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Obama’s Many Unnecessary Interventions

Andrew Sullivan thinks Obama’s foreign policy has struck the right balance:

My view is that Obama has done about as good a job as possible in managing the core task of his presidency: letting self-defeating global hegemony go. That required a balancing act – of intervention where absolutely necessary and caution elsewhere [bold mine-DL].

If Obama had governed this way, I would be more inclined to agree, but this description of the administration’s record hasn’t been accurate for years. Intervention in Libya wasn’t necessary, much less absolutely so. No U.S. or allied interests were threatened, but the U.S. and its allies went to war in Libya anyway. Despite some obvious early reluctance to be pulled into the Syrian conflict, Obama and senior administration officials were seeking to involve the U.S. directly in a foreign civil war as recently as eight months ago. The fact that this was avoided at the eleventh hour doesn’t change any of that. Obama has been slower in being drawn into foreign conflicts than others might have been, but he keeps being drawn into them because he hasn’t really “let go” of U.S. hegemony. If he had, he wouldn’t feel compelled to weigh in on the legitimacy of foreign governments or throw support behind popular uprisings in countries where the U.S. has little or nothing at stake, but he he has done just that for at least the last three years. Even though he seems to grasp that the U.S. isn’t able to do very much in many cases, he evidently can’t break the habit of treating foreign conflicts and crises as problems that the U.S. must have a major role in solving.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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