The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Over the past few years I have lamented the exceptionally poor foreign policy record of the Obama administration. The list of outright failures, dangerous missteps and poor decisions is long. The big question is "Why?'  It's a question that is finally being asked in some of the media sources that have worked tirelessly to protect this president from criticism. Now, outlets like The Washington Post and The New York Times have run articles questioning the wisdom of recent positions with respect to Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and other regions of the world where our influence has waned under Obama's stewardship.

Elliot A. Cohen also tries to answer the question. He writes:
Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin's seizure of Crimea with the line that this is "19th-century behavior," the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being "so 1980s." When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering "hope and change" to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a "stinkburger" or a "meanwich") and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.

In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is "unacceptable" or that a dictator "must go," that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. And when reality, as it so often does, gets in the way—when, for example, the Syrian regime begins dousing its opponents with chlorine gas, as it has in recent weeks, despite solemn deals and red lines—the administration ignores it, hoping, as teenagers often do, that if they do not acknowledge a screw-up no one else will notice.
Cohen's analogy reminded me of a bumper sticker I saw a few years ago. It said: "Hire a teenager now, while he still knows everything." Most people outgrow their teenage years. They come to realize that they are not indestructible. They lose the arrogance of "knowing everything," they begin to recognize that their world view isn't the only one, they begin to become wise to the ways of the world and lose some of the idealism that leads them to make foolish and even dangerous decisions. They mature.

Here's the thing. Obama and his merry band of 2s aren't teenagers. They won't mature. They won't loose their arrogance. They won't change. Kind of ironic isn't it? Change was part of Obama's election mantra. I suppose the idea was to apply it to everyone but him.