Monday, June 10, 2013

Lead From Rear – Lose Control

The U.S. Constitution, precedent and the nature of the problems give presidents their greatest power in foreign affairs. They set the agenda and shape public opinion.

President Obama has seen his primary task to substitute soft power, friendly persuasion, and collaboration for boots on the ground and unilateral action.

He has mostly succeeded and the public has generally followed. They are pleased to be out of Iraq, ready to leave Afghanistan, and the latest polls show disinterest in active participation in Syria beyond diplomacy, which they believe will fail.

The polls reflect Democrats who like the idealist rhetoric and non-military solutions, Republicans who do not like or trust the administration to do anything in foreign affairs and the public in general still focused on domestic concerns.

Unfortunately, presidential preferences sometimes are sabotaged by reality:
  • The reset relationship with Russia is worse, not better, than under Bush.
  • The friendly hand extended to Iran has been slapped away.
  • The rapid near total withdrawal from Iraq created a vacuum that has been filled with sectarian violence.
  • Afghanistan does not look to have much of a future after NATO and U.S. participation ends.
And, most importantly, the low-key, non-action in Syria against the all-out commitment of Iranians and Russians has reinvigorated the Assad regime. The conflict now is a platform for a much wider war, which the U.S. side is losing.

It’s not clear the American public will shift views on the Obama record, but a steady decline in U.S. foreign clout and a wider, hotter Middle East conflict will be topics in the next presidential race.

See Gallup:  Americans oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria

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