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.
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.
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.
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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...