A reckoning for Obama's foreign-policy legacy

Which should lead to some reflection by the veterans and supporters of the Obama administration, who find themselves almost daily mortified by the repudiation and dismantling of all their hard work. They are learning a hard lesson: that policies constructed by executive order and executive agreement are just as easily blown up by them. Having contemptuously dismissed the foreign-policy establishment as “the Blob” they are learning that actually, it had a point: that it understood the Russian threat better than they did, and was from the outset far more alert to the dangers of Trump than they were. Their big foreign-policy achievements are smoking (in one case, poison-gas-reeking) ruins—from the recognition of Cuba to the Iran deal, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Libya intervention, and from the supposed pivot to Asia to the treaty eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons.

They deserve their mortification, in part because while in office they thought they could treat constitutional requirements and everyone else’s opinions with contempt. Secretary of State John Hay was nearly driven mad by having to persuade the Senate to ratify the treaty signed by the Theodore Roosevelt administration that finally settled America’s disputes with Great Britain, but it was worth it. The Obama team never even considered doing what the Constitution demands and making the Iran deal a treaty. Nor did it attempt seriously to convince Congress to re-examine its authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. George W. Bush at least sought and received congressional authorization for the 2003 Iraq war. When the Obama administration went to war in Libya it thought approval by the people’s representatives an unnecessary legal nicety.

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