On foreign policy, Obama is lost in the 1980s

Last summer, as Hondurans attempted to keep their country from exploding into civil war, and President Obama prepared to trade away our plans for missile defense as a bargaining chip to strike an arms agreement with Russia, we editorialized thus:

Based on his reaction to President Manuel Zelaya's dismissal by the Honduran Congress, one might think that President Obama is still living in the 1980s…Obama has failed to see that the greatest threat to Latin American democracy today is not rightist generals or leftist guerrillas, but rather illegal usurpation by self-aggrandizing executives…

It would be a terrible miscalculation for Obama similarly to lose sight of contemporary issues and interests in a fog of obsolete arms-control ideology from the Soviet era…Russia is no longer our belligerent enemy.

Today, Jackson Diehl makes precisely the same observation, but with better detail and new corroborating data:

For help understanding the foreign policy headlines of the past week, let's return, briefly, to the spring of 1983, when Barack Obama was a student at Columbia University. What were the burning international issues of that time?

Well, first was the “nuclear freeze” movement…The Middle East, meanwhile, was still reeling from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon – which was the apotheosis of the Zionist right's dream of creating a “greater Israel” including all of the Palestinian West Bank.

Back to November 2010. The Obama administration is devoting a big share of its diplomatic time and capital to curbing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank…Meanwhile, it has committed much of its dwindling domestic political capital to pushing a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia through a reluctant Senate.

So has nothing changed in the past quarter-century? In fact, almost everything has – especially when it comes to nuclear arms control and Israel's national objectives. What hasn't changed, it seems, is Barack Obama – who has led his administration into a foreign policy time warp that is sapping its strength abroad and at home.

 

We may have really been on to something.

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