Obama's "I'm not Bush" foreign policy

The media shapes not only public opinion but also elite opinion. And with past administrations there was, at the very least, the media intuition that something was happening in foreign policy; the current media intuition is that despite episodic news events that must be reported on, nothing is happening.

Nothing is happening because Obama has no grand geopolitical conception. He and his top officials are not great European-style improvisers like Kissinger. They don’t have a plan for America, like Holbrooke had, to be a great moral force while promoting its geopolitical interests at the same time. They don’t intend to upend a utopian ideology (communism) like Reagan did. And unlike the elder Bush team, they have no design for stabilizing the world once that ideology was, in fact, upended. (After all, jihadism and terrorism are disease germs like malaria, which can be suppressed but probably not wholly eliminated. This is a different order of threat from communism.) In sum, Obama offers only a negative: I am not George W. Bush. He started wars. I will end them, and avoid future ones. I will kill individual terrorists as they crop up. That’s all, thank you.

You see the problem. It is not enough to communicate what you won’t do; in foreign policy you have to provide a sense of mission, however nuanced or modest that mission may be. A mission or a conception provides direction. A direction, in turn, connects your actions in each geographical area of the world. With Obama nothing seems to be tied together.