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The Delusions of American Hawks

Fred Hiatt endorses a silly argument from a few weeks ago:

Recently, in rallying allies to help Ukraine, Obama has shown the kind of leadership that Americans expect of their president.

I know why Hiatt and other delusional hawks feel compelled to say such things, but it’s simply not true. Most Americans aren’t clamoring for U.S. “leadership” on Ukraine, and most generally prefer that the U.S. remain as uninvolved as possible. Insofar as Obama has tried to have an active role in the crisis, he has been going against the wishes of the majority in the U.S. The conceit behind Hiatt’s argument is that Obama makes his foreign policy decisions by following the polls, but on many issues he hasn’t done anything of the sort. When it has suited him, he can be thoroughly oblivious and indifferent to public opinion, and this applies to foreign policy just as much as to anything else.

Obama was slower to push for intervention in Syria than Hiatt wanted, but he still did it before being forced to relent in the face of overwhelming domestic opposition. The abortive attempt to bomb Syria is a good example of how Obama has sometimes conducted foreign policy with contempt for what the majority prefers. He may not have been as aggressive in his response to the Ukraine crisis as virtually every Post columnist demands, but he has involved the U.S. in the crisis to a much greater degree than the public wants. The truth is that Obama has routinely ignored public opinion on both foreign and domestic policy, but has not done so as often or as early as hawks and “centrists” believe necessary. (Hiatt’s lament for Bowles-Simpson is itself an exercise in “centrist” pundit self-parody.) If anything, Obama has allowed his decisions to be warped and driven far too much by what conventional thinking in Washington declares that he must do, and he has repeatedly endorsed policies that are both unpopular and lousy as a result.

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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