Former Obama advisor: Our foreign policy is a mess — especially in the Middle East

posted at 12:01 pm on October 19, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

With the last of the three presidential debates taking place in just three days, and with Barack Obama on his heels in polling after the first two, one would expect Obama allies to come out of the woodwork to sing his praises on foreign policy, the topic of Monday night’s forum.  After all, Democrats — including Obama himself — bragged six weeks ago at the Democratic convention that Obama would bury Mitt Romney in this arena.

Instead, former Obama administration Defense undersecretary and State Department adviser Rosa Brooks writes at Foreign Policy that her former boss’ team on foreign policy desperately needs an intervention, and that Obama needs to finally get involved by doing more than giving a few speeches:

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.

Could Obama have done better?

In foreign policy as in life, stuff happens — including bad stuff no one could have predicted. Nonetheless, to a significant extent, President Obama is the author of his own lackluster foreign policy. He was a visionary candidate, but as president, he has presided over an exceptionally dysfunctional and un-visionary national security architecture — one that appears to drift from crisis to crisis, with little ability to look beyond the next few weeks. His national security staff is squabbling and demoralized, and though senior White House officials are good at making policy announcements, mechanisms to actually implement policies are sadly inadequate.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If Obama wants to fix his broken foreign policy machine, he can do it — but conversations with numerous insiders, as well as my own government experiences, suggest that he needs to focus on strategy, structure, process, management, and personnel as much as on new policy initiatives.

Not sexy, I know. But just as a start-up company needs more than an entrepreneurial founder with a couple of good ideas and a nifty PowerPoint presentation, the United States needs more than speeches and high-minded aspirations.

Brooks offers a devastating set of suggestions to improve the situation, each one an indictment of Obama’s foreign-policy management over the last four years:

  1. Get a strategy.
  2. Get some decent managers.
  3. Get people who actually know something.
  4. Get out of the bubble.
  5. Get a backbone.

Er … shouldn’t those have been Day One tasks?  If a President still has these five tasks on his to-do list on foreign policy almost four years into his term, it’s safe to say that he’s not interested — or competent — enough to accomplish them.

By the way, Brooks hammers Obama on point 3 for letting cronyism conquer over talent and experience:

President Obama promised to ensure transparency and competence in government, but too often, nepotism trumps merit. Young and untried campaign aides are handed vital substantive portfolios (I could name names, but will charitably refrain, unless you buy me a drink), while those with deep expertise often find themselves sidelined.

Cronyism also reigns supreme when it comes to determining who should attend White House meetings: increasingly, insiders say, meetings 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.

Well, what did voters honestly expect when they elected a Chicago machine politician with no executive experience?  I’m actually serious about that question.  This was one of the big problems with giving a man his first executive experience as President of the United States.  This is why it’s better to elect governors, military commanders, or people with extensive private-sector executive experience; they have already lived through the lessons of poor hiring decisions and are a lot smarter about it by the time they’re running the most powerful country in the world.  This is just another outcome of having someone in far over his head, and Americans have no one but themselves to blame for it.

Of course, they can correct that failure in about 18 days.  And if Mitt Romney isn’t committing Brooks’ damning indictment to memory for Monday’s debate in order to close the deal on the election, I’ll eat my hat.

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In other words, he needs to work . . . something he’s neither good at or particularly interested in.
What I don’t understand is why he even wants the job. He’s lazy, doesn’t want to “do his homework” . . .

tpitman on October 19, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Why? Easy answer.

Because unless he does something of impeachable offense, he has the perks for four years regardless of how well he does/does not do the job.

Jvette on October 19, 2012 at 1:21 PM

As, looks like our foreign policy in the ME is sub-optimal….same like our preezy…

jimver on October 19, 2012 at 1:22 PM

“…Young and untried campaign aides are handed vital substantive portfolios (I could name names, but will charitably refrain, unless you buy me a drink)…”

Chris Wallace should throw a Champagne Brunch on FoxNewSunday.

Another Drew on October 19, 2012 at 1:23 PM

STEP ONE: Get a strategy….

If somebody wrote a book called “Foreign Policy For Dummies,” that step wouldn’t be in it. It’s only the book called “Foreign Policy for Obama” that needs to start at that kind of pre-remedial level.

logis on October 19, 2012 at 1:23 PM

If Obama wants to fix his broken foreign policy machine, he can do it — but conversations with numerous insiders, as well as my own government experiences, suggest that he needs to focus on strategy, structure, process, management, and personnel as much as on new policy initiatives.

Uh, that would require (a) Obama wanting to fix this and (b) Obama actually doing some work. Not gonna happen.

natasha333 on October 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Ed and Hotair just got a mention on Rush’s show on this subject.

Mitsouko on October 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

but…but…but…vaginas and binders and…and…and… big bird

scituate_tgr on October 19, 2012 at 1:29 PM

This is a very damning piece and it’s from a woman!

Guess she got tired of being sent to the back of the bus.

Vince on October 19, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Well, what did voters honestly expect when they elected a Chicago machine politician with no executive experience? I’m actually serious about that question. This was one of the big problems with giving a man his first executive experience as President of the United States. This is why it’s better to elect governors, military commanders, or people with extensive private-sector executive experience; they have already lived through the lessons of poor hiring decisions and are a lot smarter about it by the time they’re running the most powerful country in the world. This is just another outcome of having someone in far over his head, and Americans have no one but themselves to blame for it.

The very argument that I have been making to Obamabots since his name first surfaced for the Dem nomination. I literally asked people if they would hire him to run their company, and many said “no” but still voted for this inexperienced clown.

This guy knew one thing – how to give a speech. After that he had nothing. And we wasted 4 years of our lives proving that out.

On Nov 6 we release the Kraken.

goflyers on October 19, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Behind the smoke and mirrors, this is the foreign policy Obama has wanted all along. It isn’t broken in his mind. The only two problems he has, connected to foreign policy, are:

The truth getting through in spite of the media.

Our enemies don’t become our friends just because he’s given them a power vacuum through which they have taken power in two nations.

Come to any analysis of the issues with that foundation in mind, and it’s all crystal clear.

Freelancer on October 19, 2012 at 1:50 PM

bazil9 on October 19, 2012 at 1:15 PM

My pleasure. Have a good day!

Resist We Much on October 19, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Our foreign policy is a mess — especially in the Middle East

And has been for decades, ever since the day we intervened.

Dante on October 19, 2012 at 1:55 PM

I hope Romney points this out during the debate Monday. It would be powerful to point out one of Obama ‘s own advisors has no confidence in his foreign policy.

lukjuj on October 19, 2012 at 1:57 PM

,

and that Obama needs to finally get involved by doing more than giving a few speeches:

You’re scaring me. That would go from bad to worst.

chemman on October 19, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Earlier this week, Lindsey Graham was on TV, basically giving Obama foreign policy advice. It seemed like a) he couldn’t get a call or meeting with the WH, and b) he was very concerned that Obama didn’t KNOW what was going on in Iraq.

Another devastating bit from the FP article:

Within the NSS, the Strategic Planning Directorate has been reduced to a speech-writing shop, without the clout to bring senior officials to the table for longer-term strategy discussions. At the State Department, the Policy Planning office — once run by such legendary figures as George Kennan and Paul Nitze — was handed off, after Anne-Marie Slaughter’s departure, to a young lawyer whose credentials include ample brains and a stint as a Clinton campaign aide, but no prior foreign policy experience.

hawksruleva on October 19, 2012 at 2:32 PM

See, again you have the problem of “experts” telling the Marxist Messiah’s Regime, to act like adults or professionals. The Ideological bent of these clowns is so much more important to them then being safe or acting like adults, it’s just criminal. If a republican administration had pulled BS like this they would be crucified and you couldn’t get the media to shut up, without narcotics and restraints! Don’t believe me? How many people died in the scandal of all American Presidential Cover Up Scandals, Water Gate?
Update on:How to take on the Obama Enemy media & Win: http://paratisiusa.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-open-letter-to-those-who-should-know.html?spref=tw

God Bless America!

paratisi on October 19, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Romney could use this entire article as the basis for his talking points in the foreign policy debate.

hawksruleva on October 19, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Uh, that would require (a) Obama wanting to fix this and (b) Obama actually doing some work. Not gonna happen.

natasha333 on October 19, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Obama likes the idea of being President, but not the actual job. He doesn’t meet with lawmakers, he doesn’t take briefings, he doesn’t get into the weeds on policy, he doesn’t make deals, he doesn’t talk to other world leaders.

He talks about how he’s made America respected in the world, but there’s no evidence of that. Basically the world is leaderless, and Russia, China, and Iran are filling the vacuum.

hawksruleva on October 19, 2012 at 2:39 PM

Romnesia!!!!!!!
-dear leader

cmsinaz on October 19, 2012 at 2:40 PM

the only thing Romney has not done extremely well is staying on top of the nitty gritty details of daily news..

I sure hope someone gets him this article and he memorizes every word. There are so many things to bludgeon the WH on at this debate, but you have to KNOW the intimate facts and details about the last several years to do it. No more generalities- quote exact statements, dates, policies..

AirForceCane on October 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Given his ego (and the tools around him who did nothing to bring that bloated balloon down to earth) Obama likely believed that his mere presence on the world stage would result in permanent and lasting world peace. When that didn’t happen — did he change course, buckle down, hire some experienced people, develop a stragegy (i.e., do his job)?

Nope. Why should he? He’s not even troubled by it. After all, in his mind it was the world who failed him, not the reverse.

natasha333 on October 19, 2012 at 2:44 PM

if Mitt Romney isn’t committing Brooks’ damning indictment to memory for Monday’s debate in order to close the deal on the election, I’ll eat my hat.

If Mitt lets this one slide he’ll eat MY hat…because I will hand it to him. Here’s hoping he doesn’t go all McCain on us. He needs to get up in teh one’s face!

neyney on October 19, 2012 at 3:15 PM

He thinks he doesn’t need foreign policy because in his mind everyone in the world loves him to bits. If no one is hostile to you, you don’t need to worry about foreign policy that much. If you don’t care about improving trade, you don’t have to worry about foreign policy at all. And if the entire focus of your presidency is to build legislative monuments to yourself, foreign policy is ignored.

He doesn’t care about trade, and his ego is big enough to think that he’s the world’s panacea. That’s why he gave speeches in Berlin and Cairo. He actually believes he’s the one the world’s been waiting for.

gatsbysgirlontheside on October 19, 2012 at 3:47 PM

New Obama Strategy:
WAR ON ANGRY MOVIE REVIEWERS!!!!!

Strike Hornet on October 19, 2012 at 3:51 PM

And if Mitt Romney isn’t committing Brooks’ damning indictment to memory for Monday’s debate in order to close the deal on the election, I’ll eat my hat.

That would be Step 2 in preparation.
Step 1 would be springing for cocktails:

President Obama promised to ensure transparency and competence in government, but too often, nepotism trumps merit. Young and untried campaign aides are handed vital substantive portfolios (I could name names, but will charitably refrain, unless you buy me a drink), while those with deep expertise often find themselves sidelined.

mrt721 on October 19, 2012 at 3:57 PM

By the way, Brooks hammers Obama on point 3 for letting cronyism conquer over talent and experience:

Maybe Obama should have used a few BINDERS?

AZgranny on October 19, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Wow. This is starting to sound like one of those Washington Insider articles. I think there are people in the White House who really don’t want to see him re-elected.

tj4osu on October 19, 2012 at 4:38 PM

What that third way is I have no idea.

SteveMG

Oh, just stop it SteveMG. What’s the 3rd way?

If one more American dies by Muslim hands, we could flatten Medina or Benghazi or Isfahan and say, “Teheran is next”, and see who would fall in line with the U.S. of A.

Any suicide bombers would be met with their entire family tree taken out.

I believe suiciders would stop outright or be a rare occurrence.

It was good enough for the Monguls it’s good enough for America when we’re fighting for our lives.

Our young men and women are being slaughtered because of LibPC requirements. I rather their kids die. Not ours, needlessly.
To have your child die for such a sh@t reason would be devastating.

You don’t apologize to Muslims.
They’re in a military/religious state that tortures their people.
Apolgizing to them does not move them to liking us…they still want to kill us because we’re infidels.

Typicalwhitewoman on October 19, 2012 at 5:38 PM

I knew the whole Arab spring thing was a bad idea.

newportmike on October 19, 2012 at 8:31 PM

I think I’ve heard this story before ….

“You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes!

You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars.

Now.. you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You.. have never paid taxes’?”

Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!”

How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say “I forgot”?

That’s it. It was Steve Martin.

J_Crater on October 19, 2012 at 9:00 PM

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