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.