The Herald Sunday editorial on “Obama’s failed foreign policy” was incredibly naive. For well over 50 years, a keystone of U.S. foreign policy has been unilateral intervention, directly or by proxy, in countries with governments we disapproved of — Guatamala, Iran, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Chile, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. Obama’s contribution, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was to call a halt to this policy — to state that going forward, the U.S. would intervene only as part of a solid multilateral partnership, except in cases of a serious, direct threat to U.S. national security. In short, the U.S. would work with other governments, rather than attempting to impose our will on them. The Herald editorial called this a lack of focus. The rest of the world called it a sound, clear vision, based on good sense.
The Herald editorial stated that the Obama administration largely failed the Arab Spring litmus test. On the contrary, the administration’s hands-off policy is allowing the Arab Spring countries to find their own path forward, by trial and error, in much the same way as the U.S. found its own path forward after our Revolutionary War. Would we have done better if France had attempted to dictate our way forward?
Incredibly, the Herald editorial called the current Syrian conflict “the most horrific human rights and humanitarian crisis in 70 years.” Does the Herald editorial board really think it is more horrific than the Vietnam conflict, the Cambodian genocide, the Guatemalan genocide, the Rwandan genocide, and the Iraq war (including the ensuing civil war)? Histrionics aside, the Syrian conflict is certainly horrific, but is there any reason to believe that any possible type of unilateral U.S. intervention would make it better, rather than worse?
It is tempting to believe that a U.S. president can bring peace and justice by taking unilateral, forceful action, but wishful thinking is not a sound basis for policy. In fact, the Obama approach is much more likely to further the cause of human rights, peace and global security than whatever more activist strategy the Herald editorial board has in mind.