Passing the buck: a foreign policy Update
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels May 11, 2013 - 3:04pm
Stephen Walt is calling Barak Obama a buck passer when it comes to foreign policy. Is this a criticism in a country where presidents are supposed to announce "the buck stops here!" or is it, as Walt argues, a sound policy that has been undermined by what he consider "self-inflicted wounds" in Afghanistan and Iraq?Walt writes: "[Obama] is a buck passer. And despite my objections to some of what he has done, I think this approach reveals both a sound grasp of realpolitik and an appreciation of America's highly favorable geopolitical position."He goes on, "the greatest risk we face as a nation are self-inflicted wounds like the Iraq and Afghan wars or the long-term decline arising from a failue to invest wisely here at home. Recognizing these realities, Obama has reacted slowly and in a measured way to most international events. He takes his time, remains calm, and prefers to pass the buck to others whose interests are more directly affected. Unrepentant neocons and liberal imperialists scorn this approach, because they never lose their enthusiasm for new and costly crusades, but most Americans don't seem to mind. Why? Because they recognize what the foreign policy establishment can't admit: What happens in Syria, Mali, most of Central Asia, and even the Korean peninsula just doesn't matter that much to the United States, and the outcome in most of these places won't make Americans poorer or less safe unless Washington does something stupid (like intervening with military force)." Read it here.So what do you unrepentant neocons and liberal imperialists think?UPDATE: Apropos of a discussion about Libya in the comments below, take a look at the David Brooks column today in the NYTimes. In defending Victoria Nuland, State Dept. spokesperson, in the Benghazi matter, Brooks points out how much this was a CIA operation for which the State Dept. is taking the hit. Interesting, if true.
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.