Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.
If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is "unacceptable" or that a dictator "must go," that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met.
Oh please, already. If the United States' status in the world is dipping, let's not spare the previous administration for all it did to show that America was not only incapable of winning wars but incapable of admitting when it had massively screwed up. Have you thought about Donald Rumsfeld lately? There's a guy who acted like a pre-teen, for god's sake.
None of this is to let Barack Obama off the hook for his disastrous foreign policy. It's to point out that there's a nearly perfect consistency in foreign policy between Bush and Obama. And you know what? Starting dumb wars and then prosecuting them incompetently is no way to earn respect from around the globe. Throw in ongoing drone attacks of dubious legality and various sorts of secret spying programs and more, and well, there you have why the U.S. is tough to take seriously.
As I wrote last week at Time, I don't think the U.S. should be particularly involved in rescuing the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. But virtually all Republicans and Democrats in Washington think we should be. Not much difference there, is there? And no Republicans or Democrats actually say we should be doing "something substantial—and, if necessary, violent" in the Ukraine, are they?
The Obama administration isn't immature because it won't follow through on threats of violence (it did by dropping bombs on Libya and droning the hell out of Yemen and other spots), it's that it made them in the first place. The ultimate teenaged fantasy is that the U.S. can actually be globocop.#mce_temp_url#