Has Obama Learned the Folly of 'Multilateralism'?
The Obama administration is caught in a pickle: it revels in its multilateralist rhetoric and perpetual self-flagellation, but in practice its national security policy works best when it sticks to American unilateralism.
Obama returned from an overseas trip during which he bowed both literally and figuratively before world leaders. He apologized for nearly everything he could think of. He pleaded guilty on America's behalf for causing the worldwide recession. He agreed with our European friends that we've been arrogant and bossy, that we bear some sort of special burden for having dropped the atomic bomb on Japan (left unmentioned were the hundreds of thousands spared on both sides from the land invasion which we avoided), and that we really need to be more forthcoming with Islamic nations (forgetting the wars we have fought to free Muslims and the constant overtures to Muslims by his predecessor).
But that didn't get him very far. He got virtually no troops for Afghanistan, the French took only a single detainee from Guantanamo, and the UN has struggled to come up with a wrist-slapping resolution that will promise to get cracking on that sanctions list against North Korea. Multilateralism sounds nice and certainly impresses the liberal intelligentsia. But in practice it doesn't work very well when neither your allies nor your foes face consequences when they say "buzz off."
Michael Goodwin gets to the nub of the problem with Obama's consensus style of foreign policy:
There is an undeniable appeal to burden sharing with broad coalitions, yet one early result of Obama's Kumbaya approach remains the nagging question about his bottom line. Will he act in what he believes is America's interest, even if no one follows? Or will he subject every action in every crisis to the litmus test of whether there is a consensus?
That's what all the really hard calls in national security boil down to -- enduring some measure of criticism when the U.S. must act decisively and contrary to the wishes of those self-appointed guardians of the "international community."
And it is not as if the president has not seen that first hand. What are the two highlights so far in his brief national security record? Iraq and the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips.
In Iraq, because of the application of American military might, we are nearing a stunning victory despite the objections of then-candidate Barack Obama and much of the "world community." Our troops will likely soon depart victorious, and a free and pro-American Iraq will remain a powerful example to its neighbors that al-Qaeda can be defeated and democracy can take hold in the Middle East. The president recognized as much, essentially implementing George W. Bush's drawdown plan and properly lauding the accomplishments of our troops during his surprise visit to Iraq last week.