Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post has a devastating take down of Obama’s failures in foreign policy. An excerpt:
Here again there appears to be a disconnect between Obama’s 1970s-vintage ideas and the real world of the early 21st century. There’s nothing wrong, and modest good, in extending Cold War nuclear conventions with Russia, or extracting highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Chile. But the most dangerous proliferation threats emanate from countries that don’t attend summits or sign international treaties, such as North Korea and Iran. In terms of nuclear capability, both are ahead of where they were in 2009.
This brings us to Obama’s most distinctive — and most ill-fated — idea, and the one most identified with his 2008 campaign: the determination to “engage” with U.S. adversaries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. Obama promised “direct diplomacy” — even one-to-one meetings — with the likes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Il. More broadly he made the case that the United States could benefit by reaching out to autocratic regimes, while dropping the George W. Bush administration’s moralizing “freedom agenda.”
In his first year Obama dispatched two letters to Khamenei while keeping his distance from the revolutionary Green movement. He shook hands with Hugo Chavez. He launched a “reset” of relations with Russia’s Vladi mir Putin and dispatched envoys to reason with Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. He delivered a sweeping address to the Muslim world from Cairo.
The results have been meager. Khamenei spurned the U.S. outreach. Relations with Putin warmed for a time but now have grown cold again. In Egypt and across the Middle East, the president’s popularity is lower today than when he gave the Cairo address.
That’s largely because, in pursuing “engagement,” Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy. Detente with dictators can sometimes yield results, but Obama’s outreach turned out to be spectacularly ill-timed. Following the failure to back Iran’s Green movement, the strategy caused the administration to lag in supporting the popular uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and elsewhere.
The consequences of all this are not yet clear. To voters and maybe even to history they may be trumped by the dismantling of al-Qaeda. Taken together, what they describe is a president who has been a good counterterrorism commander, who has ended a war he promised to end — and whose signature initiatives have flopped.
Be sure to read the whole thing.