Thursday, June 19, 2014

Obama’s Foreign Policy Crisis of Confidence

Barack Obama began his presidency with a Nobel Prize and the support of the mainstream press, foreign policy establishment and the public. As of June of his sixth year of office, he has lost the majority of the public (39% now approve his performance, Real Clear Politics, May 2014) and the major editorial pages range from hostile to very disappointed. The liberal foreign policy establishment remains supportive of his principles, but has become critical of the President’s level of engagement and execution.

Obama’s foreign policy has utterly lost the Washington Post editorial board, which writes highly critical editorials on a regular basis arguing that his sole-minded focus on withdrawal is inadequate to the new challenges and his rigid view that military engagement must be avoided or only exerted in stealth Special Forces attacks or with drones is defeatist.

Reflecting his major foreign policy speech at West Point, the Washington Post said of Obama: “As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech.”

President Obama arriving at West Point, NY, 5-28-14
Photo: Susan Walsh, AP
Even the New York Times, which supports Obama’s views on the limits of force and advocates more limits on drone strikes, surveillance and closing Guantanamo Bay, was critical of his West Point speech as uninspiring and full of hackneyed phrases. But specifically, the Times said: “Mr. Obama’s comments on China and Russia barely touched on how he plans to manage two major countries that have turned increasingly aggressive.”

Unfortunately, foreign policy allies tend to lose confidence and adversaries take advantage of drift and weakness. America has two and one-half years to hope this administration can find some minimum offensive strategy to hold now frequent crises at bay.

Floyd Ciruli directs the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School at DU.

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