Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Obama Sqandered His "Osama Mojo"

In the aftermath of America's successful assassination of Osama Bin Laden, many media pundits clamored that Obama now had a foreign policy-proof vest, where the Republicans can no longer beat him using security issues. Heck, the Bush Administrations spent years without avail trying to capture or kill Osama, while Obama was successful, showing his ability to take risk when needed. He was on the top of the world and the king of the hill.

While Obama's approval rating enjoys a 6% bump in May thanks to Osama's death, within a few days, however, his accomplishment was unraveling. First, the administration tried to soak so much credit from the success that they rushed the facts of the operation. The problem is that due to the "fog of war," it was very difficult to get a nice neat story, and thus the administrations made so many contradictory statements, so many retractions, that Jim Treacher of the Daily Caller called it "victory lap in clown car."

Still, that couldn't match Obama's next blunder, which was his technically correct but politically disastrous speech on Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In essence, he gave the ammunition to the Republicans to start beating him again on foreign policy. While most Jewish donors seem to remain in Obama's camp, the administration seems to be rattled enough that even Rahm Emmanuel had to give assurance that the Obama Administration was acting on Israel's interests.

At the same time, the U.S. Congress took issue on his handling of Libya, where he ignored the War Power Act of 1973. John Boehner's resolution on barring the use of U.S. ground forces in Libya that was passed 268-145 and supported by both the Republicans and the Democrats was actually a compromise in order to prevent a more damaging Kucinich Resolution that would pull the US out from Libya in 15 days.

By the end of the day, Obama could not capitalize on Osama's death to create a long lasting shield to stop the Republicans from bashing his foreign policy. Obama's problem lies in the fact that he simply has no coherent foreign policy plan. His dealing with the Arab Spring, the Israel-Palestinian problem, and various other foreign policy problems is based on impulse. Obama is not an expert on foreign policy - he prefers to focus on domestic politics, content to leave foreign affairs to Hillary Clinton and her personnel at the Foggy Bottom.

This arrangement works in normal times. But Obama has no experience in dealing with foreign policy crises. Instead, he must rely on his policy advisers with various intellectual backgrounds and philosophies, which leads to paralysis in the foreign policy process. Worse, his political instincts frequently clash with the State Department's policies. This is most evident in the administration's early responses to the Arab Spring. Given this situation, it's not a surprise to see such incoherent and weak statements foreign policies formed in response to crises in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and so on.

To put it simply, Obama has no foreign policy because he is ignorant in foreign policy. As a result, when he finally got Osama and got his foreign policy triumph, he didn't know how to turn that accomplishment into a strong basis for American foreign policy.

No comments:

Post a Comment