“I’m prime minister of the world!”

Maybe it’s not surprising that when George Bush embraced the “I’m King of the World” model of foreign policy the results were much the same as those experienced by Leonardo di Caprio and most of his fellow travelers in the movie in which he made the line famous, Titanic. Now, Barack Obama seems to be ...

586708_090415_dogb2.jpg
586708_090415_dogb2.jpg

Maybe it's not surprising that when George Bush embraced the "I'm King of the World" model of foreign policy the results were much the same as those experienced by Leonardo di Caprio and most of his fellow travelers in the movie in which he made the line famous, Titanic. Now, Barack Obama seems to be trying a different model for a U.S. president in international affairs.  He doesn't act like a king so much as he does a prime minister. He's clearly still the first among equals, but he realizes it seems that to get anything done, he has to engineer and maintain coalitions and contain the opposition. The metaphor is enhanced by the fact that he is the American president who likely would do best with prime ministerial tests like the U.K.'s wonderful "Question Time" in which you see politicians think on their feet in a way that would produce an aneurism in seconds in most American officials. To this day, I savor the thought of George W. Bush trying it just once...he would make a deer in the headlights look like Disraeli.

Speaking of metaphors, it is obligatory today to offer at least one dog metaphor. (Admittedly, I won't even be re-reading this paragraph since if I hear or see one more reference to the First Dog I will drown myself in a vat of kibble. But perhaps you will be more tolerant...and in any case, most people don't have access to fatal doses of kibble.) So here goes: When Hillary Clinton arrived in town, most people felt her biggest foreign policy rivals might be National Security Advisor Jim Jones or Defense Secretary Gates. But as it turns out, her biggest rival may end up being Bo the Portuguese Water Dog since he seems to intuitively understand better than anyone the Obama Administration's main foreign policy precept of rolling over on its back and letting the world scratch its belly. 

Maybe it’s not surprising that when George Bush embraced the “I’m King of the World” model of foreign policy the results were much the same as those experienced by Leonardo di Caprio and most of his fellow travelers in the movie in which he made the line famous, Titanic. Now, Barack Obama seems to be trying a different model for a U.S. president in international affairs.  He doesn’t act like a king so much as he does a prime minister. He’s clearly still the first among equals, but he realizes it seems that to get anything done, he has to engineer and maintain coalitions and contain the opposition. The metaphor is enhanced by the fact that he is the American president who likely would do best with prime ministerial tests like the U.K.’s wonderful “Question Time” in which you see politicians think on their feet in a way that would produce an aneurism in seconds in most American officials. To this day, I savor the thought of George W. Bush trying it just once…he would make a deer in the headlights look like Disraeli.

Speaking of metaphors, it is obligatory today to offer at least one dog metaphor. (Admittedly, I won’t even be re-reading this paragraph since if I hear or see one more reference to the First Dog I will drown myself in a vat of kibble. But perhaps you will be more tolerant…and in any case, most people don’t have access to fatal doses of kibble.) So here goes: When Hillary Clinton arrived in town, most people felt her biggest foreign policy rivals might be National Security Advisor Jim Jones or Defense Secretary Gates. But as it turns out, her biggest rival may end up being Bo the Portuguese Water Dog since he seems to intuitively understand better than anyone the Obama Administration’s main foreign policy precept of rolling over on its back and letting the world scratch its belly. 

And if you think I’m being too tough on Obama’s foreign policy, don’t kid yourself. All this focus on trivia like the global economic crisis and a couple of minor wars in the back lot of the Third World is grotesquely misguided. What about the really big issues? What has he done about things like this? He’s posing with a puppy and a freight train named The Doom Express is chugging our way! 

On the other hand, let’s give credit where it is due. (Note to those impaired by too much cold medicine: I’m being serious again now.) Sometimes the best things we can do in foreign policy are what we choose not to do. Citing China for currency manipulation would have achieved absolutely nothing except making a constructive dialogue with the Chinese more difficult at precisely the moment it has become essential to the future of both nations. That kind of common interest is a more powerful tool than any formal government filing of the sort sought by the reflexive China bashers could ever be.

When will supposedly objective commentators stop apologizing for their perfectly valid criticisms of the President? It’s not disloyal to offer criticism. It’s a sign of love. At least that’s what my family keeps telling me. And oh boy, if that’s true, do they ever love me.

North Korea is planning on restarting their nuclear reactor. Our tough talk around last week’s missile launch sure has shown them. As a matter of fact, now that you mention it, whatever happened to all that tough talk? One day we had a raft of press conferences from the UN about how immediate action was required and the next thing you know all the proposals and rhetoric seemed to disappear off the radar like the payload in a North Korean missile.

Much buzz about the Summit of the Americas because…well, Obama is going. If Obama stayed home, the Summit would be overshadowed by the simultaneous Kitacon anime convention in Northampton, England. (I was going for obscure there. I have no weird anime fetishes. In fact, I think anime fans should probably all be medicated and locked away before they do damage to children or small animals.) Of course, I’m not sure Obama is going to have such a great time there. Whereas many of the leaders at the G20 meeting would have taken political heat if they’d have had rough meetings with Obama in London, many of the Latin leaders will actually get brownie points for not fawning on the Yanqui-in-Chief. Further, there are a bunch of secondary issues like Cuba or The Hugo Show or America’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back trade policies that are likely to get more exposure than optimal because the substantive core of the meeting is going to be so disappointing. Translation: if you are hoping for an M&M of a meeting in T&T, I’m sorry to report you will only be getting a Skittle.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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