The Age of American Impotence

“As the Edward Snowden saga illustrates, the Obama administration is running out of foreign influence,” Bret Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal:


Yet having legitimized Haqqani and given the Taliban everything it wanted in exchange for nothing, the U.S. finds itself being dumped by its own client government in Kabul, which can always turn to Iran as a substitute patron. Incredible: no peace, no peace process, no ally, no leverage and no moral standing, all in a single stroke. John Kerry is off to quite a start.

What’s happening in Afghanistan is of a piece with the larger pattern of U.S. diplomacy. Iraq? The administration made the complete withdrawal of our troops a cornerstone of its first-term foreign policy, and now finds itself surprised that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won’t lift a finger to prevent Iranian cargo planes from overflying his airspace en route to resupplying Bashar Assad’s military. Syria? President Obama spent two years giving the country’s civil war the widest berth, creating the power vacuum in which Iran, Hezbollah and Russia may soon achieve their strategic goals.

And Iran: In 2003, Tehran briefly halted its secret nuclear-weapons work and agreed to suspend its enrichment activities, at least for a few months. Yet since then, every U.S. effort to persuade Iran to alter its nuclear course has failed. Is it because the Obama administration was insufficiently solicitous, patient, or eager for a deal? Or is it that Tehran believes that treating this administration with contempt carries little cost?

“America can’t do a damn thing against us” was a maxim of the Iranian revolution in its early days when America meant Jimmy Carter. Under President Obama, the new maxim could well be “America won’t do a damn thing.”

Which brings us back to the Snowden file. Speaking from India, Mr. Kerry offered a view on what it would mean for Russia to allow him to flee. “Disappointing,” said our 68th secretary of state. He added “there would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.”

Moscow must be trembling.


Given the radical chic phase that both Kerry and Obama affected at various times in their lives, do they view a defenestrated American foreign policy as a bug or a feature?


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