CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spoke with retired diplomat Ronald Neumann about Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s “foreign policy reality check.” Here’s the damning bit:
Neumann describes a National Security Council that controls the policy process far more than it makes decisions about it. In Syria, Afghanistan and other hotspots, the administration’s choices range from lousy to awful, a reality that has resulted in a sustained lack of decision-making.
“They recognize a series of choices, they don’t like any of them, they don’t know what to do about it and then they default into endless talking about small stuff,” Neumann said. “I think it is much more a function of a president, at the end of the day, not giving clear strategic guidance because he doesn’t like the options, rather than he doesn’t understand them.”
As the father of two small boys, I sometimes encounter this behavior right here at home. Confronted with an unwelcome decision (“make your bed before breakfast”) they will choose to do nothing until until the stakes become more dire (“make your bed or no Froot Loops for breakfast”) as the situation escalates (“make your bed or no Froot Loops for a week”). The hope is that the situation will go away — that I’ll forget about the bed or cave in and let them have the Froot Loops anyway.
But foreign leaders don’t back down in the face of hemming and hawing. And as a parent I won’t back down either. Partly, that’s just good, consistent parenting. But it’s also because I can’t stand the idea of my boys growing up to become anything like Professor Wiggleroom.