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A Harsh Editorial on the President’s Foreign Policy

After castigating the president’s foreign policy as based on fantasy, the editors of the Washington Post declaim:

The White House often responds by accusing critics of being warmongers who want American “boots on the ground” all over the world and have yet to learn the lessons of Iraq. So let’s stipulate: We don’t want U.S. troops in Syria, and we don’t want U.S. troops in Crimea. A great power can become overextended, and if its economy falters, so will its ability to lead. None of this is simple.

But it’s also true that, as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.

It’s not entirely clear to me what the editors of the WP want the president to do or why. Quite to the contrary, I think the president has responded about as well as possible to the events unfolding in Ukraine. He’s reaffirmed our support for abstract principles without being too bedeviled by our own inconsistent application of those principles. My only criticism is more of a quibble: if you’re going to threaten consequences, it can prove embarrassing if you’re not prepared to make good with a meaningful response.

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About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think is is really about Ukraine. It feels to me as if it’s just about the defense budget.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

  2. Stonetools says:

    Shorter Washington Post:
    “The President should do something -anything, even if no one has any idea what that something should be”.
    I know that a lot of people believe in the Green Lantern theory of the Presidency, but I did think the WaPo editorial board was more sophisticated than that. Oh well, wrong again, Bob.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 7

  3. Kari Q says:

    If only the president did something, as long as it was different from what he actually did and didn’t involve sending US troops, then everything would be different, better! It’s all so obvious to me now.

    Well, I do at least appreciate that they say they don’t want US troops involved. That’s refreshing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  4. Tillman says:

    Reads like a lament about the hegemon’s lack of clothes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Stonetools:

    … I did think the WaPo editorial board was more sophisticated than that.

    I have no idea why you would expect that of Fred Hiatt’s neocon WAPO editorial page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  6. C. Clavin says:

    I think the president has responded about as well as possible to the events unfolding in Ukraine

    Seriously…you can always quibble…but what else is to be expected of the US President here? This is probably Obama’s biggest challenge to date…and it’s most likely a lose-lose.
    In the meantime oil prices are beginning to spike…
    I’m sure McCain would have unleashed the nukes by now…but Alzheimers is an awful disease. Then you have his butt-boy Butters out there thumping his chest about something…and some other GOP’er talking about 3-D Chess and marbles but not saying exactly what he would do.
    When anyone is as wrong about everything as the Republicans have been about everything…I’m not sure why anyone cares what they say?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

  7. CB says:

    Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.

    These ratf@ckers have learned nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  8. Robin Cohen says:

    If Obama has a foreign policy it is an obscure one and it doesn’t appear to put American interests first.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 22

  9. bandit says:

    Obama can blame someone else. That always works for his douchebag accolytes.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 20

  10. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: Part of me would like to see Georgia declare war on Ukraine to see how John McCain would go about standing with both sides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  11. wr says:

    @Robin Cohen: Tell us, oh great foreign policy sage, what are America’s interests in Ukraine and how should Obama put them first?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  12. wr says:

    @bandit: Shorter Bandit: “I got nothin’.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  13. john personna says:

    @bandit:

    It is the perfect imbecility of comments like that that close the case.

    The only way to “stop” stuff like this is with the threat of trade sanctions or force. Europe needs oil and gas, so sanctions are out. And no one wants to fight Russia, so force is out.

    The only thing left is the loony right idea that “magic” Obama be magic or a failure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  14. Tillman says:

    I get the idea people who clamor for an American military solution to all the problems of the globe feel like our army is simply magic and any application of it solves all our problems.

    They either slept through Iraq completely (which is unlikely, you’d need truckloads of tranquilizer to pull it off) or they don’t know the first thing about how guns (and the people with those guns) move through the world en masse. Our army has no peer in the world in its ability to strike anywhere. That doesn’t mean our army should strike everywhere. This crap costs money. I thought we were concerned about government debt now?

    I mean, Jesus Christ, have these people actually tried to understand what the hell is going on? Don’t misread me: I like America being the hegemon. I live here, I benefit from it. But I also prefer we exercise power intelligently, and picking the right battles to wage is pretty much the first priority.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  15. Tillman says:

    @Robin Cohen: First off, the American president not putting American interests first in his prioritizing what action to take on the global stage is a farcical notion beyond belief. I didn’t say it of Bush II, and Iraq (which I opposed from the start) was a complete disaster. So, right there, you’re revealing a bias.

    Second, I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of the Teddy Roosevelt epigram, “Speak softly but carry a large stick.” I actually would’ve preferred that Obama in released remarks had been a bit softer. His big problem has been attempting to posture on impossible situations like this to appease people like you, and it’s embarrassing to the rest of us who have a faint idea what’s going on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  16. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: Obama has always put himself and his political career first and continues to do so. I voted for Obama twice, once because I believed in him and
    the second time because he was less toxic than Romney. Obama on the campaign trail and the man in the White House are two different people. I would have preferred the Candidate to the man in the White House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  17. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: I agree completely. Several stupid, unwinnable wars in the last 50 years and many people still don’t get it. Armed intervention should be a last resort if we should get directly involved all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. Scott says:

    I think all calls for action (regardless of what that action is) should be responded to with: “And how do you propose to pay for that? Should we borrow more money or do we raise taxes” That should shut a lot of folks up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  19. Robin Cohen says:

    @wr: I don’t think we have any interests in the Ukraine just as I didn’t think we had any in Syria beyond humanitarian concerns which the world community should respond to, not just the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Robin Cohen says:

    @Scott: Agreed!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Tillman says:

    @Robin Cohen: Ah, apparently that guess was wrong.

    Obama has always put himself and his political career first and continues to do so.

    You can say that about any politician though. In terms of domestic politics, this is pretty much the go-to rule. I think foreign policy is vastly different: you have to consider the audience whenever a politician postures on the international stage. The fact that Obama called Putin out and said there’d be “costs” to overt action goes beyond just wanting to have a good legacy. He already screwed that up with Syria, and he’s never struck me as the bold kind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Tillman says:

    @Scott: Whatever happened to war bonds?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. dazedandconfused says:

    @Tillman:

    War bonds are sooo 20th century. Nowadays we go shopping.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: Very true I just don’t want another goddamn war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: Most Americans do not believe in the Afghanistan war and did not believe in the war in Iraq. If we do not morally support the war(s) being fought why would we buy war bonds?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. John425 says:

    Dear Vladimir: No fair! You crossed the red line. Time out’

    /s/ Barack

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  27. Tillman says:

    @Robin Cohen: It’d be a helpful gauge of public opinion, I think. Polls can have problems with question-wording and sample size; how many people are buying war bonds to support a war is a definite measure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  28. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: Ok, but if there was little support for the war being financed by the bonds, would Obama or any President stop the war because the people don’t support it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Tillman says:

    @Robin Cohen: Not necessarily, but it would certainly give political ammunition to anti-war politicians if they noted how few war bonds were selling.

    It would also allow us to trim defense’s nominal budget with the understanding that any war would have some extra funding provided by citizens buying war bonds. You wouldn’t end up with soldiers buying their own body armor.

    It could be twisted several different ways, really.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  30. Robin Cohen says:

    @Tillman: Let’s take that idea and run with it:
    1. We reduce the Defense Budget. 2. We put War Bonds up for sale to close the gap in funding any ongoing war(We always seem to be involved in a war somewhere-this needs to stop).
    What happens 1. If the gap is closed for a while and bond buying ceases or 2. There are NEVER enough War Bonds sold to fill the gap. Do we then RAISE the Defense Budget to fund the ongoing war or wars that no one supports?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: How about that Russian destroyer roaming around right in our backyard? Send the Navy down there to escort them back home where they belong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. rudderpedals says:

    @Tyrell: No. Better to leave it where it is where our guys can continue taking acoustic and ESM data.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Davebo says:

    @Tillman:

    War Bonds falls into the borrowing money category.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0