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Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Look at President Obama's Foreign Policy Execution

For John, BLUFThe bureaucracy is a powerful thing.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

By Opinion writer David Ignatius, we have, in The Washington Post, "Bob Gates unpacks Obama’s foreign policy, and offers advice to the next president".  Bob Gates would be former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Here is the meat of the article:

"The way things get done communicates reluctance to assert American power," Gates explained in an interview Wednesday.  "They often end up in the right place, but a day late and a dollar short.  The decisions are made seriatim.  It presents an image that he's being dragged kicking and screaming to each new stage, and it dilutes the implementation of what he's done."

Gates criticized the current National Security Council's implementation of policy, arguing that "micromanagement" by a very large NSC staff undercut Obama's efforts to use power against the Islamic State and contain China in the South China Sea.  "It becomes so incremental that the message is lost.  It makes them look reluctant," he said.

Gates's criticism of the NSC is noteworthy because he served as deputy to national security adviser Brent Scowcroft in President George H.W. Bush's NSC, which Obama has cited as a model for how policy should be managed.  By that standard, Gates implied, the current NSC team, led by Susan Rice, needs to lift its game.

In our Nation's Capitol, it is not the big Executive Departments, like State and Defense, that determine the course of the ship of state.  It is the National Security Council.

The passages quoted remind me of a quote attributed to President Harry S Truman, about Dwight David Eisenhower assuming the Presidency:

“He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this!  Do that!’  And nothing will happen.  Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army.  He’ll find it very frustrating.”
I am sure the same applies to President Obama.  Being President isn't easy.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Also the author of Duty:  Memoirs of a Secretary at War.

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