Ryan Lizza has a long piece on the origins of President Obama’s foreign policy; what shaped it and what’s shaping it now. The absence of an over-arching strategic view is what most troubles veteran diplomats and policy planners around the world:
Obama’s reluctance to articulate a grand synthesis has alienated both realists and idealists. “On issues like whether to intervene in Libya there’s really not a compromise and consensus,” (former State Department Director of policy and planning Anne-Marie) Slaughter said. “You can’t be a little bit realist and a little bit democratic when deciding whether or not to stop a massacre.”
(Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew) Brzezinski, too, has become disillusioned with the President. “I greatly admire his insights and understanding. I don’t think he really has a policy that’s implementing those insights and understandings. The rhetoric is always terribly imperative and categorical: ‘You must do this,’ ‘He must do that,’ ‘This is unacceptable.’ ” Brzezinski added, “He doesn’t strategize. He sermonizes.”
For its part, the Obama Administration asserts that it has arrived at a workable strategic synthesis, something it calls “leading from behind.” Lizza writes:
Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”
You can read Lizza’s full report here.