A few thoughts on foreign policy

Foreign policy has suddenly become part of the political discussion again, and I wanted to spend a few minutes mulling over the Obama administration’s foreign policy.   There’s not a clear “Obama doctrine” — but Romney has also been pretty vague about what exactly he would have done differently, other than suck up to Netanyahu more..

In a lot of ways, it’s easier to describe what the Obama foreign policy has NOT been:

  • It’s not isolationist.  To the frustration of some of the peace-left movement, as well as the Ron Paul fans, there has not been a significant withdrawal from military involvement overseas.
  • It’s not the “America as the sheriff of the world”  aggressive interventions of the Bush era.
  • But in the places where we have taken action (Afghanistan, Pakistan, to some extent Libya), it has not been as deferential to local governments and the international community as might have been expected based on some of the things that candidate Obama said

I liked Kevin Drum’s piece today, about David Frum’s criticism of Obama for being too soft on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

He writes:

Conservatives too often assume that American power can accomplish anything we set our minds to. But it’s not so. Sometimes there just aren’t any good options, and the best path forward is to ride out the storm and refrain from doing anything foolish. It’s not very satisfying at a gut level, but nine times out of ten it’s the best you can do.

Frum may disagree, but if he does I’d sure like to hear his side of the argument. What exactly is the more tough-minded policy that he thinks would have produced a better result?

If Romney has made a coherent argument for what he’d have done differently. I haven’t heard it.  Here’s what his website says about the Middle East.  If anyone reading this can explain to me how what he says he would do about the Arab Spring  countries or Syria is substantively different from what Obama is doing, I’d love to read it.

And here’ s the page on Afghanistan and Pakistan: “Mitt Romney will work with both the Afghan government and Pakistan to ensure that those nations are fully contributing to success in Afghanistan”  Um, how?  That’s a goal, not a strategy.




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