Hmm: the New York Times says that key allies believe that the Obama administration is panicky and weak? These are not the floral tributes to the wisdom of our leaders that we are accustomed to reading in the august pages of the Times. Could something be going wrong?Neither the NYT nor we know exactly what intelligence the administration has, so we hesitate to join the merry fest of president-bashing quite so readily. But for some time now, we’ve been noting that one of our predictions has come true: the MSM and the foreign policy establishment generally have become much more critical of President Obama since his reelection. There are a lot of things that only Republicans used to say about his foreign policy skills that more and more Democrats are now saying.Keeping all that in mind, it is sadly true that the closing of so many US facilities in the Middle East will be hailed as a great victory by Al Qaeda and its allies, and this will be used as a recruiting tool all through the region. At the moment it’s difficult not to conclude that President Obama’s Middle East policy and his Russia policy both seem to have reached a point of comprehensive failure, and it is not clear what his next moves will be. […]It is important for the President and his advisers, to say nothing of the chattering classes and the nation’s foreign policy establishment, to keep our cool at times like this. It is not the end of the world or anything like it. Nothing irretrievable has been lost, and the strategic underpinnings of America’s position remain sound, but it’s at least temporarily become impossible for just about anyone not on the President’s payroll to say that things are going well in the world of American foreign policy right now.
China had a busy week: its economy stabilized somewhat, though these short-term gains won’t erase its long-term problems: demography, pollution, and water shortages, to name a few. Beijing is aware of these hurdles, and is considering ending its one-child policy to help stave off that looming demographic disaster. Beijing’s pressure on Pyongyang to play nice had some effect, as the Norks agreed to reopen the Kaesong factory, run jointly by both North and South Korea. India’s new bank chief has a tough job ahead of him, having inherited the country’s worst economic crisis since the 1990s. And Obama’s unforced error over his handling of Snowden has sparked a Russo-Chinese gloatfest.The Game of Thrones is heating up in the East and South China Seas. Japan unveiled a new warship, the biggest since WWII, raising eyebrows in China. For its part, Beijing promised a long, difficult struggle over the South China Sea. The US and the Philippines are in talks over a naval build-up in the area to help offset Chinese aggression.In Europe, Spanish posturing in Gibraltar proved why we need the EU. But a calm summer in Europe is masking big trouble ahead, and the UK is headed for a collision with the EU over developing its shale gas reserves. In Germany, Angela Merkel has her sights set on breaking Margaret Thatcher’s record as she eyes reelection this year.In the Middle East, rebels advanced on the Alawite heartland of Syria, slowing Butcher Assad’s momentum. Christians were under attack in Egypt, but the country’s anemic economy is a bigger problem than its street violence. And the New Yorker is coming ’round to the idea that the Libyan after-party isn’t working out so well.In energy news, a new report confirmed what we’d already suspected: the Keystone XL pipeline won’t affect emissions, because Canada’s tar sands oil is coming out either way. While the green jobs Obama promised haven’t materialized, the number of American brown jobs is growing nicely. More good news: the EPA relented on the unworkable US biofuel mandate, and the White House approved a license for a new liquefied natural gas export terminal, ensuring the shale boom keeps booming.[Image of President Obama at Cairo University in 2009 courtesy of The White House]