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Obama's Foreign Policy
Inadvisable—Even by His Own Advisers?

President Obama responds with contempt to advice from outside experts, an unattractive and self-sabotaging habit in a Commander-in-Chief, wrote Eliot Cohen in his column here at TAI on Tuesday. The same day, Politico came out with an exposé confirming the President’s unwillingness to listen on the issue of Syria—not only to outsiders, but also to those within his Administration, even at the highest levels. Here’s a damning paragraph:

Sources familiar with administration deliberations said that Obama’s West Wing inner circle serves as a brick wall against dissenting views. The president’s most senior advisers — including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough — reflect the president’s wariness of escalated U.S. action related to Syria or Russia and, officials fear, fail to push Obama to question his own deeply rooted assumptions. “Susan and Denis channel him,” says a former administration official who has witnessed the dynamic.

Obama’s top advisors have pushed for more, but the President hasn’t listened yet:

In senior meetings, some of Obama’s top national security officials have pressed for a bolder response to Putin’s muscle-flexing in Syria. They include Kerry, who has argued for establishing a no-fly zone in Syria, an option Obama recently suggested is “half-baked.”

A former Cold War nuclear deterrence expert, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has fretted that the U.S. isn’t standing up firmly to Putin’s provocations. And CIA Director John Brennan has complained that Putin is bombing Syrian rebel fighters covertly backed by his agency with seeming impunity.

Meanwhile, this lackadaisical policy has alienated Russia experts in the Administration:

Obama’s refusal to take firmer action against Moscow has increasingly isolated several of his administration’s Russia specialists, who almost uniformly take a harder line toward Putin than does the president himself. They include Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs; Celeste Wallander, the National Security Council’s senior director for Russia and Eurasia; and Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Farkas’ recent announcement that she will exit the Obama administration this fall raised eyebrows among officials aware of her frustration that Obama hasn’t responded more forcefully to Putin’s annexation of Crimea and his support for pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. (Farkas has told friends that she is not resigning over policy disputes.)

As one former adviser summed it up, “This is driven by one man, and one man only, and it is Barack Obama.”

The question is, what is that one man thinking? Eliot Cohen answers that question as best as one can outside of the President’s inner sanctum in that must-read column. As he says, just because the Administration probably won’t listen to the larger discussion of first-order problems that outside experts can and should conduct doesn’t mean those experts shouldn’t go forward with it. If nothing else, it will serve to prepare the next Administration, which one hopes will be more attentive. His contribution to that discussion is a great place to start.

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  • adk

    ““I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
    — Candidate Obama, 2008

    • kurtisfechtmeyer

      There is a term for it: malignant narcissism born of insecurity and privilege. Sadly, as with Donald Trump currently, we see so many people mistake pathological narcissism and “celebrity” for some kind of leadership.

    • stan

      Obama has contempt for facts and reality. It follows that he has
      contempt for those who rely on facts and attempt to deal with reality.

  • Fat_Man

    “The Real Obama Doctrine: Henry Kissinger long ago recognized the problem: a talented vote-getter, surrounded by lawyers, who is overly risk-averse.” By Niall Ferguson on Oct. 9, 2015

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is the worst President in American History.
    After WWII America adopted the Primary Strategy of using Trade to infect all other cultures with the superior American Culture. This has the effect of making other Cultures more like America’s, and if they’re more like American’s, the likelihood of going to war with them decreases, a lot. The implementation of this Strategy means not only keeping the shipping lanes open and free, but also forcing open closed Cultures (China), and preventing the rise of threatening Cultures (Iran, North Korea, Cuba) which would endanger Trade.
    By his actions Obama is utterly clueless of America’s Primary Foreign Policy Strategy. Watching him flail around accomplishing nothing when he isn’t damaging relations with our allies, and giving our enemies whatever they want, is horrifying for any American Patriot. It will be a very long time before the Left wing in America will ever be trusted again by those Americans that consider themselves Patriots.

    • BuddyPC

      Alas, those Americans that (sic) consider themselves Patriots are a diminishing coalition. The remainder will trust the Left Wing in America again and again to deliver the Free Siht, and gladly sell out patriotic, cultural Americans to do so and from whom to get it.

      That diminishing Patriotic American wing is made necessarily more so by the immigration of trusting, dependent, reliable voters.

    • VictorErimita

      Oh, it’s much worse than that. He believes the opposite: America’s culture is inferior to all others, the Western paradigm must be destroyed, America is the cause of the world’s problems, not a beacon of hope or a shining, if still evolving, example for others. In the Middle East, his feeble mind has ben poisoned by Edward Said and other toxic influences, and he believes that America and Israel are to blame for the region’s woes, not the backward, savage cultures of the Arabs and the Persian crazies.

      I hope you’re right about the Left not being trusted, but they control much of the opinion making institutions, the pop culture and modt of the levers of political and financial power. They are not going away any time soon, and their indoctrination of the young still appears to be very effective.

    • Fat_Man

      Oh come on, James Buchanan left the country with the Civil War. I don’t think Obama is going to be able to do that, all though he has been trying to instigate a race war.

      • f1b0nacc1

        You are probably right, but remember that Buchanan didn’t leave the US in a materially worse position regarding the rest of the world….Obama has certainly managed that.
        As for a Civil War, Obama has done his level best to get the results of a victory in such a war without actually fighting the war. I fear that the struggle itself (as with so many other results of this fool’s policies) will be a legacy for the future.

  • Jim__L

    For Obama to change course would require him to acknowledge that he has been a feckless wimp, and that every foreign policy expert he has ever condemned had a better handle on reality than he does.

    It’s hard to say whether such a man could take that step without experiencing a mental meltdown of such severity it might be necessary for his VP to take over.

  • Room_237

    Ultimately the buck stops with the president. He was elected and he is responsible.

    My problem is not that he does not want to do anything (personally I think we should wash our hands of the whole Middle East and also leave NATO) but rather that he has done half baked ideas, said and threatened one thing (“RED LINE!”) but then done something else (“red line, I never said red line”). Or that when he acts and it fails (such as the “moderate” training) he says he never wanted to do it anyway.

    He comes across as weak, ineffectual, narcissistic and an empty suit.

  • “… what is that one man thinking?”

    On the evidence of his speech and behavior, “What can I do in this situation that will cause the longest lasting or most sever damage to the United States?”

  • John Tyler

    Obama’s plans are clearly self evident and unfolding in real time . They are purposeful and intentional.
    Obama DESIRES AND SEEKS to withdraw the USA from any and ALL meaningful roles in world affairs . It is totally consistent with his obvious contempt and hatrad for ALL things American and his communist sympathies.

    The notion that Obama has no plans nor strategies in Syria, etc., is total BS.
    He wants the USA to play no part in that mess and he DOES NOT CARE AT ALL what happens there.
    Ditto for EVERY other part of the world.

    If Obama could act totally free of ANY political presure, he would shutter EVERY military base world wide, bring home every soldier, marine and sailor, and withdraw from all military alliances, and then proceed to make the USA a bigger version of Cuba.

    Obama is no idiot; Everything he does is totally consistent with his radical, hate America first world view.
    What is really incredible is that others cannot see this!!!

  • whiteyb

    Vainglorious Narcissist refuses to listen to anyone but the reflection in the mirror.

    Wow this story is so old now Barry has become a case study in NPD. It’s too bad so many millions of Americans are clueless/careless to his utter incompetence while the world burns.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    The guy is so out-of-his-depth,

    …that he doesn’t have the self-awareness of his own limitations required to realize that he is out-of-his-depth.

    But what’s sad, is that it has taken this long for any of the left-of-center patriots to ‘fess up and admit that their guy is hilariously out-of-his-depth, and that the U.S.A. is suffering as a result of his incompetence.

    And those that have awakened to this reality remain the minority among left-of-center voters in the U.S.A. The majority of those voters still lavish the president with acclamations of near-divinity.

    (Yes, yes, “left-of-center patriots” do exist, even though they consider conventional expressions of patriotism to be tribal markers of right-of-center persons…and consequently suppress them in themselves, so as to not offend their own left-leaning social set by seeming to wear Crips colors in Bloods territory.)

    • CosmotKat

      “the U.S.A. is suffering as a result of his incompetence.”
      It’s not incompetence, its arrogance and willful destruction of the values we have as a nation that do not comport with his fantasy ideology. If it was only incompetence…………..we’d be much better off.
      I agree the left of center patriots which are ever fewer in number are too worried about offending their left-leaning set and do not want to wind up shamed, demeaned and likely audited.

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