The mantra of the left during the Bush years was that he was destroying our relationships with other nations. It was pure bull back then, as after the height of anti-Americanism at the end of the Clinton years, the reality was that our foreign relationships were much improved throughout the Bush years. Nonetheless, one of Obama's many promises was to repair our image abroad.
If repairing our image means snubbing every ally and coddling every authoritarian regime with interests antithetical to our own, Obama is succeeding wildly. This from Robert Kagan at the Washington Post:
. . . [Obama], who ran against "unilateralism" in the 2008 campaign has worse relations overall with American allies than George W. Bush did in his second term.
Israelis shouldn't feel that they have been singled out. In Britain, people are talking about the end of the "special relationship" with America and worrying that Obama has no great regard for the British, despite their ongoing sacrifices in Afghanistan. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has openly criticized Obama for months (and is finally being rewarded with a private dinner, presumably to mend fences). In Eastern and Central Europe, there has been fear since the administration canceled long-planned missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States may no longer be a reliable guarantor of security. Among top E.U. officials there is consternation that neither the president nor even his Cabinet seems to have time for the European Union's new president, Herman Van Rompuy, who, while less than scintillating, is nevertheless the chosen representative of the post-Lisbon Treaty continent. Europeans in general, while still fond of Obama, have concluded that he is not so fond of them -- despite his six trips to Europe -- and is more of an Asian president.
The Asians, however, are not so sure. Relations with Japan are rocky, mostly because of the actions of the new government in Tokyo but partly because of a perception that the United States can't be counted on for the long term. In India, there are worries that the burgeoning strategic partnership forged in the Bush years has been demoted in the interest of better relations with China. Although the Obama administration promised to demonstrate that the United States "is back" in Asia after the alleged neglect of the Bush years, it has not yet convinced allies that they are the focus of American attention.
. . . Yet it isn't that surprising. Who has attracted attention in the Obama administration? The answer, so far, seems to be not America's allies but its competitors, and in some cases its adversaries. If there were a way to measure administration exertion in foreign policy, the meter would show the greatest concentration of energy, beyond the war in Afghanistan, has been devoted to four endeavors: the failed first-year attempt to improve relations with Iran; the ongoing attempt to improve relations with Russia; the stalled effort to improve cooperation with China; and the effort -- fruitless so far -- to prove to the Arab states that the United States is willing to pressure Israel to further the peace process. Add to these the efforts to improve relations with Syria, engage Burma and everything with Af-Pak, and not much has been left for the concerns of our allies. . . .
The president has shown seemingly limitless patience with the Russians as they stall an arms-control deal that could have been done in December. He accepted a year of Iranian insults and refusal to negotiate before hesitantly moving toward sanctions. The administration continues to woo Syria and Burma without much sign of reciprocation in Damascus or Rangoon. Yet Obama angrily orders a near-rupture of relations with Israel for a minor infraction like the recent settlement dispute -- and after the Israeli prime minister publicly apologized.
. . . Obama appears to be departing from a 60-year-old American grand strategy when it comes to allies. The old strategy rested on a global network of formal military and political alliances, mostly though not exclusively with fellow democracies. The idea, Averell Harriman explained in 1947, was to create "a balance of power preponderantly in favor of the free countries." Under Bill Clinton, and the two Bushes, relations with Europe and Japan, and later India, were deepened and strengthened.
This administration pays lip-service to "multilateralism," but it is a multilateralism of accommodating autocratic rivals, not of solidifying relations with longtime democratic allies. Rather than strengthening the democratic foundation of the new "international architecture" -- the G-20 world -- the administration's posture is increasingly one of neutrality, at best, between allies and adversaries, and between democrats and autocrats. Israel is not the only unhappy ally, therefore; it's just the most vulnerable.
All of this, of course, leaves aside the substantive foreign policy issues that loom like the sword of Damoclese over our nation and the free world. These include Iran's march to a nuclear arsenal while their regime is on the brink of revolution, Russia's ham handed resurgence and China's rumblings as they grow into a power that will soon challenge - and likely eclipse - our own in the forseeable future if nothing more is done to change the current trajectories. Obama has proven incompetent at dealing with any of these issues.
That said, the one area where things shined during Obama's first year was in decimating al Qaeda and Taliban in Pakistan's NWFP with drone attacks. Apparently, the CIA has in fact finally infiltrated al Qaeda. This from Hot Air:
I’ve written before — more than a year ago, in fact — about the unusual surge in effectiveness of American drone strikes on AQ and Taliban targets. More shots fired, more targets hit, and more important jihadis liquidated. Back in September, WaPo quoted U.S. intelligence sources as saying that we’d finally penetrated Al Qaeda with spies, and I believe them. If you’re inclined to doubt, click here and scroll through Bill Roggio’s list of terrorists killed by drones since 2004. Notice anything unusual starting in, say, 2008? Be sure also to compare the number killed in all 12 months of 2009 with the number killed so far through two and half months of 2010. The latest is Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, whose death was announced just today; he too was a big fish, with a presence in both Pakistan and in AQ’s new haven in Yemen, and he was allegedly directly involved in that CIA base bombing in Afghanistan just before New Year’s.
This may be the one saving grace for the Obama administration in the foreign policy sphere. The fact that it comes from the CIA - the far left's favorite whipping boy, warred upon by the Obama Administration and slandered by Pelosi - is all the more ironic.
Update: Charles Krauthammer weighed in on the incident with Israel created by the inexplicable overreaction of the Obama administration to the announcement, during Biden's visit, that Israel was building some more apartments in an area of Jerusalem that is not in dispute. Indeed, the Obama administration tore into Israel while studiously ignoring that the PLO was busy in the West Bank dedicating a town square to a terrorist responsibe for multiple deaths during a strike in Israel. This from Krauthammer:
. . . So why this astonishing one-sidedness? Because Obama likes appeasing enemies while beating up on allies -- therefore Israel shouldn't take it personally (according to Robert Kagan)? Because Obama wants to bring down the current Israeli coalition government (according to Jeffrey Goldberg)?
Or is it because Obama fancies himself the historic redeemer whose irresistible charisma will heal the breach between Christianity and Islam or, if you will, between the post-imperial West and the Muslim world -- and has little patience for this pesky Jewish state that brazenly insists on its right to exist, and even more brazenly on permitting Jews to live in its ancient, historical and now present capital?
Who knows? Perhaps we should ask those Obama acolytes who assured the 63 percent of Americans who support Israel -- at least 97 percent of those supporters, mind you, are non-Jews -- about candidate Obama's abiding commitment to Israel.