The world is a hot mess. Pro-Russian separatists shot down a passenger jet over Ukraine. Iraq is under siege from Islamic radicals, the Taliban is rebounding in Afghanistan and civil war grinds on in Syria.
Israel is fighting in Gaza. Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program have come up empty. China is bullying its neighbors.
When trouble flares up around the world, U.S. presidents get blamed. The latest polls show that only about 36 percent of Americans approve of Barack Obama’s handling of foreign affairs — down from 51 percent in May, 2011, after the death of Osama bin Laden.
Republicans have not been reluctant to place responsibility on him. “Obama has presided over a recent string of disasters that make even (Jimmy) Carter look competent,” wrote Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. “The world is on fire — and Obama’s foreign policy legacy is in tatters.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged that “his policies are failing across the globe.”
The indictment implies that had the administration been tougher or smarter, Ukraine would be intact, Syria’s dictator would be gone, Iraq would be stable, Hamas would surrender, China would be a gentle lamb and Iran would give up its nukes.
Conservatives say Obama thinks he’s king. But they seem to confuse him with God.
Silly conservatives. Where’d they get that idea?
But if Obama doesn’t deserve his 36% approval rating now (and he doesn’t, it’s way too high), he didn’t deserve the 51% approval when SEAL Team Six greased Osama bin Laden (while Obama watched from the corner of the room in a golf jacket).
But yeah, I’ll go along with the idea that if this administration had been tougher and smarter, some or all of the world’s hot spots today would be at least a little less hot. Who fears or respects us? Who can even determine what it is we want, much less what we demand? Obama’s much-derided “apology tour” in his early days presaged these days of dithering. The US had too often thrown its weight around, he lamented: more Mr. Nice Guy.
And note that by acknowledging anti-Americanism, he hasn’t made America any more popular. I’d prefer respect, and accept fear, but they don’t even like us. They don’t like him, either, not anymore.
[T]he belief persists that the difference between a bad outcome and a good outcome is a willingness by the U.S. government to exercise leadership or show toughness or otherwise get involved. In practice, our interventions often exact a terribly high price for a dismal result. If there are two ways to get a dismal result, maybe we should choose the one that doesn’t cost us thousands of lives or billions of dollars.
See Syria, for example. Or Iraq. Or Libya. Or Gaza. Or Ukraine. Or “our girls” in Nigeria. Or the Rio Grande. Or Chicago. Dismal results, all, and all free of charge and with no lives lost.