America's Friends and Rivals

Further to my comment on Sarkozy's visit, see Walter Russell Mead.

We are neglecting or quarreling with our friends and reaching out to our enemies -- but neither policy is yielding much in the way of results.

The latest case is Canada; on a visit to Ottawa to discuss Arctic policy with Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly criticized the Canadians for failing to invite all eight members of the Arctic Council to the consultation.  Iceland, Finland and Sweden were miffed at being excluded.  This was all very well and no doubt deserved; the next day, however, the Canadian Foreign Minister rejected Secretary Clinton's pleas and announced that Canada will be ending its Afghan mission next year...

[T]he pattern of poor relations with close allies is disturbing.  Currently embroiled in a quarrel with Israel over Jewish housing construction in East Jerusalem, the administration recently angered the EU by refusing to attend a summit in Madrid, embarrassed Britain by seeming to side with Argentina over negotiations over the Falklands Islands, canceled an invitation to Afghanistan's President Karzai, and cheesed off Brazil when President Obama made his last minute, ill-fated dash to Copenhagen to snatch the 2016 Olympics from Rio.  And where the administration hasn't figured out a way to insult an old ally, Congress steps in -- this time by passing another version of the Armenian genocide resolution through a key House committee.

Mead loses me when he draws a parallel with Obama's approach to healthcare reform.

On health care, [Obama] was criticized for fighting with his base on issues like single payer, the public option and abortion while bowing and scraping to contemptuous Republicans who gave him nothing in return.  In the end he got his bill.

Bowing and scraping to Republicans? I missed that. The compromises Obama was forced to make were with conservative Democrats, not Republicans.

On foreign policy, Mead may be overdoing the pessimism. There are indications that China is moving on sanctions against Iran, for instance. Extending a hand to rivals may yet pay off. But why that policy requires allies to be neglected or snubbed is unclear, and that does seem to be going on.