For this American president, multilateralism is not a process but an end. Cooperation and consensus are his principles, not his tools. While President Reagan and both Presidents Bush accepted the American mission to be effective even at the expense of being liked, this president wants to be seen as cooperative even at the expense of being just.
That, more than his inexperience, is the heart of Obama’s repeated failure abroad. Some have suggested that Obama’s timidity is rooted in a bohemian worldview that abhors conflict. Others peg it, more charitably, to a mushy optimism about a new world order ushered in by technology that adds a measure of leveling to the international playing field. Whatever the motivation, his weakness will prove expensive for America; it always does.
This president is often praised for his intelligence. The events in Crimea should spur us to revisit that notion, or at least to mark the difference between wisdom and intelligence. While the president of Russia is using military force to invade neighboring countries, our president is reducing the size of our military and boasting about the record number of Americans on food stamps. Obama conveys weakness to our allies and our enemies, but wise presidents have always understood that American weakness leads to violence, American strength to stability.