Saturday, April 25, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

What Americans really want in a foreign policy

By
May 06, 2014 |

To understand how President Barack Obama feels about the frustrations of foreign policy in an uncooperative world, just look at his testy response to a question from a Fox News reporter last week.

Are critics wrong, the reporter asked, to say that America’s global position is marked by “weakness”?

“Most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures,” Obama replied.

“Proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again,” he continued.

Instead, Obama argued, he is trying to “steadily advance the interests of the American people” without using force.

“That may not always be sexy,” he said. “But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles. Every once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run.”

But there are two problems with what the president said.

The first is that most of his critics aren’t demanding that he go to war in Syria or Ukraine. Yes, many of them argue that the United States should send weapons to Ukraine’s army and Syria’s rebels, but that’s a long way from advocating a rush to war.

The second problem is that the president ducked the critics’ chief complaint: that his aversion to all forms of military intervention, even indirect ones, has emboldened malefactors like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar Assad to test the limits. That’s a legitimate worry, and much of the public appears to share it, according to recent public opinion polls.

It’s true that after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have no appetite for more military adventures. A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 52 percent said the United States should “mind its own business” overseas, the highest percentage to endorse that proposition since the question was first asked in 1964.

But as foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan noted recently, there’s a paradox in those polls: The same public that wants to stay out of foreign entanglements also thinks the president isn’t doing a very good job on international affairs. A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 38 percent of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of foreign policy; that was fewer than approved of his handling of the economy.

Why the apparent contradiction?

Kagan suggests that Americans are psychologically conflicted. “They may want a narrowly self-interested American policy,” he wrote. “But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to (Obama) for giving them what they want.”

I think the explanation is a little simpler: Yes, Americans want to stay out of foreign messes, but they also want to see their country’s foreign policy succeed. And at the moment, Obama is suffering from a shortage of successes. Whatever he’s doing, it isn’t working. Russia is still threatening Ukraine. Syria is still mired in bloodshed. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s thankless mediation between Israelis and Palestinians seems doomed.

To which Obama replies: Hey, you can’t always swing for the fences. Sometimes, singles and doubles – what baseball fans call “small ball” – are the best you can do.

But wait a minute. This is a president who used to say we could swing for the fences. We could repair America’s relationships with its allies, enjoy a “reset” with Russia, embrace the Muslim world and make peace just about everywhere.

The failures call to mind the question a famous Alaskan foreign policy analyst once asked: “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?”

Obama’s initial foreign policy of engagement fell short. The world turned out to be a harsher place than he had hoped. But the problem now is that the president hasn’t laid out a clear new strategy in place of the outmoded old one.

Now that engagement has faltered, the strongest message of U.S. foreign policy is one of disengagement, and not only from Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has been eloquent about the things he doesn’t want to do: get sucked into Syria, send troops or military supplies to Ukraine. But what does he want to do? That’s not as clear.

It’s still possible that, with lower expectations, Obama’s foreign policy can succeed — modestly, with singles and doubles. No swinging for the fences anymore — a focus, instead, on avoiding errors.

It’s even possible (to continue the president’s baseball metaphor) that he’s merely a hitter in a temporary slump. If economic sanctions persuade Putin to keep Russian troops out of Ukraine, that will be a low-cost success. If talks with Iran produce a nuclear agreement, that will be a major success. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Nobody really thought that had a chance, which is why it was entrusted to Kerry, not Obama.

But if the president wants Americans to admire his less-ambitious foreign policy on the way to those not-yet-achieved successes, he’s going to have to explain it better. And not just in cranky outbursts when reporters ask him why nothing seems to be going right.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. Readers may send him email at [email protected]

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 5 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The MisterMay 06, 2014 - 7:14 am

    "What Americans really want in a foreign policy"? NO FOREIGN ENTANGLEMENTS. But if you want a crystal clear understanding of our "foreign policy", then Google "All Wars Are Bankers Wars" and watch the 43 minute video that will clear up any brainwashing you had been subject to.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mike KirchubelMay 06, 2014 - 10:53 am

    Thanks for the tip. Good stuff. He had a couple of banker quotes that I hadn't heard before, which is quite an accomplishment. I could not find a source for one quote, though “I will not free the black man by enslaving the white man.” allegedly by Lincoln. It's a great line, but I think it's fake.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodMay 06, 2014 - 11:38 am

    All the United States has to do is win the hearts and minds of young people around the globe. We don't do that by going to war or acting like a bully. We do that by being non-threatening and providing an example in our domestic affairs of a nation in which people want to live. But there are limits to how far we can be pushed. Putin will not threaten a NATO ally.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodMay 06, 2014 - 11:40 am

    And Islamic fundamentalists don't get to blow up buildings full of Americans. Somali pirates don't get to take Americans hostage. There is a list, and Obama keeps true to it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensMay 06, 2014 - 3:00 pm

    Obama the foreign traitor / imposter's Foreign Policy is one of treason against the United States and is hallmarked by failures, betrayals and rat party excuse making, lies and denials.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Transportation leaders point to need for funding changes

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Together to remember children lost to violence

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
‘Cinderella’ carries on despite theater flood

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
3 letters to Vacaville may cost $100,000 to answer

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Church offers free Southern Gospel concert

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Summer Spare the Air season set to start

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

 
Fairfield police log: April 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: April 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

San Francisco Catholics deeply divided over archbishop

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Colleges starting to offer brewing courses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Hate crime charges for homeless beating suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Supreme Court ruling keeps sex offender registration in place

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

SFPD to pay for settlement of wrongful termination suit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
16 students injured when school stage collapses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Thousands march to mark anniversary of Armenian massacres

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Man ordered to stand trial for kidnap, rape charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Nuclear launch officers charged in drug case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Rubio looking to gain support in Iowa

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Hep C, HIV cases spike throughout Indiana

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Obama uses hospital funds to help push for Medicaid expansion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Hawaii raises smoking age to 21

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Gray should have received medical treatment

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Italy police arrest nine terror suspects in sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Yemen rebels ordered to pull back

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

US completing review of hostage policy following drone strikes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Opinion

Chaos in the primaries

By Thomas Sowell | From Page: A8

 
Joy of baseball back in my life

By Deon Price | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: April 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: April 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Daughters’ ex is determined to turn their children against her

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

.

Entertainment

Seriously silly, Monty Python reunites for a weekend tribute

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
.

Sports

SCC baseball team wins to claim share of BVC title

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1, 2 Comments

 
Ynoa, Butler send Rockies to 6-4 win over Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Vikings fall to Jaguars 4-3 in 8 innings

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
After working OT in NBA playoffs, Curry, Rose can earn rest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Swafford, Weekley atop Zurich Classic leaderboard

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Logano wins pole at Richmond, his third of the season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Usain Bolt: Gay’s reduced doping ban sends wrong message

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Scott Dixon is chasing IndyCar wins leaders, not spotlight

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Ducking the spotlight, some stars decide to skip NFL draft

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Garber: MLS plan in 6 months to expand beyond 24 teams

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dortmund, American Pharoah vie for favorite in 141st Derby

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Harden, Howard lead Rockets to 130-128 win, 3-0 lead on Mavs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Olympic sailing events may be moved from Rio’s polluted bay

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Canadian Henderson shoots tournament record for LPGA lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bowyer and Stewart looking for good runs at Richmond

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Oregon wins distance medley relay at Penn Relays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodell: LA projects viable for bringing back team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Former Buckeyes teammates Cook, Sindelar top Legends of Golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Signups for Saturday, April 25, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B3

.

Business

Wynn Resorts shareholders: Elaine Wynn won’t return to board

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Ford recalls 390,000 cars to fix door latches

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Winners and losers of the demise of the big Comcast deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
What could McDonald’s do to fix its business?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Durable goods orders up, but business investment falls again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Harley recalls nearly 46,000 motorcycles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Comcast abandons Time Warner Cable bid after gov’t pushback

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Cheaper fuel has airlines soaring to record profits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Elizabeth Cepeda

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Kirk Noonan

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Sandra King

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
.

Home Seller 4/25/2015

Ask a Designer: decorating with spring pastels

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR1 | Gallery

Real estate transactions for April 25, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage slips to 3.65 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3