The Observer has the impression that President Barack Obama has decided to take the easy route in foreign policy, and just go around the world delivering fine speeches articulating his visions of desirable developments in international affairs, but with little attention to the views of other critical countries, or the hard work of negotiating with adversaries and allies to develop effective initiatives that have any realistic chances of success.
It is intellectual speech-making divorced from the realities and requirements of building an effective foreign policy manifested in actions, and not just words.
Obama’s recent Berlin speech on the need for a reduction in nuclear weapons offers an important case in point. Arms control agreements require above all a minimum level of trust–between the nations that sign on to their provisions, and also among the two-thirds of the members of the Senate whose affirmative vote is required for their ratification.
That trust doesnot exist today between Moscow and Wasington, or among the members of the Senate, who only recently failed to ratify a United Nations covention to protect the rights of handicapped individuals.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry appears embarked on a similar journey of making the case for good actions and negotiated solutions, most recently on the Israeli-Palestine issue, but without a strategy for sustained use of U. S. power and inluence to achieve the desired result.
See “Editorial, ‘Blind Rhetoric,’ The Daily Star (Beirut),
June 27, 2013.
One almost has the sense that there are two groups of people in Washington: 1) those who have followed developments closely in a country or region for a number or years (e.g., Afghanistan, Syria), and 2) those who have only recently become interested in the country or subject in any detail, and whose understanding is limited to what they hear from others or read in their briefing papers.
And, as luck would have it, it is the second group, led by Obama himself, that seems to be making the decisions–and charting America’s foreign policy in the maelstrom of current events. They appear to be like sailors, cast about on storm-tossed seas, without a compass or even a sextant, or a course laid out before they left home port.
As The Daily Star put it, in the Editorial cited above,
Kerry, like his predecessor Hillary Clinton and others, appears to ignore the idea that a foreign policy based on making statements and performing positive spin control can run into trouble when people discover there is no actual vision or urgency behind such rhetoric. As a result, Washington’s credibility sinks even further, while the perception that the Obama administration has no true foreign policy steadily gains ground. The only question is whether U.S. officials are truly aware of the damage they are doing to their country’s interests.
Obama and Kerry are making great speeches. But after four years of words not backed by actions, is anybody listening?
The Trenchant Observer