The Obama Dilemma
President Obama has a problem. No, not that one, although surely the economy isn't doing his popularity any favors right now. When a President loses control of Congress midstream, typically he turns to foreign policy -- where the President's import can't be understated -- to gin up his numbers.
Let's take a look around the world and see how that's going for Obama, shall we?
Israel: The less said, the better. But the President just won't shut up. Congress loves Israel. The American people love Israel. President Obama doesn't -- and it shows. This is not a place where his strong-arm "leadership" is helping.
Libya: "Days, not weeks." Oops. True, this one is cheap and doesn't cost us much. But Obama doesn't seem to mind that he's stretching Britain and French air forces to the breaking point. So much so, that you have to wonder if that's a feature and not a bug. Anyway, America's tiniest war is also America's least popular war.
Iraq: Any news coming out of Iraq is going to be bad. Obama had better hope he doesn't have to do anything more there than continue following Bush's policies while taking credit for them.
Iran: Any news coming out of Iran is going to be bad, too.
North Korea: See Iran.
Afghanistan: With Osama bin Laden having achieved ambient water temperature and the misguided, halfhearted Afghan surge winding down, the President has probably done as much as he's going to do in Afghanistan. So it's probably safe to file this one under "Iraq."
Pakistan: A petulant tar baby filled with nukes. Let's label this one "Do Not Touch" for now.
Latin America: Where they don't hate us, they no longer respect us. Still, it couldn't hurt to try. However, what Latin America wants most with us is free trade -- and Obama seems unlikely to do anything on that front. Despite promises early in April to finally move ahead with the Colombia Free Trade Agreement he put on the shelf for two years, Obama still refuses to push it along.
Egypt: With Mubarak thrown under the bus, there doesn't seem much left to do here.
The Arab Spring: If we have a coherent policy, no one seems able to detect it.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Nobody cares.
Japan: Hurting, becoming even more insular. Obama can help more, but not in a headline-making way.
Southeast Asia: Didn't we fight a war there once?
Russia: Obama got his nuke treaty already.
Eastern Europe: When Lech Walesa won't meet with you, you've pretty much lost your moral authority in that once devotedly pro-American region.
The Balkans: "Not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier," is what Bismarck thought of the place 150 years ago. That's still true today.
Generic Tour of Friendly Western European Capitals to Look Presidential While Whooping it Up With Foreign Dignitaries:
Peggy Noonan last year opined that "the president is starting to look snakebit." If he is, it's because Obama spent the first half of his first term ignoring Americans' number one concern -- jobs -- while squandering America's prestige overseas so thoroughly it begins to appear to be an almost dedicated effort.
His one big win -- nailing bin Laden -- certainly made us all feel very good, and helps to put the squeeze on al Qaeda. But bin Laden is yesterday's enemy, as semi-affiliated terror groups spread to places like Somalia, Yemen, and maybe eventually Egypt.
Obama's endless personal gaffes overseas -- the bowing and scraping and toasts to the orchestras -- might not make the news much here, but you can bet they're laughing mighty hard in Paris and Moscow and Beijing and… everywhere else.
Foreign policy might be the last refuge of the scoundrel president, but he won't find much comfort there.