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What critics of Obama’s foreign policy don’t say

I seldom hear them say what they would have done and why they are so sure that it would have brought about the desired result.

Secretary of State John Kerry testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Larry Downing

One of the favorite Republican Obama-bashing memes is to describe the president’s conduct of foreign policy as “feckless.” Something bad has happened in the world or something good hasn’t happened fast enough and Republicans, usually led by the team of Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham, will imply, or more than imply, that a more muscular U.S. action (often bombing someone) would have prevented it.

The unspoken premise is that nothing bad can happen to U.S. interests or allies that couldn’t have been prevented by a well-timed show of American threats backed by military might. I’m often struck that the fecklessness-accusers don’t engage in much of a review of the recent track record of U.S. military ventures, including the two full-scale wars that Obama inherited from his predecessor.

And I seldom hear the fecklessness-accusers say exactly what they would have done and when and why they are so sure that it would have brought about the desired result, such as removing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, forcing Iran to stop enriching uranium, preventing Russia from annexing Crimea and/or resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on terms acceptable to Israel.

The full monty was on display Tuesday when Secretary of State John Kerry, freshly frustrated in his efforts to midwive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, appeared before the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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As The New York Times reported on the hearing, McCain faulted the administration for not sending weapons to help Ukraine fend off the Russian aggression, then snidely summarized his evaluation of recent U.S. Mideast policy thus: “You’re about to hit the trifecta,” with the lack of a political settlement in Syria, a collapse in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the failure to get Iran to stop enriching.

The Times described Kerry as “bristling,” replying that it took years of peace talks to end the Vietnam War (in which both he and McCain fought) and noted that McCain “offered no alternative except going to war.”

“You declare them all dead,” Kerry said about the U.S. diplomatic efforts in the three trifectal areas. “I don’t. And we’ll see what the verdict is.”