An old joke describes the action memos the State Department prepares for the president:
Option A: Do nothing
Option B: Global thermonuclear war
Option C: Preferred State Department policy
On the evidence of President Obama’s commencement address at West Point on Wednesday, he’d have made an outstanding State Department memo-writer.
The president outlined a Washington policy debate occurring in three corners. Over in Corner 1 are those who believe in “a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks.” Huddled in Corner 2 are those who insist that “conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.” Between these obviously stupid extremes is a sensible third way, which happens to coincide perfectly with the policy of the Obama administration.
When politicians set up false alternatives in this way, it’s an early warning that their own record of achievement is less than stellar. “Some say that our forces should never land on any beaches at all. Others would have us invade every beach on earth. I reject both extremes” is not how President Roosevelt announced the success of D-Day.
If Obama had met his stated goals in Afghanistan … if the Russia “reset” had worked … if Iran talks were indeed producing nuclear disarmament … if the president's “red line” in Syria was not being crossed and recrossed like center-ice in an exciting hockey game … if his Libyan intervention had not resulted in Libya becoming a more violent and unstable place … if his administration had sustained the progress toward peace in Iraq achieved during George W. Bush’s second term—if all this had been the case, the president would have been content to simply present his impressive record. But it is not the case.