In Slate, Jacob Weisberg argues that a
proper misguided desire to avoid the foreign policy mistakes of the Bush years is at the root of Obama’s decision not to make loud but empty gestures that will do no good on matters where America has no interest or authority “stand up for the broader ideas of democracy promotion and humanitarian intervention” in Iran. Right. Because having an American president “identify with those risking their lives to free their country” was exactly what the protesters needed, and such actions would no doubt have led their government to, like, totally give up an repression and let the people go free.
The real story, of course, is exactly the opposite of the one Weisberg is telling, as the effect of the Bush administration’s wake on Obama’s approach to foreign affairs has been to make the latter more irresponsible and hawkish than it might otherwise have been, since any genuine break with the past would immediately be tagged by the chattering class as “weak” or – to use terms suggested by Weisberg – alarming and accommodationist. In a more perfect world, the disasters of the previous eight years would have led to exactly the sort of massive compensation whose imagined existence Weisberg laments, but in the world we’re in what we get instead is foot-dragging on negotiations and the very same sort of do-what-we-say-or-else posturing that realist observers of the Bush administration came to know and hate. Having a punditry that reacts to the Obama administration’s moments of realist sanity by complaining that they aren’t more like the errors of its predecessors is unfortunately unlikely to make the sane moments any more frequent.
Earlier: Jacob Weisberg couldn’t have gotten it more wrong on libertarianism, either.
Update: Daniel beat me to it.