President Barack Obama's tour of Asia demonstrated just how isolated the United States is in the world. His trip to Japan, although cordial, lacked the flair of his early days in office. Malaysia was correct but uninspiring, marked by questions about comments made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. The reception in the Philippines was cool.
Perhaps the reason is that in his sixth year Obama has lost the luster and no longer captures anyone's imagination. His comments have made him sound more like his predecessors with the weary prose and predictable responses. It is the world who is wrong, says the United States, and we have the only answers for its problems. From Israel, Palestine, Russia and Ukraine, Obama or his Secretary of State John Kerry have been met with either yawns or amazement. In Asia, Obama finally came to grips with his new position. He has become a crashing bore.
In the case of the Ukraine Obama, Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden have become hectoring and unrealistic. Unless boots are on the ground, Vladimir Putin is not going to let up in trying to change the rump regime in Kiev. Every time Kerry opens his mouth he deletes crucial parts of the story. He acts as if Geneva was sacrosanct even though the last time the European Union made an agreement with the Ukraine it was invalidated by the mobs of the Maidan. And although Germany displayed its displeasure it is not going to stop BMW from placing a factory in Kaliningrad - the former Koenigsberg when it was German. For that matter, American companies have not altered their investment plans in the Russian Federation.
The American media has been as transfixed on the Malaysian aircraft mystery and the South Korea ferry accident that they rely on others for the news. Al Jazeera actually has reporters in the Russian towns, not CNN or MSNBC, but we do have enough talking heads saying nothing. The predictable cheerleaders for the Iraq war continue their militant outcries - but no reporters. Perhaps America has a free press but it is not doing its job. Human interest stories may be alluring emotionally, but tell people next to nothing about how the world works.
Thus Obama and his crew live in a gold fish bowl when it comes to foreign policy. Even Israel, normally supportive, has demurred on Ukraine and Syria. Perhaps their perspective is better. Hillary Clinton rushed in like a bull in a china shop in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Thanks to Obama the United States smartly did not intervene in Syria. The "Arab Spring" has become a "winter" of despair. But American reporters practically help encourage the crowds without understanding either context or history.
After George W. Bush and company hoodwinked the nation into invading Iraq no one simply takes anyone's word. For Obama to regain his place as an inspirational and transformational figure, he is going to have to become more of a broker than an advocate. He should use his superb instincts and intelligence to break the pattern of hackneyed phrases and stale solutions.