limits of US power
in modern world
President Obama has drawn undeserved criticism for remarks on foreign policy on Monday.
IN A RARE candid moment, President Obama revealed a thoughtful, realistic assessment of the US role in the modern world in unscripted remarks in the Philippines on April 28.
The punditocracy – both left and right – is wrong.
The president was absolutely correct in his assessment that thought leaders have failed to learn the lessons of the past decade as the US fought two disastrous and expensive wars with negative blowback for America and the world.
In his comments in response to an antagonistic reporter’s question, he displayed the great depth and careful analysis that has allowed him to avoid the mistakes of his predecessor.
It was reassuring to hear the president’s realistic assessment that the use of military force should be a last resort. It was not a sign of weakness at all.
THE PRESIDENT’S REMARKS were reported at the top of Page 1 in the national edition of The New York Times on Tuesday in the story Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy.
The New York Times story about the president’s appearance in Manila when he made unscripted comments about his thinking on US foreign policy. Click image to enlarge.
Casting the remarks as “defensive,” Mark Landler reported: “…a visibly frustrated Mr. Obama said on Monday that his critics had failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq war.”
Indeed, the right wing noise machine has been calling irresponsibly for much more forceful action against “bad actors” on the world stage – including Russia. It’s doubtful they ever learned anything from the enormously costly debacle in Iraq and the unfolding, fruitless 13-year campaign in Afghanistan.
“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force,” Obama said in Manila, “after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”
These are exactly the issues the president should be thinking about – and others would do well to follow his example.
So it came as a surprise when this type of thinking was blasted Wednesday on the op-ed page of The New York Times in a column Is Barry Whiffing? by the acerbic but astute Maureen Dowd.
After noting the president’s baseball analogy about hitting singles rather than home runs, Dowd directed her words directly at Obama: “It doesn’t feel like leadership. It doesn’t feel like you’re in command of your world. … It’s not what we need right now.”
On the contrary, it is exactly what we need right now.
The emergent crisis in Ukraine demands it.
The world knows there is no military option for dealing with Russia. Thank goodness Obama knows this too.
Even economic sanctions, as they are tightened, will have adverse effects on the global economy, especially in Europe.
Obama’s measured response is the only response. It is a sign of strength, not weakness.
The president wisely understood there were no good military options with Iran, and patiently worked to get that country to the negotiating table after decades of isolation.
He stood down over Syria in recognition of both public opposition and the clear lack of good military outcomes.
We should be grateful our current president does not have an itchy trigger finger, like the ‘Cheney administration’ before him.
The world is too fraught with danger.
President Obama’s unscripted remarks offered a rare but welcome peek at his deliberate and thoughtful approach to foreign policy. He should be applauded, and thanked.
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