Obama Shapes Foreign Policy from an American Cocoon

By Barone, Michael | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, August 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Obama Shapes Foreign Policy from an American Cocoon


Barone, Michael, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


When two foreign policy experts with quite different perspectives produce interestingly similar analyses of a president's foreign policy, it's usually wise to take notice.

The two authors are Robert Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst at Stratfor, writing in realclearworld.com, and Elliott Abrams, an appointee in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations now at the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in the September issue of Commentary.

Kaplan has traveled to trouble distant lands and can be labeled a realist. But he also thinks presidents should have an "overriding vision" of how they want to shape and influence the world.

Policy toward any one nation or region should be shaped "with a larger purpose in mind," he writes. "There must be a specific moral and geographic logic that governs America's approach to the world."

He concedes that Barack Obama's foreign policy "is not at all terrible," but says it lacks this sense of purpose. All he finds is this: "I am not George W. Bush. He started wars. I will end them. I will kill individual terrorists as they crop up. That's all, thank you."

Abrams is usually placed in the neoconservative camp, by admirers as well as critics. But like Kaplan he sees something unusual in Obama's foreign policy. It is, he writes, "strangely self-centered, focused on himself and the United States rather than on the conduct and needs of the nations the United States allies with, engages with or must confront."

He focuses on key Obama foreign policy speeches -- and finds little there there. He notes that Obama called for a "new era of engagement" in his 2009 State of the Union speech.

That included a stated willingness to talk to leaders of nations which are enemies (Iran) and or not entirely friendly (Russia). But, more strikingly, in his 2009 Cairo speech he sought to engage directly not with Egypt but "with the followers of an entire faith tradition."

"This," he writes with a perceptibly arched eyebrow, "was an innovation." You can see how well it is working out by looking at recent Pew Research polling in Muslim nations. (Hint: not well.)

Abrams harks back to Obama's 2008 Berlin speech, when he called himself "a fellow citizen of the world," and what goals a believer in "global citizenship" would pursue. …

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