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

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

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.

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.”

Comments (60)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/09/2014 - 09:44 am.


    …Senator McCain appears to have learned very little from his own Vietnam experience.

    It’s always disconcerting for some Americans that there are people in other parts of the world who don’t regard the U.S. as God’s gift to the planet. Many don’t think about us at all, or if they do, it’s not in positive terms.

    What Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham have to say is somewhere between bluster and bullying, and almost entirely for political purposes. To use an antique term, shame on them.

  2. Submitted by Jack Johnson on 04/09/2014 - 09:49 am.

    Well stated Eric. The country doesn’t realize how lucky we are that McCain was soudly defeated in 2008, and he still can’t get over it. He’s become almost a clown.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/09/2014 - 09:55 am.


    First, the combatant parties have to want peace–the mediator cannot impose a peace. The announcement of building new settlements really stuck a fork into the negotiations, The claimed “right” of Israel of “lebensraum” will be the death of Israel.

    Second, McCain’s support of the toppling of the Syrian government is part of the chain of consequence that forced the Russian action to take Crimea. And, who does he think will be on the ground after the Syrian government is toppled?

    Third, McCain “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran…” (to the tune of “Barbara Ann”) needs to really have a plan for the day after. Where is that?

  4. Submitted by jody rooney on 04/09/2014 - 10:48 am.

    No longer surprised

    the Repubs have no plan and the Dems seems concerned by sticks and stones rhetoric.

    At least Kerry talked back.

  5. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 04/09/2014 - 11:02 am.

    The perfect job

    We have to remember that senators have the perfect job.

    They can complain loudly about anything and everything. They can criticize anyone for what they did or did not do. They can wax elegantly about what they would do and how that would be perfect.

    But they’re accountable for NOTHING (except raising money for their next campaign). They don’t “do”, they just talk about “doing”. If their “prescription” is successful, they take credit. If not, they shift blame to someone who did the “doing”.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/09/2014 - 11:34 am.

    The less you know…


    We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

    (end quote)



    It turns out that it’s not just ignorance that leads to supporting terrible policies—it’s certainty. (The two co-occur more often than we’d like to think.) As Ezra Klein explained in one of the early offerings from Vox, when the political side of our brains gets involved, people seem to actually get stupider, missing math questions they’d otherwise get right.

    The key insight is that we don’t want to be correct in some objective, empirical sense—we want to be correct in the eyes of the people whose opinions we value. This is an important problem for democracies in an age in which the Internet, if it isn’t making political tribalism more intense than in previous eras, is certainly making it more easily tracked and used by political powers. If the foundational value of a democracy is reasoned debate among equals, how do we deal with a system where all the incentives are against fostering reasoned debate?

    It’s no relief, either, to say only the rabid partisans have their brains short-circuited this way. After all, who do you think constitutes the political parties that sit in parliament?…

    …The problem is, we have more and more evidence that our modern politics excels at forcing politicians away from their own judgment, away from moderation, and away from general skepticism and intellectual modesty. Instead, the worry is our politics selects for certainty, credulous intellectual obedience, and a total lack of judgement. Resist the urge to aim for some easy target—political parties aren’t to blame, at least not on their own, for adapting to a changing media and political landscape…..

    (end quote)

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/09/2014 - 11:45 am.

    Kerry has no authority

    and Obama has no courage.

    Marco Rubio lays it out pretty well.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/09/2014 - 01:46 pm.

      Talk by a blog commenter is cheap…..

      What authority should a Secretary of State exercise at this point in any one of the “trifecta” issues?

      What courageous act should a President perform with respect to any of these issues?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/09/2014 - 01:54 pm.

      The less you know (still)…

      The easier it is for McCain to criticize the administration to an uncritical Fox-viewing audience.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 04/09/2014 - 03:38 pm.


      He couldn’t get through a rebuttal to the State of the Union without breaking into a flop sweat. So spare us his “expertise” on what a sitting, two term president should have done when facing down a nuclear superpower that provides natural gas to the European market. Besides, when he took action in Libya, Obama was a warmonger, now when he’s looking for a diplomatic solution, he’s an appeaser. It’s getting harder and harder to keep your talking points straight other than your core tenet…whatever Obama does, you’re against it.

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/09/2014 - 12:01 pm.

    Do the Dems have a foreign policy???

    I am still trying to remember the foreign policy accomplishments of Hilary Clinton? John Kerry?
    Can anyone help me?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/09/2014 - 01:24 pm.

      Missing the point

      I see you missed the point of the article.

      What would you, given your expertise in foreign affairs, have Secretary Kerry do right now?

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/09/2014 - 02:21 pm.

        I did not miss the “spin” of the article

        Instead of announcing what Kerry should do, I am questioning what HC and JK have done?

        Quick – name 3 accomplishments….

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/09/2014 - 02:46 pm.

          Again . . .

          . . . what do you think they should have done? Instead of sitting and throwing mindless stones, why don’t you come up with something either Secretary could have done that would count as an “accomplishment” in your mind.

          Instead of smirking that they haven’t done anything (and, frankly, I think not getting us in another long and pointless war has to count for something), you might tell us what should have been done to fill the void. Perhaps the world just isn’t conducive right now to easy, quick “accomplishments.” Perhaps it’s more complex, with nuance that can’t be grasped by a short attention span. Perhaps there are limits to what the US can accomplish after squandering so much in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps the public just isn’t in the mood for foreign policy machismo.

          So I ask again: What should be done to constitute an accomplishment?

          • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/09/2014 - 05:18 pm.

            thank you…RB

            After all, what difference does it now make….

            • Submitted by jason myron on 04/09/2014 - 08:51 pm.

              I can’t describe to you

              how good it’s going to feel when that tired, out of context phrase doesn’t stop Clinton from waxing whatever candidate falls out of the GOP clown car. It will be ever sweeter than November of 2012….and those tears were pretty sweet.

        • Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 04/09/2014 - 03:53 pm.

          Three Accomplishments

          1. There are no American troops in Syria.
          2. The U.S. has not “re-engaged” in either Iraq or Afghanistan
          3.. We are not a war with Russia over Crimea and/or Ukraine.

          The world is a messy place and the United States has a significant role to play to keep it less messy but cannot and should not be the final arbiter of what other nations will do to each other or to their own citizens. We ought to be an economic, political, social, and cultural role model but because other nations may not appreciate what the U.S. stands for should not mean that we may arbitrarily impose our values and standards on them.

          The conservative, Republican chicken hawks have decided that the only good American foreign policy is one which the U.S. is asserting its will by use of military force. The debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan should be forever etched in the American psyche as why we should never let conservatives into the White House.

          • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/09/2014 - 09:19 pm.

            Kerry voted with Bush?

            I think John Kerry voted for the war in Iraq and believed S.H. had weapons of mass distruction.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/10/2014 - 09:15 am.

              So what?

              How does that have anything to do with Secretary’s performance in office now?

              Honestly, you’re just lashing out.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/10/2014 - 09:38 am.

              But of course

              he didn’t have access to the intelligence (if I may use that term) that the Executive Office had. Even Colin Powell was lied to by Cheney and co., and lied in turn.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/10/2014 - 08:52 am.

      Missed the Point

      You see Ron, the dance goes like this. If there is a problem then the GOP is at fault, either directly or for not proposing a solution. Problems that happen when Dems are in charge are just things that happen, and no one is possibly to blame. Or they happen because those durn GOP’ers submarined good Dem efforts. At no point do good ol’ libs need to rethink any possible downside of soft power, leading from behind or reliance on the UN.
      It’s a good job if you can get it.

      I’ve offered critiques of Obama’s foreign policy before and I can repeat them if necessary. But I’m not going to do any such thing unless someone from the left wants to step forward and ask some hard questions of the Obama team. They’ve been in charge now for more than five years. Is there really *nothing* they could have or should have done differently on the foreign policy front?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/10/2014 - 09:22 am.

        You missed this one

        Apparently, you’re ignoring the opposition of Congressional Democrats to the President’s suggestion that he could unilaterally deploy troops in Syria. Of course, that doesn’t fit in with your tiresome narrative about Democrats refusing to criticize the President, so I fully expect you to come up with some explanation for why that wasn’t a big deal for them to do that.

        You are also ignoring those Democrats who opposed US intervention in Libya. Again, conveniently.

        Why the obsession with Democrats criticizing the President? Republicans have deified the ethically-challenged mediocrity that was President Reagan–does that not bother you (answer: No, because he pushed the right buttons about taxes and big government, even if he did nothing about them)?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/10/2014 - 11:30 am.


        You obviously won’t find descriptions of criticisms of the current administration from the Left in Fox News. On the other hand, if you try the New York Times you’ll find some.
        On the other hand, how many criticisms of Right wing politicians do you find in Fox News?

        • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/10/2014 - 02:07 pm.


          Paul, let me help you out. I think I’ve mentioned this here before but I’ll do it again. I’ve never been a Fox News watcher (beyond flipping around to it on election nights). I don’t even have cable anymore so now I really don’t watch it. Your insistence that someone with opposing views must have had them spoon fed to them, is nice and gracious though. Thanks.

          Ok, enlighten me. Can you link me to some of those critical pieces from the NYT? I’ve seen (few, very few) pieces from the left that criticize Obama for the ‘drone strikes gone wild’ approach. And I’ve seen some where people were afraid that his shoot from the lip approach would get us into a hot war in Syria. But I haven’t seen anything that really grapples with the soft power limitations. Got anything in that area?

  9. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 04/09/2014 - 02:02 pm.

    Another hatchet piece.

    This reads to me as more of another hatchet job on anyone republican. Clearly democrats in this state fall into one of two classes. Either you are a knowledgeable democrat who knows the party platform and can recite it on demand, or you are a long family tenured historical democrat: Ie you are one because your parents told you that you are!

    Lets cut to the chase. This is about power and control. Clearly something that is being attempted by this administration. Kerry clearly does not have Israel’s best interests in mind here and is fully following the Obama line in the hatred for Israel. I’m curious why you call this a “Full Monty”…. There isn’t anything different here.

    The modern democrat is terribly different than that of its ancestor the 1903 democrat. Too bad the modern democrat is so wrapped up in “me”; and the cigarette they’re about to strike up; that they can’t see the forest around them.

    Just my two cents (which is about what most democrats believe a conservative’s thoughts and dialog are worth these days)

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/09/2014 - 02:26 pm.

      The same question for you…

      What specific action would you have Kerry or Obama take in any of the foreign policy issues at hand?

      And then specify the follow up action to the likely response from the affected party.

      Answers that are the non-specific equivalent of “act tougher” don’t count

      And, for extra credit, provide what evidence you have for “Obama hates Israel”.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 04/09/2014 - 04:00 pm.

      Considering your baseless accusation

      that Obama hates Israel, I would have to agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence.

      • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 04/10/2014 - 03:46 pm.

        While ignoring…

        … the question at hand. The question is not “what negative things can you come up with to say” but rather “Okay, if you know better, WHAT would YOU have done to achieve a better result?”

        It’s easy to just mindlessly throw stones; harder to actually think.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/09/2014 - 07:05 pm.

      And they keep

      proving it.

  10. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 04/09/2014 - 03:01 pm.

    Quick – name 3 accomplishments….

    1) Clean up the mess in Iraq
    2) Clean up the mess in Afghanistan
    3) Stay out of the mess in the Middle East.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/09/2014 - 09:07 pm.

    A few lists here

    First, based on the three accomplishments in foreign policy that Mr. Bernstein listed, Chamberlain achieved a lot – he kept Europe out of war for 6 years… until the WWII started.

    Now, I can’t see how anyone can deny that American foreign policy is in shambles. No one respects it anymore and no one trusts it anymore – that is why Kerry constantly travels the world over “reassuring” our allies who think they are on their own now. Obama managed to accomplish what no president before him did: Uniting Israel and Saudi Arabia in disapproving American policies towards Iran (and most likely Syria).

    Here is a tally of failures of this Administration: Europe doesn’t trust us anymore after several scandals; Libya’s Qaddafi, who gave up his WMD, is killed and the country is a mess now (America picks on the weak); Mubarak, one of the main allies in the Middle East, is gone and was replaced with Muslim Brotherhood (fortunately, the army took charge again except now Egypt courts Russia which showed that it stands behind its friends (Syria) while America does not); Assad stayed at power and is stronger than ever in the last three years; Iran got the sanctions reduced and thinks that it will get away with its nukes; North Korea thinks it can do anything it wants; “reset” with Russia was a joke and Putin feels empowered by America’s weakness to the point he can grab a piece of another country knowing that Obama will only huff and puff; Iraq is sliding back to civil war; Taliban will get to power as soon as western forces are gone; Venezuela is about to turn into full dictatorship; and negotiations between Israel and Palestinians are dead (which any normal person could have predicted from the very beginning – if you do the same thing, you will get the same result). Long list…. I am sure I forgot something though…

    Now, a lot of people ask what should have been done. Very well, here are a few points.1. Do not get involved in Libya; 2. Do not undermine friendly governments, even if they are not the best ones; 3. Do undermine enemy government (support uprising in Iran, for example); 4. Do not draw red lines that you cannot enforce; 5. If a red line is drawn, act on it (getting rid of Assad would have been beneficial since this would have undermined Russia and Iran and provided the only chance of peace in the Middle East, even if Islamists came to power); 6. Do not beg Iran to negotiate – push it to ask for that (it constantly looked like Europe and America were more interested in dialogue than Iran which is actually how it is); 7. Force Iraq to keep American troops there; if not, do not help because it is useless anyway; 8. Admit that Russia is not a friend and act accordingly; 9. Do not get involved into something (Middle Peace efforts) that doesn’t have a chance of success or find a different way. These are all common sense things, not high end thinking…

    And once again: It was not Iraq’s war that was unsuccessful; it was the efforts to build a democracy there.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/10/2014 - 10:26 am.

      Trusting the US

      Seems to me the trust has been eroded from the 50’s onward when various “dirty” means were used to prop up repressive governments in the name of stability and anti-communism while mouthing “democracy” and “self determination”.

      Vietnam,Iraq and Afghanistan–all adventures of dubious provenance adventures that cost far more than they gained. All third rate military powers that fought the US military to a stand-still. How did the lies that accompanied the wars and the dismal reults build trust in the words and power of the US?

      As for your numbered points: 1) Which party was/is pushing for a bigger footprint in Libya? 2)What role did the US have in the over-throw of the Egyptian government? Didn’t we continue payments to the Egyptian military after Morsi came in? 3)Support uprising–by whom? What credible, viable, freindly force is there in Iran on the verge of rising up? 4) And what is happening with the chemical weapons now? 5) Get rid of Assad and who comes to power? What relationship do you think there is between the Russian naval base in Syria being threatened and the taking of Crimea for the control of the Russian naval base there? 6) How do you make someone negotiate when all you have is a nuclear option? 7) How do you overthrow the sovereignty of a government you just spent 8 years setting up (remember the trust issue)? 8) Who said Russia was a friend? (Although I remember a certain Bush looking deep into Putin’s eyes.) 9) I would look to your list as a fine listing of examples of ” Do not get involved into something that doesn’t have a chance of success”.

  12. Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/10/2014 - 06:19 am.

    Hey Ilya

    Since about half of what you suggest would require troops on the ground for probably decades, where exactly do you propose we get them? His exactly do you propose we pay for the adventures you suggest? Finally, let’s just do a bit of a hypothetical here, since you claim we should support friendly governments, “even though they might not be the best ones” let’s rewrite history for a moment. Let’s say post WW II, The USSR, didn’t take a adversarial stance with the west, everything else remains the same however, Stalin’s still a monster, people are still being disappeared, communism still in full flower, its just that they are our allies, not terminal enemy. (Its a bit of a stretch but bear with me) Now would you have been happy with the our propping up the brutal regime of your former home? Would that have been in the best interest of anyone? What might you as a citizen feel toward the the folks turning a blind eye toward the brutality you face each day just to ensure that relations stay stable. We live in a different world, with complex problems. Your yearning for the simplicity of the Cold War and its “big baddies” is archaic and useless form this new reality. Thankfully the people who share your view no longer have the power to act on it.

  13. Submitted by richard owens on 04/10/2014 - 07:50 am.

    Sec State John Kerry made it clear-

    Much of the instability around the world is caused by the same problems we are facing here:

    – Cost of living issues such as energy, food and shelter stress the world’s populations. Poverty is the root of most of the world’s problems. Ukraine needs a working economy above all.

    – Large populations of young people without jobs or prospects for the future feeding the ranks of extremists and or fleeing civil wars.

    – Environmental degradation drought, pollution and lack of fresh water create desperation. Increasing frequencies of natural disasters and civil wars uproot and make vulnerable many populations.

    McCain and Republican critics suggesting that small arms be given to the Ukraine didn’t understand Kerry’s reply, that Russia, once attacked, would gleefully invade and crush any armed uprising, and stay there permanently.

    Republicans want war on the cheap and they won’t admit it.
    We all know they should raise enough money to simply pay off the debts Bush ran up and re-join our country in a unified foreign policy.

    As Kerry said in response to the McCain bluster in the budget hearing, “We must aim, THEN shoot. We need to think of the implications and future of any military action.”

  14. Submitted by Rosalind Kohls on 04/10/2014 - 04:34 pm.

    Obama, Clinton and Kerry

    President Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry seem to be proceeding with 2 assumptions: 1.) all the problems of the Mideast, including Iran, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Libya etc., are caused by the Israel/Palestinian conflict. If that problem is solved, all the other problems will be solved, too. 2.) Israel is the most civilized nation in the Mideast. Therefore it is amendable to making concessions. As long as it keeps making concessions, peace will eventually be obtained.
    Obama, Clinton and Kerry most want Israel to surrender. If they can’t get that, they want Israel to not defend itself, especially to not preemptively defend itself.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/10/2014 - 08:49 pm.

      If your neighbor made a “concession” and claimed a couple hundred square feet of your back yard, fenced it off from you, and grew vegetables for their own use because it was their god-given right– I’m sure you would be just fine with that and you would have no dispute with your neighbor.

      New settlements by Israel announced at the beginning of April. That put a roadblock into the current round of negotiations.

      Who’s making concessions?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/11/2014 - 09:46 am.

      What is the alternative?

      You don’t want Israel to make concessions, either because of eschatology or some equally speculative geopolitical calculation. What is the alternative? Do you think the Palestinians are going to back down? How about the other Arab nations, or Iran? Are they going to be worn into acquiescence? Or is it a theological thing, in which case you may not want the conflict to end?

      Please tell us why you think the past and current members of the administration believe that the problems of the Mideast “are caused by the Israel/Palestinian conflict.” You might also explain when Libya moved to the Mideast (I always thought it was in Africa).

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/10/2014 - 04:17 pm.


    If all these problems were soooo easy to address why didn’t Bush and Cheney put them to rest before they left office? I mean Bush and Cheney had their crack at peace in the middle east and growing democracy and putting North Korea in it’s place etc. Seems to me Obama wouldn’t be saddled with half as many crises had the previous made such quick work of all this? Maybe, and I’m just spit balling here, but maybe these problems are a little more complex than tossing a few cruise missile’s in the air.

    McCain disgraces himself every time he opens his mouth on these issues. He used to have some honor but those days are long gone. McCain knows full well how to look at a map and asses our strategic assets and he knows our capabilities, and he knows that no matter how big and ferocious you military is you don’t always have military leverage. When these guys try to turn every crises into a political hay they only demean and discredit themselves.

  16. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/10/2014 - 08:32 pm.

    Once more

    Many countries did trust the US for many years and it has nothing to do with “dirty” means. I hope Mr. Rovick doesn’t mean Iran 1953 and Chile 1973 – I wrote the whole article published on Minnpost showing that both actions were correct, both for the US and Iran/Chile. I don’t want to talk about Vietnam War (I know too little about it) but both Iraq and Afghanistan wars were successes – won decisively, quickly, and with very little losses. The mistake was to stay there after victories but that is another matter. Imagine a person who goes to college to get a degree. Then, while in college, he starts drinking, commits crime, and gets to jail. Does it mean that his decision to go to college was wrong? Let’s start distinguishing things a little better.

    Now about my points of action, Mr. Rovick. 1. McCain did push (wrongly) for involvement in Libya but the decisions was Obama’s. McCain pushed for involvement in Syria, too but it didn’t happen. 2. The US pushed Mubarak to yield to demonstrators and did not support him politically unlike Russia which props Assad by all means. 3. At least declare that Iranian government is a dictatorship and elections were a sham. 4. Nothing is happening with the chemical weapons – it will not be destroyed. It was Russia’s ploy to help Assad. 5. As I said, no matter who would come after Assad – they will not be friends with Iran and Russia which is already a good result. There is no relationship between Syria and Ukraine for Russia, except that in Syria America showed that it was weak and Putin took notice. 6. For example, by negotiating with Saudi Arabia that it will supply ALL oil to Japan and India so Iran will have only China left; Saudi would be happy to help. 7. I did not say overthrow; I said do not help. 8. Wasn’t a “reset”’s idea to make it a friend? And then relying on Russia in dealing with Iran and Syria? Ridiculous. So which ones of my ideas do not have a chance of success (remember, Obama’s approach failed in all cases)?

    Mr. Haas, which ones of my ideas need troops on the ground – please be specific? I think none. As for your example of the “friendly” Stalin, isn’t this what we were and are doing with China? Yes, I would not be happy there but I am talking about what is good for America, not for people in other countries. By the way, what exactly America is doing to help people in North Korea even though they are our enemies…

    Anyway, the new reality is the same as it was 30 years ago and 300 years ago: Countries fight for power and influence and many governments are not much better than they were at that time. In other words, the world is still the same because it is based on people’s emotions and desires and people have not changed however much you want to believe in it. There is no new world, just same old, same old. And behaving as if we were living in the new era is counterproductive. So people who have power now (Clinton, Kerry, Obama) act based on fictitious beliefs and fail miserably all the time.

    Oh, one more point: Bush during his second term did almost exactly the same things that Obama continued doing – just write a list and compare.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/11/2014 - 08:31 am.

      It’s a rather magical world you live in.

      Somehow, the US is supposed to project power and authority and be a worthy example without the use of troops, taxes and also be able to randomly disregard sovereignty, laws and treaties in the process. This aura of goodness and authority is supposed to persuade all other countries to obey and become the countries that we want.

      And if they disobey, it is our right to swoop in and conduct a no-cost, no US-lives-endangered, lightning-bolt intervention and, SHAZAMM!! the desired outcome is achieved. Achieved, not just in the days after, but forever, because how many alternative long-term effects can there be?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/11/2014 - 09:52 am.

      You are right

      that the world and human nature obey the same natural laws as they did 300 (or 3000) years ago. But this does not mean that we should give up on mitigating the consequences of these natural laws, just as we try to predict and mitigate weather catastrophes.

      Or are you a Herbert Spencer fan (‘red in tooth and claw’) using natural law as a justification for following your own interests?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/11/2014 - 05:04 pm.

      Well, I guess if it’s been written….


      “I wrote the whole article published on Minnpost showing that both actions were correct, both for the US and Iran/Chile.”

      Just because you wrote it doesn’t make it true. And no one could write a single article making your case in 500 words. I’ve got dozens of books on US foreign policy and it’s consequences in Latin America and elsewhere on my book shelf. And since Henry Kissinger now has to consult his lawyers to before leaving the country lest he find himself the target of arrest warrants; I’d say the case that everything the US government did in Latin America was hunky dory is at least debatable on the face of it.

  17. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/11/2014 - 07:51 pm.

    Magical world and its inhabitants

    Unfortunately, as I have pointed out before, it is Mr. Rovick, Obama, and Kerry who live in a magical world where everyone is good and all countries will be living happily ever after. Clearly, after 5 years of Obama (and 4 years of Bush’s second term), America and the world are in trouble. America is supposed to do only what is good for it and being the strongest in the world I obviously good for it. Interestingly, it is also good for the world (those who want Russia or China to be the strongest, please raise your hands). But even when Russia and China think that they are equal to America, the world is in trouble (just like now). And when America is the strongest, it is more capable of mitigating the natural laws as Mr. Brandon wants.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/12/2014 - 10:13 am.

      By what measure do you mean ‘strongest’?

      No question.
      We are the strongest, followed by Russia, who for the past century or two have been determined to beggar themselves (I almost wrote ‘bugger’ 😉 be trying to compete with us.

      Russia isn’t in the race.
      We’re waaay ahead in GDP, followed closely by the EU, with China coming up fast on the outside.
      Once the petro bubble pops, Russia is toast.
      And as someone said: ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones/.

      And saying that most people can be negotiated with is hardly the same as believing that everyone is good. Read your Bismarck and Machiavelli.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/12/2014 - 08:47 pm.

      Magic, again.

      None of us has said there is an easy and quick solution to a problem.

      It is the people who criticize what Obama has done and said there was an obvious, different, right way to do it and think that a specific action would have lead to the perfect outcome are truly the ones who believe in magic.

      There are no simple solutions with the perfect outcomes.

      Only a fantasist would believe otherwise.

  18. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/12/2014 - 08:45 pm.


    I think it was Machiavelli who said that the country which is more willing to fight wins regardless of real strength. America is not willing to fight and projects weakness; hence, current events.

    Since we talks about Machiavelli, here are a few other quotes:
    It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved;
    There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others;
    Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.

    All of them are still very much applicable today.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/14/2014 - 10:46 am.

      Point to you….

      I’d forgotten how bloody-minded Mach the Knife could be.
      Of course, there wasn’t any Mutually Assured Destruction in the 15th century, so the consequences of mutual hate and fear weren’t quite what they are now.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/16/2014 - 11:48 am.


      Yeah, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin,… all big Machiavelli guys. Where are they now?

  19. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/13/2014 - 01:20 pm.

    Please listen

    Neal, Paul, are you defending Obama only because he is your guy? Please hear me out! Let’s look at Libya example. Obama agreed to European pressure to help rebels against Gaddafi who was not a threat to America or anyone else because he was weak and gave up his WMD. By doing it, Obama showed that America picks on the weak (isn’t it called bullying?) while it is still afraid to pick on the strong which was reinforced by not acting in Syria under much graver conditions for its population. Not only Obama did disservice to America, he also did disservice to the Libyan people and gave more ammunition to Russia and Assad. And doing the right thing in Libya would not have cost us a dime and could have actually saved a few bucks. Why are you fighting the obvious things?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/13/2014 - 08:33 pm.

      Right thing in Libya?

      Look up the UN Security Council and NATO resolutions with respect to Libya and look at the limited and coordinated role the US played.

      Then tell me how this relates to any of the other foreign policy issues you bring up.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 04/13/2014 - 11:37 pm.


      we’re defending Obama because your entire premise is ludicrous. It’s nothing but idle speculation, conjured up in an attempt to justify the fact that no matter what Obama would have done, you would have been against it.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/14/2014 - 08:52 am.


        In a world full of shades of grey, the critics like to pretend it is a game of checkers on a board of black and white.

        Instead of admitting that the choices made were one of many difficult, plausible and supportable choices, the critics would have that every Obama decisions is exactly wrong, and that some “opposite” choice was exactly right.

        For the most part, the Obama supporters are not enthusiastic supporters of every decision, but recognize the fact that the choices made were difficult but plausible and supportable.

  20. Submitted by Rod Loper on 04/14/2014 - 02:15 pm.

    Pay-go, anyone?

    I fervently hope that all our neocons and paleocons are ready
    to demand that any war started based on of their beliefs is funded by taxes on the rich and fought by their offspring.

  21. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/14/2014 - 10:08 pm.

    Let’s be specific

    “For the most part, the Obama supporters are not enthusiastic supporters of every decision, but recognize the fact that the choices made were difficult but plausible and supportable.” How about Bush’s choices? Or those were all wrong? My guess is that you guys were against everything he did…

    As for Libya, which I just chose as an example only since it was the first on my list, what difference does it make if the UN Security Council approved it? It approved the war in Afghanistan and did not approve Serbia bombing… What did America gain by replacing Kaddaffi with the current regime – that is an important question? What did Libyans gain? Anyone? How can drawing a red line in Syria and then ignoring it may be a good decision? Let’s talk specifics instead of concepts. My points were specific, weren’t they?

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