Obama's 'Soft Power' Policy in a World of Hurt; Putin Slap, Al Qaeda Resurgence Show Loss of Focus in 2nd Term

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 14, 2013 | Go to article overview

Obama's 'Soft Power' Policy in a World of Hurt; Putin Slap, Al Qaeda Resurgence Show Loss of Focus in 2nd Term


Byline: Dave Boyer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Obama Doctrine is looking more like a leaky rowboat than an unwavering ship of state in the president's second term.

Mr. Obama's foreign policy strategy of soft power and reliance on international organizations is suffering setbacks around the globe this year, including from Egypt, Syria, Russia and China. The most obvious failure was on display last week when Mr. Obama canceled a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and likened his adversary to a slouching, bored child after Russia granted asylum to fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

But the inability of the Obama administration to capture Mr. Snowden is only the latest in a string of unresolved foreign policy challenges since Mr. Obama won re-election. Some specialists in foreign affairs say it's symptomatic of a president who isn't devoting much time to hot spots overseas.

He's one of only 17 presidents elected to a second term, and he's clearly trying to figure out where he wants to put the majority of his time, said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. He's much more focused on the middle class than he is on the Middle East.

In April, the White House revealed reports of chemical weapons use in Syria's civil war, which Mr. Obama deemed a game-changer. Four months later, the civil war rages on, with fresh reports this week that an al Qaeda affiliate is infiltrating Syrian territory that was seized by rebel groups.

In Egypt, the military in early July ousted President Mohammed Morsi, who was elected after Mr. Obama encouraged democratic reforms in that country. Mr. Obama had major disagreements with Mr. Morsi, but the military's

action left the White House in the awkward public position of denying that it met the legal definition of a coup.

European allies such as Germany and France have blistered Mr. Obama with criticism over surveillance programs revealed by Mr. Snowden. At a Group of Eight summit in June in Northern Ireland, the news was Mr. Putin's refusal to sign a communique calling for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, another setback for Mr. Obama.

A summit between Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in June was overshadowed by the breaking news of Mr. Snowden's revelations and by the Chinese leader's ability to turn the tables on Mr. Obama and claim that China was a victim of U.S. cyberattacks.

As the summer progresses, Mr. Obama has parsed earlier statements that the U.S. has decimated al Qaeda. The administration closed 20 diplomatic facilities overseas because of threatened attacks by al Qaeda and its affiliates.

James Jay Carafano, an analyst on national security and foreign affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Obama's second-term problems internationally can be traced to the terrorist attack in September that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

Benghazi, I think, is a signature moment for the president, Mr. …

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Obama's 'Soft Power' Policy in a World of Hurt; Putin Slap, Al Qaeda Resurgence Show Loss of Focus in 2nd Term
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