The Blog

'Doubling Down on a Muddled Foreign Policy'

12:09 PM, May 29, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

John Bolton, writing in the Wall Street Journal

At West Point on Wednesday, President Obama told the graduating seniors that he had discovered a middle way in foreign policy between isolationism and military interventionism. To the White House, this was like "the dawn come up like thunder outer China," in Kipling's phrase.

Others were less impressed, especially since it took five-plus years of on-the-job training to grasp this platitude. Of course the United States has options between war and complete inaction. Not since Nixon has a president so relished uncovering middling alternatives between competing straw men.

When any president speaks, he engages in more than academic analysis. But playing with words, at which Mr. Obama excels, improves nothing in his record. Inattention to foreign threats and challenges as diverse as Islamic terrorism or China's increasing belligerence in the East Asian littoral; inconsistency and ineptitude in pursuing his own policies, as in Syria and Libya; and indecisiveness in confronting threats like Russia's pressure on Ukraine and Iran's nuclear-weapons program all hang like albatrosses around his presidential tenure. Mr. Obama's speech only further muddled the administration's contradictory messages on foreign policy.

The president's "vision" was, as the White House had promised, "both interventionist and internationalist but not isolationist or unilateralist," a formulation as sterile as the speech itself. Unilateralism vs. multilateralism and interventionism vs. noninterventionism are debates over tools, not over broad philosophies or even strategies. It is like arguing abstractly whether one favors eating with spoons or forks. An essential question must be addressed first: What is the objective? The choice of tactics and methods flows from defining the objectives, not the reverse.

Whole thing here.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers