Election 2012

Why is U.S. Foreign Policy Only Going to Get Worse?


The short answer: Because either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is going to win in November.

Brush aside the brutally stupid and irrelevant press and politico chatter about whether it was right for Romney to criticize Obama regarding recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Libya and Egypt and whether it's honorable for Obama to party with Jay Z and Beyonce instead of rending his garments and wandering the White House chanting prayers for the dead.

That's theater, folks, and theater of the quality you might see at the Club Bene in South Amboy, New Jersey. It's the sort of bullshit that the press and political operatives love to talk about because absolutely nothing real is on the line. I know, because I spent a good chunk of last night doing exactly that.

The reality of not just the failure but the absence of anything resembling a coherent foreign policy emanating from either major-party candidate is staggering and dispiriting.

Romney is untested when it comes to conducting foreign policy and all indications are that he has little to no ideas about the subject. That is, apart from barking banal slogans such as "peace through strength," asserting that we should never apologize for American "values," and warning that defense spending needs to be jacked even higher despite a 70 percent-plus rise over the past dozen years. He has been quicker than lightning to criticize the bomb-and-drone-happy Obama for archetypal McGovernite "weakness" while offering no serious alternative. That his foreign policy team is heavy with George W. Bush retreads should be terrifying not just to other countries but to our children and grandchildren, who will bear the brunt of any repeats of Bush's manifest failures. All this and poorly guarded embassies and consulates will get you a bunch of dead bodies in far-flung, exotic locations around the globe.

For his part, Barack Obama has been tested and found wanting in ways large and small. Start with the small: His comments about whether Egypt is an "ally" or a client state with benefits show a leader who is lost in space and has little to no understanding of his role as leader of the United States. If the Arab Spring revolts turn into anything other than the turn in the continuing death spiral of the broadly defined Middle East, it will be no thanks to an administration that backed Mubarak until the very last minute, pushed to keep U.S. troops in Iraq after a withdrawal plan agreed upon under George W. Bush, and unconstitutionally joined a bombing campaign in Libya while dithering over actions in Syria. And alienated Israel. And tripled troops in Afghanistan to pursue a mission whose objectives still remain unclear even to the people who are carrying them out. It was a big applause line at the Democratic National Convention that "Osama Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive." What a sad, cheap sentiment the portends even more disastrous actions if Obama wins re-election.

It remains a harsh fact that Americans gets the government we deserve. Well, when it comes to foreign policy, even the least-worthy among us deserve better than the lack of foreign policy projected by President Obama and Gov. Romney. We've got about two months before one of them is declared the next president of the United States. Let's do what we can to demand that they articulate a clear, prinicpled vision of America's role in the world, especially as it relates to armed conflicts that we ourselves have started, prolonged, or parachuted into. Is it so hard to ask these guys what are the principles they think should govern military intervention, defense spending, trade agreements, and more?

At least then we might evaluate what they stand for before heading into the ballot box and experiencing the existential despair that wells up in the body politic every four years.

NEXT: Netanyahu Hints at Striking Iran Without U.S. Support

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  1. one presumes that mittens will have to address foreign policy during the debates.

    1. I don’t know why Obama would bring it up.

      It can’t be in Obama’s best interest to talk about the foreign policy either–unless he’s trying to distract people from his disastrous economic policies.

      I think Obama tries to avoid the topic in the debates. There’s nothing to criticize Romney on except a lack of experience, and Obama has four years of broken promises and scary outcomes to defend.

      1. Bad on economics, bad on foreign policy. Traditionally, you had to be good on one or both to have even a hope of holding office.

      2. Actually Romney probably has far more experience in forgien affairs than Obama has even after four years as a president. When you consider the Olympics which required working with all countries not just the ones you approve of and of course making millions with a company that works on an international scale. I’d say he has far more experience.

        1. I think it’s safe to say that Obama has more management experience than Obama did when Obama was elected president.

          1. *EDIT*

            I think it’s safe to say that [Romney] has more management experience than Obama did when Obama was elected president.

  2. For his part, Barack Obama has been tested, and found wanting in ways large and small. Start with the small: His comments about whether Egypt is an “ally” or a client state with benefits show a leader who is lost in space and has little to no understanding of his role as leader of the United States.

    I think he was improvising. Speaking from the heart again.

    This was like the “You didn’t build that” comment. Obama always gets in trouble when he goes off script and says what he really thinks.

  3. Club Bene closed ages ago, changing its name to Krome before finally going out of business under pressure from the township (they may have yanked their liquor license, don’t remember the details). Sad time for me, I went to about 100 shows at that place between my friends’ shitty bands and actual acts I was willing to pay for.

    I’d like to know the story behind that reference, though. How delightfully obscure.

    1. I remember the club for having Gary Puckett play there welllll after his heyday.

  4. Romney is untested when it comes to conducting foreign policy and all indications are that he has little to no ideas about the subject.

    Yeah, he never lived in a muslim country as a kid.

    And he’s not a faux Anti-Bush either.

    1. Everybody that knows Romney’s strategy in Afghanistan, raise your hand.

      I understand Romney’s against Al Qaeda and terrorism, and he believes in truth, justice, and the American way.

      I’d defend him for not focusing on foreign policy on an election strategy basis before I tried to defend his foreign policy positions. If Romney has a well articulated, coherent foreign policy, it’s a secret to the American people.

      Hell, even my opinion of Romney’s foreign policy mostly consists of contrasting whatever it might be to Obama’s disastrous economic policy. I still say this election isn’t really about Romney anyway–it’s about whether we the people should reelect Obama.

      I think I’d rather deal with whatever fresh hell Romney puts us through rather than trudge through another four years of Obama’s economic policies, but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend that Romney has a coherent policy on anything. Sometimes changing direction is the smart thing to do–even if you don’t know which direction that will be.

      We know if we keep going in the direction Obama’s got us going in, things are going to get a whole lot worse–I’d hate to see what Obama’s next four years are gonna look like when he no longer has to worry about getting reelected.

      1. We know if we keep going in the direction Obama’s got us going in, things are going to get a whole lot worse.

        No, that is exactly why I am voting for him. I just want to do my part to help give this nation the fucking it deserves.

        1. When I get to know people who really do deserve the government we’ve got, I sometimes feel personally responsible.

          I need to do a better job convincing my friends, family, associates, et. al to be the kind of people that deserve good government. …rather than to be treated like shit.

          1. Very well said, Ken.

        2. Yep. Things are going to get significantly worse over the next 4 years. I want a Democrat in the White House when that happens, so morons can’t sputter and say “BUT…BUT… REPUBLICANS! FREE MARKET! DEREGULATION!”

          1. They can and they will. The Dems controlled the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate for a year with a filibuster proof majority…. and still everything that went wrong is claimed to be the GOP’s fault.

        3. Please tell me this is a joke, Troy.

        4. I mean, this statement actually does make you a traitor, if you carry out that intention. In black and white.

  5. By the way, that paragraph that starts out, “For his part, Barack Obama has been tested…” and ends with, “What a sad, cheap sentiment the portends even more disastrous actions if Obama wins re-election.”, I don’t agree with everything in that paragraph, but that’s the best short assessment of Obama’s foreign policy that I’ve read anywhere.

  6. It remains a harsh fact that Americans gets the government we deserve.

    Eh, thinking people who vote with their logic do deserve better, Nick. I prefer not to be lumped into that ‘we’. I agree with your stance on the ridiculous lack of a coherent foreign policy strategy from anyone on the political scene other than a constant refrain of hazy bullshit.

    Is it really that difficult to convince Americans that getting the fuck out of the business of killing and obsessively-seeking to control Muslims and their tyrant states would serve American interests? Have the civilized become so content with violent aggression toward the nameless that the lack of it actually fosters fear? American ferocity unleashed in the form of indiscriminate bullet/bomb waves or outright bumbling trepidation seems to me to be the bedrock of our foreign policy.

    1. Nick and his “collectivist” leanings.

      Also, I STILL say fuck the voters of New Yawk, cause you DO get the government YOU deserve. Fuck you.

      “God help us, everyone.”

      1. We just got rid of Naomi Rivera.

    2. Is it really that difficult to convince Americans that getting the fuck out of the business of killing and obsessively-seeking to control Muslims and their tyrant states would serve American interests?

      It’s really that difficult to convince Americans that getting out of the business of obsessively-seeking to control other Americans would serve American interests.

      1. True, Ken. But to be fair the context here is foreign policy.

  7. Ya know, I do think there’s a point to be made about Obama attending no intel briefings the week before 9/11, nor the briefing after the attacks. And spending his time around 9/11 out of the office at poshy fundraisers.

    I don’t want a President emoting all over the place about dead StateDep employees. I want one who is willing to at least fake trying to look like he cares about doing the job.

  8. And alienated Israel.

    OH NO! How will we go on without Israel!

    1. Point was that no matter what you think the important objectives of American foreign policy should be–Obama’s probably been incompetent from that perspective.

      Go down Gillespie’s list of examples. It’s all half efforts, self-contradictions, and fits and starts…

      I’m a pragmatist on foreign policy myself, and I supported the president on Libya (as in, if he’d asked for the support for it in a constitutional manner, I think Congress should have given it to him).

      I think Obama did the competent thing when he ordered our troops to take out Osama bin Laden even though he was in Pakistan, too.

      But even if you disagree with the president’s objectives, you should still want to see those objectives pursued in a competent manner.

      And from where I’m standing, those are the only two things Obama handled competently–in a four year sea of foreign policy objectives.

      1. The problems with pointing out the alienation of Israel as an example of our policy favors is that it’s almost entirely the result of two factors: a refusal to look the other way while they increasingly turn into an aparthied state and a lack of interest in beginning a disastrous war with Iran solely for a benefit. We SHOULD be alienated from Israel right now, and the fact that Obama hasn’t continued to put their national interests ahead of ours is one of the few bright spots in his foreign policy record.

        1. Yeah, but Gillespie’s point is solid.

          When Obama tries to defend our alliance with Israel? He ends up alienating Israel.

          Whether you agree with Obama’s objectives is one issue. Whether Obama is sufficiently competent to achieve his his objectives is another.

          Does it really matter what his objectives are if he’s too incompetent to achieve them? We can fix his objective, but you gotta be competent first. If he’s incompetent, then it doesn’t matter what his objectives are.

          And he’s been competent so few times, I suspect the times I thought he was behaving competently were just a coincidence–it was just an accident…

          Broken clocks! Twice a day!

          1. I suspect Obama is more like a broken digital clock. And the time is never 88:88.

            1. Nice. Much needed smile on grim day, thank you.

  9. For his part, Barack Obama has been tested…

    Remember, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    That reminder should be the opening sentence of every comment related to Obama’s foreign policy.

  10. People,mostly those on the right, have complained endlessly when Clinton didn’t not use a drone or other means to kill Osama Ben Laden and now they are complaning that President Obama is actually doing what we said any president should do. The hypocrasy of all sides is so blatant that is is damaging this country. When a person does what is need we can at least grant them that of course that is the only thing Obama has done right.

  11. Nice work on Kudlow yesterday, Nick.

    “I’d just like to point out, I HATE THEM BOTH.”

  12. Now here’s something that the terrorist mob and I can wholeheartedly agree on:

    Bonus points for also torching an Arby’s.

    1. I’m sure Nanny Bloomberg is in full accord, Jimbo.

      Which should make you rethink.

      1. I just don’t like KFC’s and Arby’s food. Now if they torched an In-N-Out Burger, I would demand we carpet bomb them.

    2. Oddly enough, they left Nathan’s Hot Dogs alone.

  13. The sad thing is, GWB was better on foreign policy from a libertarian perspective than BO. GWB set the deadline for withdrawal from Iraq that BO tried to evade. GWB didn’t violate the War Powers Act as BO did in Libya. GWB didn’t reward countries that had shuttered their WMD programs by attacking them, as BO did.

    I’m absolutely no fan of what GWB did, and can’t believe I’m comparing it favorably to anything… but the facts have spoken.

  14. U.S. Foreign Policy is only going to get worse because sixty-plus years of silly “lets all get along, shall we?” diplomacy has resulted in an American public unable to recognize reality when it punches them in the nose, and unwilling to back a policy that is not at least 50% undiluted sewage.

    What is need is a policy that resets the world’s expectations of the United States to something rational. Something along the lines of “Annoy us enough and life will get very unpleasant”. As matters stand, nobody has any expectation that attacking American interests, persons, or property will result in anything worse than a complaint to the U.N.. Our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan might have done so, but the bushwa spread by the media and the disloyal opposition has ensured that this message will be missed.

    We need several decades worth of attacks on American embassies and bases resulting in cold-bloded retaliation before matters will really be on an even keel.

    Sadly, this isn’t going to happen. What will happen is that various idiots will continue to push the United States until the common folk really get mad. The world will get to see what happens when America really loses her temper. They won’t like it much. And in the long run it won’t be good for us either. We don’t have the temperament to be good Imperialists.

    1. This is pretty much why I think Obama’s foreign policy, as bad as it is, is way preferable to Romney’s. His purporters seem to think the world is some campy 80s action movie where all our problems would be solved if we just killed enough people.

    2. So the problem with our foreign policy is that we are too lenient, and haven’t killed enough people? Go kill yourself, chickenhawk. The people of Fallujah, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and a half dozen other third world
      countries would like a word before you do

      ^Where do maniacs like this come from? What world do you live in?

      1. Amen.

    3. lunatard

  15. Israel has alienated us with their constant demands, ultimatums, and undercutting of any diplomatic course. Fuck them. Like Stormy said, one of the few things Obama has done right is refuse to bend over backwards for them. WE are the big country, the superpower, and this is mostly THEIR problem.

    In America, we constantly have politicians of both parties droning on about our sacred relationship with Israel and how it is our greatest ally, etc. Do Israeli politicians do the same for us? Seems to me like they go around talking shit about us in other countries when they aren’t deliberately subverting ours

    1. Israel is basically that crazy chick who keeps deliberately making problems because she likes seeing her big tough boyfriend (us) getting into fights.

  16. the story here is a Marine without bullets. Until this is addressed, no foreign policy will work.

  17. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax-increase measure is packaged as a boost in education funding. This debate over the quality of education has been going on my entire life, and the same folks call for the same solutions (more money!) and nothing ever changes. Is it any wonder?

  18. Is Club Bene still there?

    As to the wannabe presidents; neither would dare try to answer clearly as it would expose their essence as nothing but puppets who’ve never had an original or cogent thought in their lives.


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  20. This is literally the worst article I’ve seen shared on FB in years, ironically at a time that US foreign policy is not only on a high point but likely to remain on a good level thanks to, in my opinion, the highest average level competence of the candidates in my lifetime.


    1. First, let me summarize the good news. The big story is actually China. Look at China’s coast, put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how they feel for their “global competitor” to be on such good foreign relation terms with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and even doing joint military exercises with Vietnam. I’m sure to them its like the Cuban Missile Crisis, except with a chain of a dozen Cuba’s every few hundred miles just off-shore entirely locking them in influence-wise, and potentially militarily. The second big story isn’t quite the mid-east, but Afghanistan. The war’s goal in fact was entirely clear: remove Taliban, remove Al Qaeda, and keep them from coming back. They’re removed, and no-one should be surprised that the “keep them from coming back” will be difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and less than certain. Yet consider the alternative: the Taliban and Al Qaeda sitting snug today? Hardly preferable! Third story is the Mid-East. The entire region will self-generate so many random events and glitches its outside the ability of the US (or anyone) to predict or, on an event-by-event and day-by-day level, influence them.


    2. However, if you take a step back and look at the grand sweep, the entire Arab Spring may well not have happened without Iraqi elections being broadcast on Al Jazeera, OR Obama’s foreign policy reboot and personal example (e.g. of a minority being selected by the majority, yet not then stuffing government with members of his “own tribe” or “own religion”). Final question here is, if the author rates the current US position as bad, precisely what benchmark is the author measuring against? Germany, reviled in Athens Rome and Madrid? Or China, whose best?only?friends are North Korea Cambodia and Myanmar? Non-belligerent India, with a cold-stew nuclear war with its neighbor Pakistan and VERY unclear borders with China? Peaceful Japan, with territorial disputes with every single neighbor from Russia to the Koreas, Taiwan and China?

    3. Lets look at Gillespie’s critique of Romney, basically sentence by sentence. What is banal about “Peace through Strength?” Pax America has brought the world the longest stretch without multinational war in millennia (if you don’t count Congo, and people don’t). What is banal about American Values?for instance do you find Freedom of the Press banal, Mr. Gillespie? Personally I don’t understand the need for a raise in military spending, but military and military spending are only small components of foreign relations. Even if we are sure Romney is wrong about this need, it doesn’t follow that he will screw up all the other components of foreign relations. Naturally Romney criticizes his opponent?this is an election, after all. Every foreign policy mastermind the US has had, from Washington to Roosevelt to Kennedy to Nixon, has been thoroughly second-guessed at every step by his opponents. The author mistakenly believes its possible to offer specific alternatives, but in most cases foreign policy is as unpredictable as a swordfight: you can’t decide or announce now what you will do in a few moves.


    4. Gillespie than criticizes the Bush’s administration’s “manifest failures,” but he actually only had two main foreign policy components: the Iraq war and Afghanistan war. The Afghanistan war was probably required (imagine if the Taliban and Al Qaeda were still there today!), so I understand Gillespie as referring solely to Iraq when he talks about the Bush era failures. Yet the Woodward books make clear that Iraq was conceived by Bush himself, NOT “the foreign policy team,” so I don’t see what the big fear of having several of the same people back in the saddle albeit with 12 years more wisdom and serving a radically different boss.


    5. Now take the Obama criticism. Certainly, as situations evolve constantly and in very different contexts, anyone with intelligence will summarize situations differently: something can be accurately described “excellent” in one way, but equally accurately “terrible” after events occur or in a different context. The connection from Obama’s entirely reasonable discourse to having “no understanding of his role” isn’t even tenuous, its non-existent. Gillespie chooses to have it both ways, mocking Obama for doing far too little in Egypt yet far too much in Libya (where he didn’t do much)? As these events unfolded chaotically, there was little input that even with 20/20 hindsight we are sure would not have had other negative consequences. For instance if the US had participated in Egypt more, would we have helped Democracy, which plumped for the Muslim Brotherhood? Or would we have aided the army instead? Either way, would there have been a backlash against the US? Instead, foreign affairs is a “long game.” Even decades haven’t yet been enough to let “the Arab Street” understand the US: for instance they believed it when told the recent awful video had been shown on “US State Television.” The crowds don’t even realize the US has no public broadcaster like BBC or NHK.


    6. On to Israel: has the US so alienated this country that we’ve been demoted to, say, #2 best friend? I think not. And yet as Obama has ended the practice of uncritical support (rather giving support albeit with criticism), Israel is the petulant child hating the father. Is the father at fault for this small amount of alienation, or is it really the kid who doesn’t understand tough love? I’ve already explained the need for continued work in Afghanistan, so I’m amused that Gillespie mocks Obama for doing the necessary. And there was hardly anything disasterous about saving GM. The nation, it turns out, may lose some money on the stock?though that is not yet clear and was never the only possibility?but the nation continues to get the vehicles, get the tax dollars from the firm, its workers and suppliers, and avoids the costs of unemployment and the like. Not every bailout will make financial sense?in fact most won’t?but this one absolutely did. I also don’t see how Gillespie can tag Osama’s demise as a disaster.

      Usually there’s a fair seed of truth in this type of article, albeit buried in crap, but this one seems to be crap through and through. The author seems to be in charge of a fairly large on-line editorial presence, so I’d like to assume he has access to the facts. However if we believe he’s actually well-informed, then why precisely has he written such a misleading article?

      (the end)

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