Saturday, October 10, 2015

Yale Professor Looks at Administration Foreign Policy


For John, BLUFWe are adrift, except for TTP and climate change.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



From The Wall Street Journal we have "The Real Obama Doctrine", written by Yale Professor Niall Ferguson.  The sub-headline is "Henry Kissinger long ago recognized the problem:  a talented vote-getter, surrounded by lawyers, who is overly risk-averse."  Let us be frank, Professor Ferguson has just written a book about Henry the K.

Following his Kissinger theme, Professor Ferguson notes:

Two distinctively American pathologies explained the fundamental absence of coherent strategic thinking. First, the person at the top was selected for other skills.  “The typical political leader of the contemporary managerial society,” noted Mr. Kissinger, “is a man with a strong will, a high capacity to get himself elected, but no very great conception of what he is going to do when he gets into office.”

Second, the government was full of people trained as lawyers.  In making foreign policy, Mr. Kissinger once remarked, “you have to know what history is relevant.”  But lawyers were “the single most important group in Government,” he said, and their principal drawback was “a deficiency in history.”  This was a long-standing prejudice of his.  “The clever lawyers who run our government,” he thundered in a 1956 letter to a friend, have weakened the nation by instilling a “quest for minimum risk which is our most outstanding characteristic.”

So, of course, this lead to the next paragraph:
Let’s see, now.  A great campaigner.  A bunch of lawyers.  And a “quest for minimum risk.”  What is it about this combination that sounds familiar?
The author believes that the President has a foreign policy based on the theory that we should all just try to get along.  Thus our withdrawal from the Middle East and our lack of confrontation with Russia and China.  And, for right now, if you ignore the little players, it seems to be working just fine.

As for Russia, their view seems to be that chaos is bad and is to be prevented.  Someone I know wrote today, about President Putin,

… he has been very clear about his goals since his 2007 Munich speech.  Putin sees international liberalism—with its inherent norm and rule setting regimes, structural equivalence between great and minor powers (and races, cultures, societies, and peoples), and explicit view that every domestic political system other than liberal democracy is intrinsically illegitimate—as an existential threat to himself, his junta and, by extension, Great Russia and its white-Orthodox people, and the world.  He wants to upend this system, replace it with a great power centric balance of power structure comprised of several spheres of influence.  Most of these spheres would be authoritarian and, to some extent, autarkic as a way to hedge against and contain what he sees as the cancerous, expansionary, chaotic nature of liberalism and democracy.
One can see how that seems to fly in the face of what President Obama is trying to do.

Back to the article, it winds up with:

Some things you can learn on the job, like tending bar or being a community organizer.  National-security strategy is different.  “High office teaches decision making, not substance,” Mr. Kissinger once wrote.  “It consumes intellectual capital; it does not create it.”  The next president may have cause to regret that Barack Obama didn’t heed those words.  In making up his strategy as he has gone along, this president has sown the wind. His successor will reap the whirlwind.  He or she had better bring some serious intellectual capital to the White House.
So, looking to the future, the question is, who is the Professor trying to knock down, aside from The Donald?  Ben Carson, I suspect.  And Carly Fiorina.  And most of the other Republicans.  On the Democrat side there is Hunny Bunny, who brought us Libya  There is Vice President Biden.  Moving on, there is Governor O'Malley of Maryland.  He can't even keep good relations with Charm City.  There is former Senator Jim Webb, who resigned as Secretary of the Navy over the size of the US Fleet.  Is there a dark horse out there?

Regards  —  Cliff

  No, not liberalism as understood in the US, to be about Democrats, but liberalism as understood in Europe, with its emphasis on individual freedom.
  Please pay attention, this is Libya as a whole, not Benghazi.

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