When it comes to American foreign policy, Via Meadia roots for the home team. We want things to go well for the United States of America, and that means we wish the incumbent and his foreign policy team every success. We don’t hesitate to celebrate the Obama Administration’s foreign policy successes when they get something right, and we also don’t believe in taking nasty potshots every time something goes wrong. A perfect game is even rarer in foreign policy than it is in baseball, and to have an active, global policy like the United States does pretty much ensures that something goes wrong at least once a day.This administration has been at its best in Asia where, despite the occasional and inevitable slips, a lot of progress has been made. We’ve been less sanguine about the administration’s sally into Libya, however, which though it rid us of the Great Loon, has left an arc of instability across the north of Africa and has left stockpiles of weapons unaccounted for. The overthrow of the Loon was harder and took longer than those around the President seemed to expect, and partly because of that the after party has not been a lot of fun.TAI editor and newly-minted Middle East blogger Adam Garfinkle thinks the administration is going to have more problems as the consequences of its Yemen strategy (or as Garfinkle would have it, Yemen non-strategy) unfold.
…it’s simply not a good idea to start a fight, or to deepen a fight, that you are not prepared to do what is necessary to win it. If our right hand, along with that of our Yemeni associates, is going to rev up attacks against jihadi militants there, our left hand needs to be raised in anticipatory defense against the likely-to-inevitable reaction…In the Yemeni case we have every reason to believe that threats against us are brewing. We need to preempt them if we can. So I am not arguing for quiescence, and certainly I am not arguing for a 21st-century version of graduated response. If it were possible to pre-emptorily clobber the bad guys senseless and really finish the matter, great—I’d be first in line to say “let’s do it.” I doubt, however, that the strategic equivalent of a knockout punch exists in a situation where insurgency is so deeply embedded in social/tribal realities.All I’m pointing out here is that we need to think through the various contingencies that may arise as a result of our actions before we undertake them. I am not entirely confident that we do this these days on both a regular and serious basis. Maybe we’re playing too little chess and too many video games where, when you get whacked, you just dial up another game and quickly put ignominy in the rear-view mirror.
Read the whole thing. Adam is a clear sighted and unconventional thinker who never fails to find a new and interesting angle from which to view the passing news.