"I think he thought the world would be more responsive to his desires"

His supporters argue that his approach has been consistent with his strategy of returning the United States — after post-Sept. 11 wars — to a foreign policy built around economic engagement rather than military intervention. The question, though, is whether he is contradicting the pledge embraced in his 2009 Nobel Prize lecture: “to face the world as it is,” not as he would like it to be.

“He thought he could change the tenor more easily than he could, and I think he thought the world would be more responsive to his desires than the world has proven to be,” said Jon B. Alterman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Now he faces the criticism that, whereas the Bush administration embarked on a war of choice in Iraq, he embarks on a series of skirmishes that are reactive and not of his choosing.”…

In place of the large military deployments, Obama has relied on smaller operations to manage, rather than resolve, many of the conflicts that have arisen during his time in office. The attempted rescue of Foley earlier this year from a camp deep inside Syria stands as the most recent example of that approach.

But smaller has not translated into peace or greater American influence.