Nothing is happening because Obama has no grand geopolitical conception. He and his top officials are not great European-style improvisers like Kissinger. They don’t have a plan for America, like Holbrooke had, to be a great moral force while promoting its geopolitical interests at the same time. They don’t intend to upend a utopian ideology (communism) like Reagan did. And unlike the elder Bush team, they have no design for stabilizing the world once that ideology was, in fact, upended. (After all, jihadism and terrorism are disease germs like malaria, which can be suppressed but probably not wholly eliminated. This is a different order of threat from communism.) In sum, Obama offers only a negative: I am not George W. Bush. He started wars. I will end them, and avoid future ones. I will kill individual terrorists as they crop up. That’s all, thank you.
You see the problem. It is not enough to communicate what you won’t do; in foreign policy you have to provide a sense of mission, however nuanced or modest that mission may be. [Emphasis in original.]
Obama has no essential interest in foreign policy. “The Western world” is to him an anathema, with its history of slavery and colonialism. “Islam” would mean peace if we’d just stop being so meddlesome. And frankly the US is a big bumbling idiot in the vein of Lennie from Of Mice and Men, which can’t be trusted with its own strength. So he defends our interests begrudgingly and in small ways, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go.
It will take years to repair the damage.