At least since the end of the Cold War, the United States has drifted along without anything resembling a coherent or sustained conversation about foreign policy, much less working to hash out a consensus position that reflects our body politic. In the 1990s, we witnessed Bill Clinton lurching from action to action. He ordered 25 major troop deployments over eight years, twice as many as Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush entered office promising a “humble” foreign policy that repudiated “nation building” and then embraced a disastrous “region building” approach from which we have yet to extricate ourselves. Barack Obama tripled troops in Afghanistan without bothering to clarify our mission there and unilaterally decided to drop bombs in Libya. Congress has acted the role of helpless bystander in foreign policy for going on the last 20 years at least (for god’s sake, far more members supported the second invasion of Iraq than the first!).
The predictable result is a foreign policy that is completely unpredictable and unprincipled. There are simply no clear rules governing when and how America will act militarily, what we stand for, and what we stand against. Or, as Obama’s bizarre phrasing of our relationship with non-enemy Egypt (which receives billions of dollars in aid from us), even who are allies are.
And we wonder why things aren’t going our way around the world?