address Heliotrope’s comment about the Dinesh D’Souza book (and subsequent film, 2016). I don’t really buy into D’Souza’s theory about the psychological motives behind Obama’s worldview, but I think he does a great job documenting Obama’s connections and influences.

    I think his theory is a case of being a little too clever when a simpler explanation would do: Obama’s worldview is very much in accord with that of the progressive movement, as you say, and that is the view that is dominant at the schools he attended, even going back to his time at the Punahou School in Hawaii. As V the K says, he’s very much a product of his environment from Frank Marshall Davis onward. One of the aspects of his biography which D’Souza emphasized in 2016 which I found very telling was that his mother disliked the fact that Lolo Soetero was becoming too “westernized” and “corporate” in his outlook.

    Comment by Kurt — August 15, 2013 @ 2:09 pm - August 15, 2013

  11. I’m not up on the End of the World stuff but aren’t the end times heralded by the appearance of a charismatic leader on the world stage and a Middle East on fire?

    Our meddling in the Middle East (Bush’s “nation building” and the “Arab Spring”) is causing some really nasty side effects – thinking Egypt here. And then there’s Syria, Iraq, Yemen…

    Hillary and her cronies (the three horsewomen of the apocalypse as John Derbyshire has called them) presided over the lighting of the fuse yet HRC may well be the next POTUS.

    It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    Comment by KCRob (SoCalRobert) — August 15, 2013 @ 5:42 pm - August 15, 2013

  12. Wait. You mean that Pres. Obama HAS a foreign policy? Who knew…..

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — August 16, 2013 @ 4:22 am - August 16, 2013

  13. I will once again state that when one considers that liberals systematically disarmed the people of Detroit, then dismantled the police such that wait times would be 50 minutes or longer, and then screwed up the educational system such that children are more likely to go to prison than to college (obviously, the kids are also too slow to outrun a cop that’s fifty minutes behind them). Explain to me why any sane person would suggest that isn’t malevolent? If liberals are truly this incompetent, Islamic extremists would have a hard time outperforming them. This thesis that we all have to pretend that because liberals mean well the outcome is no big deal is stupid.

    Comment by Carolynp — August 16, 2013 @ 2:30 pm - August 16, 2013

  14. […] at Gay Patriot has up an interesting blog post on “What ARE the aims of Obama’s foreign […]

    Pingback by Egypt’s Chaos, Obama’s Golf Swing, and Weekend Links! — August 17, 2013 @ 8:10 pm - August 17, 2013

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