Barack Obama's administration appears without purpose and without policy when it comes to foreign affairs. Still, remnants of George W. Bush's approach appear in Obama's pronouncements. Indeed, as the United States pursues an ideological foreign policy, the so-called "indispensable nation" route declares supremacy in every dispute. What it has produced is isolation and wonder.
Take Syria, for example: the United States found itself with no takers at the G-8 for united action against Bashire al-Assad. After the Libyan disaster, there is no taste for diving into an unchecked pool. So, John Kerry goes to Dubai and seeks the support of a gang of Emirate States and leaders. The coalition of the Cynical, a group unwilling to pursue human rights at home while piously demanding it abroad want the U.S. to intervene.
As usual, the excuse is Iran, whose ties to Syria are strong. This obsession has gotten the United States in great trouble over 30 years. We backed Saddam Hussein to the hilt in the 1980s only to reproach him in the 1990s and destroy him in 2003. Saddam carried a lot of water for Saudi Arabia and the emirates and tried to collect by swallowing Kuwait in 1990. If Sadam's experience is any indication, we are dealing with "allies" of questionable worth.
Kerry cannot seem to shake the Hillary syndrome, pursuing the worst of Bush-style diplomacy without the latter's resolution. It is in fact the worst of everything. Perhaps that is why no one wants to touch America's project to aid the ragtags in Syria. Russia's alienated from the West because of the pious sermonettes of both Hillary and Kerry. China let Edward Snowden go, no doubt sick of the lectures. The days of dealing with sovereign nations with arrogance is over. George W. never learned that lesson - perhaps Obama will.
But, it does not appear likely. Obama has been a disappointment on foreign policy. He pursues new-conservative lite. After killing Bin Laden in May 2011, it all went to his head. Now the National Security State has him fully in control. He is with his idols, let him alone.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has behaved clumsily, trying to be a policeman and a counselor. Blatantly using our power in Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia, and in Afghanistan, we squandered a winning formula. Now we have competitors, Russia, China, India maybe in time Brazil. Unable to maturely deal with other nations, we lecture and hector. Obama acts as if Great Britain and France are still powers, ignoring newer realities.
Also, it is a reactive foreign policy confusing to our allies. The Turks tried to intervene in Syria and were waylaid by domestic problems. The Israelis, no less baffled by Obama's intent, are too clever to follow the administration's lead. Besides, Obama's overt dependence on Saudi Arabia must leave them troubled.
Perhaps Obama should follow a more realistic path that looks at the world as it is.
Indeed, idealists are more likely to spill blood than cynics. After this spring, maybe the president could contemplate a shift in direction.