Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Different View

Here's a pretty interesting take on Obama's foreign policy of late. The writer is more nuanced than I was.

... Obama is the near textbook embodiment of complex policies that meet the needs of reality and the moment, rather than what the body politic and the commentariat so often pine for, which is abundant simplicity and tidy slogans.

"There’s just no quick way to define it," the New America Foundation's Steve Clemons told Politico, in eager search of an Obama Doctrine, in of course the arena of foreign affairs. "... So he knows what you do in Egypt isn’t the same as what you do in Libya and that isn’t the same as what you do in Bahrain."

That's not only refreshing (to me at least), it also mirrors the profoundly complex pragmatism of the foreign policy designs of FDR, who was, however, extraordinarily fortunate not to have 24/7, sensationalist news operations and talk, talk, talk radio and the blogosphere second-questioning his every thought, hounding his every move, and demanding the unwavering articulation of an explicit FDR Doctrine....

... Obama's UnDoctrine is a universe away from the uniform simplicity of Wilsonian or Bushian idealism, which is better left to German philosophers than foreign policies. Idealism is a word closely aligned with ideology, and for good reason: It is a straitjacketing term that, once out of the bag and affixed to its proponent, too often coerces that proponent into grossly ill-advised actions for consistency's sake.

Obama's critics and Republican opponents are naturally all too delighted to confuse his internationalist pragmatism with an absence of principles, when in reality these -- pragmatism and principles -- are no antithesis. It would be a happy world indeed if the constant application of idealism always achieved the principled objectives pursued, yet history indicates its near abject failure in nearly every instance ..., whereas our hyperpragmatic presidents, from Washington to Lincoln to FDR, achieved nearly all of their principled goals...

This is a time, I guess, when I need to remind myself what I've said about Obama from the very beginning: he's no far-left liberal. He's a pragmatist whose instincts are progressive. That is, in fact, exactly what I liked about him, and, in most things, still do. In this Libya excursion, I hope to hell his approach will be proven right. (It does seem they got this part right.)

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