Jonah Goldberg: Obama's foreign policy 'realism' sure looks like 'winging it'
Last week, Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times reported from Cairo: "As rival camps of Egyptians protest for and against the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi, there is a rare point of agreement: America is to blame." Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the coalition arrayed against it believe that the United States is against them. And, amazingly, both sides have a point.
The most plausible interpretation of Obama's zigzagging approach to foreign policy is that he is simply "winging it," as Robert W. Merry, editor of the National Interest, writes.
While Obama usually likes to triangulate himself rhetorically between realism and idealism, "realist" is the label his biggest fans in the foreign policy establishment use most. "Obama is a realist, by temperament, learning and instinct," Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek in 2009. "More than any President since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing the resources to achieve them, and keeping his eyes on the prize." More recently, Harvard's realist guru, Stephen Walt, saluted Obama's "buck-passing" as a feature rather than a bug of his realist foreign policy.
Jonah Goldberg is the author of "The Tyranny of Cliches," now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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