SHARE

When Pres­ident Barack Obama began his cam­paign in 2007, he offered a carrot as his approach to America’s foreign policy rather than a stick. Five years later, ter­rorists have mur­dered an ambas­sador and set fire to our embassies. Obama’s approach deserves much of the blame.

“I think the world will have con­fi­dence that I am lis­tening to them and that our future and our security is tied up with our ability to work with other coun­tries in the world that will ulti­mately makes us safer,” he said in an interview with New Hamp­shire Public Radio.

In 2008, the former senator estab­lished himself as a soft power can­didate, com­mitted to steering America away from Bush’s hard power diplomacy. He dis­tanced himself from the war in Iraq, our mil­itary-indus­trial complex, and Bush’s “pol­itics of fear.”

In practice, Obama’s foreign policy has not only extended the Bush doc­trine but even sur­passed it. He has pushed America further down the path of empire. Obama’s liberal inter­ven­tionism is simply Bush’s neo­con­ser­vatism by another name. Instead of closing mil­itary bases, he added them in Colombia, Chile, and Hon­douras. Drone strikes in Pak­istan and Yemen have con­tinued. Guan­tanamo Bay remains open. Instead of a safer, friendlier world, we have more of the same turmoil and inter­vention.

Over 9/11, waves of unrest wracked the Middle East. In Egypt, where the Obama admin­is­tration pushed Mubarak to step down, the new Islamist gov­ernment has offered an inad­e­quate reaction to the anti-American vio­lence in the streets. In Libya, a ter­rorist group suf­fo­cated and killed our ambas­sador, Chris Stevens. Across the globe, embassies sup­portive of America face violent protests. But while the Middle East burns, Obama does nothing. Despite his pre­vious action, he now wants to adhere to his soft power promises.

This is Obama’s gravest foreign policy problem: he does foreign policy like Tim Tebow does football. Neither the offense nor the defense know what he will do next. (Tebow wins, though. Metaphors can only go so far, OK?) Likewise, neither our enemies nor our friends know what the U.S. will do next. Obama’s foreign policy is markedly erratic.

The Obama admin­is­tration does not know if Egypt is our ally, enemy, or “frenemy.” Although the pres­ident ended the invasion of Iraq, he increased the mil­itary presence in Afghanistan, now the longest war in American history. He still finds a way to dis­tin­guish between the two wars. Somehow.  He dove head­first into the Libya con­flict with his wildly uncon­sti­tu­tional exec­utive order to bomb Muammar Gaddafi. But the pres­ident has dis­tanced himself from the Syrian con­flict. For some reason.

His policies lack a cohesive nar­rative. Yes, Bush began the 21st century with mes­sianic nation­alism. But at least we knew what to expect.