Once you see what he is trying to accomplish, it all makes sense.
While I think the symptomology of an ailing, herky-jerky United States is correct, the cause of such malaise is left unspoken. The Obama team — with its foreign policy formulated by President Obama himself, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, White House consigliere Valerie Jarrett, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and present Secretary of State John Kerry — is not in fact befuddled by the existing world. Instead, it is intent on changing it into something quite different from what it is.
So far from being chaotic, current U.S. foreign policy is consistent, logical, and based on four pillars of belief.
1. Readjustments in the global order are long overdue.
The exceptional postwar influence of the United States did not result in a fair and just world and is thus in need of major recalibration. The use of military force abroad in recent decades has almost always been mistaken, proving a waste of lives and money, as it either has promoted the status quo rather than aiding the deserving and needy, or has promoted only the interests of those who mouth U.S. platitudes and falsely claim they are legitimate. The role of an all-powerful United States is not always beneficial, as it sets global norms according to our privileged tastes. For America to quietly recede and give other nations a chance to direct their own affairs and become global actors would be far more equitable, leading to a world that far better represents heretofore unrepresented billions of people. Such transformation is always messy; occasional violence and unrest are the price of equitable readjustments. Change is always misinterpreted and mischaracterized by reactionaries whose interests abroad are imperiled by any progress that leads to greater equality and fairness and to the end of unwarranted hierarchy and privilege.
2. All nations and interests act rationally — if given a chance.
Human nature is not tragic but is better understood from a therapeutic perspective. Most nations, in fact, interpret outreach as magnanimity leading to reciprocity, not as weakness deserving of contempt. Evil is not inherent in the world because of human failings such as timeless envy, jealousy, narcissism, greed, and vanity. Rather, to the degree that evil is absolute and not a relative construct, it is a transient condition and a curable symptom of poverty and absence of education. Leaders caricatured and demonized as a Cuban Stalinist, an Iranian theocrat, a Russian former KGB agent, and a plutocratic Chinese apparatchik in fact think no differently from us. But they have too often not been accorded a voice because the U.S. sought to bully them rather than reason with them. Polarizing and out-of-date labeling such as calling ISIS or the Taliban “terrorists” or “Islamists,” or reducing Bowe Bergdahl to a “traitor,” serve no purpose other than to simplify complex issues in ways that caricature those with whom we differ.
Instead, if we reduce our military profile and show other nations that what we are really interested in is fundamentally transforming U.S. society into a more equitable and fair place, our erstwhile enemies will begin to appreciate that we too are human and thus share their common aspirations. Ideals, persuasion, feelings, and intent are now the stuff of foreign policy, not archaic and polarizing rules of deterrence, balance of power, military readiness, and alliances.
3. Do abroad as we try to do at home.
The legacy of Barack Obama will be found mostly in foreign policy and especially in his forging of new ties with formerly ostracized regimes. Obamacare, the doubling of U.S. debt, the anemic recovery over the last six years, the near destruction of the Democratic Party at the state level and in Congress, the alphabet soup of scandals — GSA, IRS, NSA, VA — are not the stuff of a successful presidency, whatever the efforts of the solicitous media. Accordingly, Nobel Laureate Obama logically sees that history’s positive verdict on his tenure must come from abroad. He will normalize relations with Castro’s Cuba and let others worry whether there is any reciprocity on issues of longstanding disagreement. History will record the fact of normalization, not transient details concerning human rights. Obama will bring Iran into the fold of nations — its nuclear-weapons program soon accorded the status of Pakistan’s. He will work with Islamic radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, acknowledging their legitimate grievances and helping them to forge a new generation of Middle Eastern leaders. He has not given up on Erdogan’s Turkey as a logical bridge between Islamic and Western nations. He has tried to reset relations with Putin and will try again, as he stealthily promised President Medvedev before the 2012 elections. Israel will be accorded the status of Switzerland or Belgium, a minor entity deserving of normal U.S. relations, but not of extraordinary American commitments.