When trying to comprehend the origins of President Obama’s foreign policy, in which the places of allies and enemies are reversed, historian Victor Davis Hanson offers four possibilities:
All of which raises the question: Why Obama’s shift in foreign policy? I offer four alternatives, uncertain of the answer myself.
a) Obama in 2007 and 2008 created a campaign narrative of Bush the cowboy, and then found himself trapped by his own “reset button” rhetoric, which meant he could hardly credit his maligned predecessor by building on the multilateral work that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had established from 2006 onward (cf. the similar quandary of libeling Bush as a war-mongering anti-constitutionalist and then using new, kinder, gentler anti-terrorism euphemisms to mask the adoption of embracing Predators, tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, intercepts, and continuance in Iraq and Afghanistan);
b) Obama sincerely believes that states that were pro-American under Bush are now somewhat dubious, while other states’ anti-American rhetoric during 2001–08 was understandable and so rightfully now earns them empathy and attention as a reward;
c) Obama genuinely believes that those abroad who are more statist and voice rhetoric that dovetails with his own equality-of-result efforts at home are sympathetic, inasmuch as they too define “freedom” in holistic terms of state entitlements rather than individual liberty, free markets, and free expression — so to the degree a leader casts himself as a “revolutionary,” he finds resonance with an equally progressive Obama; or
d) Obama has no idea of what he is doing, and wings his way from one embarrassment to another, from snubbing Gordon Brown to gratuitously insulting Benjamin Netanyahu to abruptly changing the terms of commitments with the Czechs and Poles to constructing nonexistent Islamic historical achievements to browbeating Karzai to courting Putin to bowing to the Saudis, etc., all as he sees fit at any given moment — with an inexperienced but impulsive Hillary Clinton and gaffe-prone Joe Biden as catalysts rather than arresters of Obama’s own haphazardness.
Myself, I largely see it as “D” with a dash of “C.” I also think he’s generally uninterested in foreign affairs, except as a stage to shine on; his major interest is in remaking the US domestically into a social-democratic welfare state. Regardless, the forecast for US foreign relations isn’t good. Read the rest for some depressing thoughts.