David Remnick of the New Yorker has offered a weak, though amusing, defense of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The liberal Remnick warns readers not to “to dismiss caution as weakness,” not to think Obama’s slow reactions to Vladimir Putin or the Islamic State are signs of incompetence. Rather, he says, Obama symbolizes “strategic calculation” that may yield a nuclear deal with Iran and an “uneasy truce” with Russia.
“The gains”–Remnick actually uses that word–“have been unshowy and incremental. But when your aim is to conduct a responsive and responsible foreign policy, the avoidance of stupid things is often the avoidance of bloodshed and unforeseen strife. History suggests that it is not a mantra to be derided or dismissed.” History also suggests, rather more convincingly, that avoidance of conflict for its own sake yields more of it in the end.
Remnick effectively gives the Obama administration an “E” for “effort.” Along the way, he shows little concern for some of Obama’s most glaring failures: the collapse of Libya, the civilian slaughter in Syria, and the loss of large portions of Ukraine. All of these were outcomes Obama himself pledged to avoid. It seems fair to judge Obama by his own goals–and it is not just Obama’s rivals, but his disappointed supporters, who are doing so.
What is particularly noteworthy is Remnick’s indifference towards Ukraine in particular–surprisingly so, given Remnick’s extensive reporting on Eastern Europe. Remnick has blamed Bush for the Ukraine crisis, saying that his invasion of Iraq made it harder to press a moral case against Putin. The same could be said of Clinton’s war in Serbia–but never mind that. Remnick has let partisanship overwhelm reason. The result is just laughable.