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Jonathan Eyal

Obama's foreign policy failures

US leader has failed to strike balance between military might and diplomacy

Published on May 5, 2014 7:25 AM

Everything went well with United States President Barack Obama's recent tour of Asia until a journalist from the Fox News TV network asked him about America's alleged foreign policy failures.

The famously placid US President suddenly lost his cool and launched into an astonishingly bitter, personal defence of his record. His kind of foreign policy, said Mr Obama, "may not always be sexy" and "may not make for good argument on Sunday morning TV shows", but "it avoids errors".

Mr Obama then quickly regained his composure, even managing a self-deprecating joke: "You got me all worked up," he told his media tormentor. But the fact remains that a US president who will soon be marking the mid-point of his second and final term in office is still being dismissed by some as a diplomat on probation, a man who instinctively prefers to duck rather than confront global security crises. And sadly, this view is shared by more than just conservative hacks on Fox News; it's also the prevailing opinion among many foreign leaders.

Mr Obama is right to dismiss as nonsense those who claim that US presidents ought to inspire fear for their use of military power, rather than invite admiration for their moderation; as Mr David Rothkopf, who edits America's Foreign Policy magazine, recently aptly put it, someone had to tame Washington's "promiscuous militarism", the "steroidal belligerence" which assumed that on every issue, the US would send in its soldiers to die.

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