Friday, October 26, 2012

In Fairness: A Post About Obama

In reviewing my additions to this blog, I've realized that, where politics are concerned, I've had a habit of magnifying the faults of conservative issues while largely defending (or, at times, ignoring) those of liberal issues.  I think this has been a result of my own shifting political allegiances; as I've grown more distant from the far-right rhetoric I enjoyed as a teenager, I've taken more issue with it, and as I've developed tentative liberal beliefs I've tried to bolster them.  This is entirely self-serving and biased, of course, but I don't think I've ever been too reserved about that.

In particular, I've been quite kind to the Obama administration.  While I took great pains in pointing out what I didn't like about each of the candidates in the Republican primaries, I gave President Obama a relative tongue-bathing in our recent political roundtable.

Pictured: Journalism

Now, I like to think I'm relatively well-informed, and that that is becoming more and more the case as time goes by; in particular, I've become a fan of (read: sort-of-addicted-to) Foreign Policy, a news periodical specializing in...well...something, I don't remember what.  As such, there came a point where I realized that, no matter how much I wanted to defend him, there were (and are) things that trouble me about President Obama's administration.  I'll keep things brief by using his foreign policy as a case study--after all, it's what I've read the most about.

The Russian Reset

Before I begin on this one, I should point out that in criticizing President Obama's dealings with Russia, I am by no means endorsing Mitt Romney's plan.  I think BYU's student newsletter The Political Review put it best when they described Romney's policies as like a "bull in a china shop" and a return to Cold War politics.

Relations with Russia are something that stick out to me, mostly because I served my LDS mission in Ukraine (which border Russia, in case it's been a few years since geography class; no judging here!).  I've been excited that the current administration wanted to reset things with Russia (though I found great humor in certain aspects of it) and then, I didn't really look into it too much.

One of the articles* I've read, though, described Obama's approach as naive, an albeit innocent move that has come at the expense of American allies like Poland (and, I'd wager, Ukraine) and that has allowed for Russia to flaunt their newfound political carte blanche by attacking journalists and imprisoning punk rock groups.  (You can point out that this kind of thing isn't limited to the Obama years, which is a very fair point to make, but shouldn't the US have considered that as well before deciding to handle Russia with kid gloves?)

I don't know if I'd go so far as to lay Russia's human rights violations on the White House's doorstep, but I do think there's been a certain amount of appeasing, pandering, and looking the other way that doesn't sit well with me.  I remember hearing a story awhile back about a policeman who went to YouTube with claims of corruption in his local police force, only to be fired and eventually arrested.  Political dissidents are imprisoned or beat up, and somehow Putin keeps magically winning election after election.  All is not well in Russia, and I don't think it's something we should be, as a policy, overlooking.

The reset, to me, has been like trying to improve relations with the school bully.  America has been acting nice, sharing our lunch and toys, and Russia has been, well, enjoying our lunch and toys.  And...that's about it.  Romney of course goes way too far by declaring them public enemy number one--that's like solving the school bully problem via M1 Abrams tank--but the current pandering just isn't getting the job done.

"Wedgie THIS!"
Foreign Affairs Overall

One of the things I've come to appreciate in hindsight about the 2008 presidential campaign is how Obama ran his operation.  He had a motto--"No A**holes" (edited, since we're a family-friendly blog)--and was known as "No-Drama Obama."  I like that.  That appeals to me.  Unfortunately, it turns out that those don't apply to his presidential administration.

Foreign Policy correspondent Rosa Brooks wrote a fairly scathing review of Obama's foreign affairs staff.  Brooks--herself a former czar in the Obama White House whom Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity labeled one of the "Top Ten Most Dangerous Obama Czars," thank you Wikipedia for that tidbit--decries the administration's utter short-sightedness, nepotism, and perennial inability to create an actual, functional, step-by-step strategy (rather than, as she puts it, "aspirations" and "laundry lists").  She says the work climate is hostile, compartmentalized, and needlessly overworked.  The managers, like National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, bicker amongst themselves and scream at underlings in the hallways--if they talk to them at all.  In short, it's not a work environment conducive to good old fashioned collaboration and rational thought.

*       *       *

Well!  It feels good to get that all off my chest.  Ah...

What do you think?  Am I being too hard on him?  Too soft?  How would you handle Russia, or some of the other international situations nowadays?

--------------------------
*Note: the authors of this particular article consist of a former member of the George W. Bush administration and a neoconservative journalist, so, you know, biases-a-plenty.  However, they make their points convincingly enough, and a little side research on my part has made this article's claims seem more believable.

Also, Foreign Policy itself does a pretty good job of balancing left-leaning, right-leaning, and center-of-the-road in its articles and contributors.  I recommend them once again.  Man, they should be paying me for all this free advertising...

2 comments:

  1. I can't say I know much about Russian foreign policy, but as I read the FP article, I wasn't really clear on what, exactly, the author expected the administration to do besides build missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. My impression was that the article's fundamental assumptions -- that we have a right and duty to go about meddling in the internal politics of sovereign countries -- is a little dangerous, even if the country happens to be run by an unpleasant autocrat. And even if we did decide that such a course of action is desirable, I'd want to see more evidence that sabre-rattling would produce more effective outcomes than soft-peddling, which the author again just seems to assume (I guess that assumption is what marks him as a hardcore neocon). But, yeah, I don't really have much of an idea myself on what we should or shouldn't do with Russia.

    As far as the second point, the (mis)administration of the presidential cabinet made me think of a recent Dan Carlin podcast. He accused both Romney and Obama, and every other politician since Nixon, of playing only "small-ball" at the expense of offering any big-picture ideas like the opening of China or things like that. So both sides talk a lot about their aspirations and desired outcomes (peace in the middle east! Energy independence!) but nobody really has a real plan to achieve any of that. Instead they bicker over marginal tax rates and how we gained or lost a few thousand jobs last month. That kind of goes back to my big criticism of Obama, that he's complicit in the open-ended War on Terror and seems unconcerned with even trying to articulate a way it could be ended. Again, that goes back to one of Carlin's themes, that each candidate should be asked point-blank and repeatedly, "How do you end a war on terror?" Until we can begin to address that, the answer is never. Unfortunately, I don't see anyone surrounding Obama or Romney who will help :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, underqualified people being put in positions of authority reminds me of Linton Barwick: "Well I'm sorry that it troubles you that our people achieve excellence at such an early age."

      Delete

Comments welcome! Unless you comment as "Anonymous." Then you'll probably be spam filtered.