Stephen M. Walt

Coming up empty

Coming up empty

My FP colleague (and Zombie maven) Dan Drezner had an excellent post up a couple of days ago, defending Obama’s foreign policy against various GOP challenges (most of them, as he points out, silly). The payoff pitch is Dan’s fantasy of what an Obama stump speech on this topic might say:

As president, I have to address both domestic policy and foreign policy. Because of the way that the commander-in-chief role has evolved, I have far fewer political constraints on foreign policy action than domestic policy action. So let’s think about this for a second. On the foreign stage, America’s standing has returned from its post-Iraq low. Al Qaeda is now a shell of its former self. Liberalizing forces are making uneven but forward progress in North Africa. Muammar Qaddafi’s regime is no longer, without one American casualty. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down. Every country in the Pacific Rim without a Communist Party running things is trying to hug us closer.

Imagine what I could accomplish in domestic policy without the kind of obstructionism and filibustering that we’re seeing in Congress — which happens to be even more unpopular than I am, by the way. I’m not talking about the GOP abjectly surrendering, mind you, just doing routine things like subjecting my nominees to a floor vote in the Senate. I’ve achieved significant foreign policy successes while still cooperating with our allies in NATO and Northeast Asia. Just imagine what I could get done if the Republicans were as willing to compromise as, say, France.

As Andrew Sullivan points out, that last line is a killer. But is Dan correct to say (as he does at the beginning of his piece) that “it’s becoming harder and harder to argue that Barack Obama’s foreign policy is a failure”? Not if you consider some of the major items on his agenda when he took office. Even allowing for the fact that Dubya dug him a very, very deep hole, here are ten reasons why one might hesitate to label Obama’s foreign policy a “success.”

Read the rest of the article here.