Friday, October 19, 2012

An Insider's Damning Critique Of Obama's Four Years of Foreign Policy

Rosa Brooks, a hard line progressive and a severe critic of Bush era foreign and economic policies, served as an Undersecretary for Defense in the Obama administration. She writes today, in Foreign Policy Magazine, a scathing critique of Obama's foreign policy and the highly dysfunctional foreign policy machinery he has created.

First is her assessment of the wages of Obama's foreign policy:

Despite some successes large and small, Obama's foreign policy has disappointed many who initially supported him. The Middle East initiatives heralded in his 2009 Cairo speech fizzled or never got started at all, and the Middle East today is more volatile than ever. The administration's response to the escalating violence in Syria has consisted mostly of anxious thumb-twiddling. The Israelis and the Palestinians are both furious at us. In Afghanistan, Obama lost faith in his own strategy: he never fought to fully resource it, and now we're searching for a way to leave without condemning the Afghans to endless civil war. In Pakistan, years of throwing money in the military's direction have bought little cooperation and less love.

The Russians want to reset the reset, neither the Chinese nor anyone else can figure out what, if anything, the "pivot to Asia" really means, and Latin America and Africa continue to be mostly ignored, along with global issues such as climate change. Meanwhile, the administration's expanding drone campaign suggests a counterterrorism strategy that has completely lost its bearings -- we no longer seem very clear on who we need to kill or why.

Ms. Brooks then lays out a six point plan to fix all the ills of Obama's foreign policy:

1. Get a Strategy. Ms. Brooks notes that Obama is long on aspirational statements, short indeed on any sort of cohesive strategy. As she asks:

What does President Obama see as the one or two gravest threats to the United States? What are our one or two biggest opportunities? Is terrorism an existential threat to the United States, or a marginal threat, overshadowed by the long-term dangers posed by climate change, pandemics, and a highly manipulable global financial system? Should we focus on increasing ties in Asia, or focus on our neighbors in Central and South America? Is the United States trying to maintain global preeminence, even if it comes at the expense of other states -- or are we trying to foster a global order in which the United States is but one of many strong countries, all constrained by a robust international network of laws and institutions? . . .

2. Get Some Decent Managers According to Ms. Brooks, the foreign policy apparatus as existing in the space between the Executive agencies and the President - the National Security Advisor and his staff, are in a "state of permanent crisis," accomplishing little. Moreover,

. . . although the National Security Staff lacks the personnel or the depth of experience and expertise to be the primary font of policy, the NSS appears to view the Cabinet-level departments and agencies as mere implementers of policies created by the White House, rather than as sources of ideas and expertise. As a result, the schedule and agenda for senior level-discussions is driven almost entirely by a small number of NSS staff, making it difficult for other issues and perspectives to be brought to the fore.

So is this where the decision was made to "normalize" our posture in Benghazi and deny repeated requests for increased security?

3. Get some people who actually know something. Ms. Brooks charge that nepotism and cronyism are rampant throughout Obama's foreign security apparatus. Political connections wholly trump foreign policy experience:

[M]eetings called by top NSS officials involve by-name requests for attendance, with no substitutions or "plus ones" permitted. As a result, dissenting voices are shut out, along with the voices of specialists who could provide valuable information and insights. The result? Shallow discussions and poor decisions.

4. Get Out Of The Bubble. Ms Brooks charges that the White House's NSS staff functions as a fiefdom, severely limiting access to the President on security matters. Moreover, it appears that the President is not hearing any contrary arguments.

5. Get a backbone. Heh. Sorry Ms. Brooks, but Obama's lack of a spine is apparently genetic. Wishing won't change that defect.

6. Get rid of the jerks. There is a tremendous amount of in-fighting among the principals of Obama's foreign policy apparatus, in addition to rudeness. It is a dysfunctional environment.

Romney doesn't need prep for the upcoming debate with an Obama stand-in, he just needs to buy a copy of Foreign Policy magazine and memorize Ms. Brooks's article.


Anonymous said...

You started this piece off writing of Rosa Brooks, and inadvertently switched to Rosa Parks, an easy mistake, by the 2nd paragraph. That's the trouble with familiar names. :>)

GW said...

Hah. Thanks for the catch. Corrections made.