Critics of Barack Obama's Foreign Policy Need to Get Real
Dejevsky, Mary, The Independent (London, England)
Do I detect just a tiny rivulet of disappointment with Barack Obama and his foreign policy? Even, in some quarters - such as the softer, fuzzier sections of US liberalism - a slowly swelling tide? I'm not talking about the words he has uttered, at least not the words of his set-piece speeches. His recent address to the Muslim world (no less) at Cairo University was a masterpiece of oratory, cultural sensitivity and political savvy. At this more rarefied end of the policy spectrum he is at his impressive best.
No, it is in his responses to unforeseen events where the doubts have started to seep in - Iran being the latest and most egregious example. Are the ideological and moral lines not quite clear? We appear to have a rigged result, if not actually a rigged election, and seven people - at the most recent count - killed marching for democracy, as a theocratic regime fights for its life against a surprise assault from modernism. Is there any doubt about whose side the Western world should be on?
Yet all Barack Obama could do was pronounce himself "deeply troubled" - and not by the situation as a whole, but "by the violence I've been seeing on television". When he elaborated, he hardly personified righteous indignation. "I think," he said, "that the democratic process, free speech, the ability for folks to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected."
This careful statement was of a piece with Obama's seemingly laid back presidential style, and it is starting to bring him flak. He is accused of following rather than leading, reacting rather than trying to make the weather, exposing his inexperience of international issues. Even as I type the words "Obama's foreign policy", the doubters' scorn rings double forte in my ears: what Obama foreign policy?
When two US journalists were sentenced to 12 years' hard labour for illegal entry into North Korea, Obama said he was "deeply concerned", and left it to others to say they were exploring every channel to secure the pair's release. When North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test, Obama spoke of making the international non- proliferation regime more "robust".
When Israel chose the hardliner, Benjamin Netanyahu, to head the government, over Tsipi Livni, the moderate foreign minister in the previous government, the US President did not write off the peace process. …