It sometimes seems like Barack Obama’s heart is more in reshaping America’s domestic landscape than foreign policy, but the presidency being an all-or-nothing deal, the White House yesterday unveiled a new comprehensive national security strategy, “A Blueprint for Pursuing the World We Seek.” At the Daily Beast, foreign affairs analyst Leslie H. Gelb has some positive things to say about the strategy, but on the whole finds it wanting:
In many ways, the document correctly stresses that America’s strength abroad depends on its economic vitality at home. But other than a one-time stimulus package, what is Mr. Obama planning to do to resuscitate the American economy? There’s no indication of the hard choices ahead needed to reduce yearly deficits and the absolutely overwhelming trillions of dollars in prospective total governmental debt. Hilariously, Mr. Obama reportedly phoned the prime minister of Spain the other day to tell HIM to reduce HIS deficit. If restoring the American economy is so essential—and it is—the man in the White House has to take the toughest possible steps to restore the economy and reestablish his and America’s credibility on these matters.
Absolutely right. The problem, however, is that in order for Obama to reestablish his economic credibility, he would essentially have to convert from the leftist he is into a conservative. One of the chief engines driving modern left-wing thought is unwillingness to trust individuals and states to solve their own problems, or to let them suffer the consequences of failure. There is no problem government can bear to leave alone, and that government must be the federal one. Further, there’s no reason to think anyone in the Obama Administration or their supporters are at all concerned about their staggering fiscal irresponsibility. In his latest column, which gives even more reasons to doubt 44’s fiscal seriousness, Mark Steyn explains the mindset:
In any advanced society, there will be a certain number of dysfunctional citizens either unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to support themselves and their dependents. What to do about such people? Ignore the problem? Attempt to fix it? The former nags at the liberal guilt complex, while the latter is way too much like hard work: the modern progressive has no urge to emulate those Victorian social reformers who tramped the streets of English provincial cities looking for fallen women to rescue. All he wants to do is ensure that the fallen women don’t fall anywhere near him.
As for Mr. Obama’s strategic desire to build cooperation with nations around the world and get international institutions effectively on Washington’s side, forget about it—at least in any short or medium term. Most nations don’t do a damn thing and aren’t prepared to sacrifice a penny to what they see as “an American cause.” No amount of American niceness and understanding will change that. Our NATO allies have done the minimum in Afghanistan and will do less in the future. The U.N. Security Council has become virtually moribund. Just gaze upon its deficiencies in the current crisis with North Korea.
I’m glad he points this out—of all the dishonest memes peddled about the War on Terror during the Bush years, one of the most maddening was the charge of Bush “going it alone” and disrespecting the wishes of the international community. Never mind that Operation: Iraqi Freedom was hardly unilateral. Never mind that the United Nations is a hotbed of corruption, incompetence and perverse values. Never mind that a fair bit of the opposition to US policy was rooted in selfish motives. Yes, the US should attempt to cooperate in good faith with foreign nations, but any serious foreign policy also has to recognize both that majority international opinion can be wrong, and that sometimes our “allies” are the ones acting in bad faith.
Gelb deems the outline little more than a “bureaucratic collection of politically approved thoughts,” though he insists that it at least show that Team Obama takes the world’s dangers seriously. At the Heritage Foundation, James Carafano is less impressed:
Part Two is an overwhelming desire to substitute soft power for hard power. The problem is that soft power – like diplomacy – is not a substitute for hard power. Obama has already given us an object lesson in how this really works with the New START treaty. The US gave the Russians everything they wanted and in return got nothing other than ensuring Russia will be a dominant nuclear power for the next half century while the US nuclear deterrent continues to atrophy.
Part Three of the strategy is living in the world of wishful thinking. It emphasizes engagement and cooperation. But the strategy has no strategy for when the other side chooses not to cooperate as in the case of Iran. The US opted to engage Iran. Iran opted to make parodies about US foreign policy.
For a plan on “Pursuing the World We Seek,” Obama’s foreign policy seems awfully content to let the global status quo push America around…