Ongoing Delusions About Obama's Foreign Policy


The nation would be better off if pundits focused on Obama's real shortcomings in the area, rather than repeating misleading talking points.

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Perhaps the most wrongheaded analysis ever offered of President Obama's foreign-policy posture comes from Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal, who offered it as an aside in her attack on Ron Paul:

President Paul won't be making decisions based just on the parts of his values that his supporters find endearing. He'd be making decisions about the nation's defense, national security, domestic policy and much else. He'd be the official voice of America -- and, in one conspicuous regard, a familiar one.

The world may not be ready for another American president traversing half the globe to apologize for the misdeeds of the nation he had just been elected to lead. Still, it would be hard to find any public figure in America whose views more closely echo those of President Obama on that tour.

Admittedly, it can be hard to coherently put all of one's enemies in a neat category. Charged with that task, David Frum came up with "Axis of Evil," and perhaps Rabinowitz should've settled for something similar by asserting that in her view Barack Obama and Ron Paul would both be horrific stewards of American foreign policy if either occupies the White House in 2013.

Instead there is the reassertion of the inaccurate talking point that President Obama has gone on an apology tour of the world, and more remarkably, an assertion that President Obama's foreign-policy views most closely echo those of Ron Paul, the GOP candidate -- perhaps also the Congressional Republican -- whose foreign-policy views have the absolute least in common with Obama. Can Rabinowitz possibly believe that an Obama diplomatic tour would look more like a Ron Paul tour than a Mitt Romney tour? If so, she hasn't been paying attention to Obama's policies.

If you operate from the presumption that every president pursues some flawed policies, and that the country benefits from a loyal opposition -- whether in Congress, the press, or the opposing party -- that acts as a check, it is unfortunate indeed that so many Obama foreign-policy critics aim their fire at a pretend version of the president's approach instead of the real thing. A lot of pundits have contorted themselves on this subject in order to pretend that Obama is more antagonistic to their worldview than is in fact the case. But I've never seen anyone go so far as to suggest that if Ron Paul is elected president, people would look at his approach to foreign affairs and say to themselves, "My, this is so familiar, it's just like it was under Obama."

Image credit: Reuters

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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