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Jeffrey Goldberg’s profile of Barack Obama’s foreign policy is enlightening, showing the president’s great personal confidence in bucking “the Washington playbook” that had dominated administrations from both parties since the Reagan years. Rejecting those who would draw lines in sand and start wars to defend American prestige–including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden, among many, many others–Obama instead has operated at a higher level than most of his advisors, seeking to defuse conflicts and, in his words, “not do stupid shit.” This is the post-Bush presidency we needed. Of course, Hillary Clinton is all about doing some stupid shit.

Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)

Given the fairly high likelihood (or at least reasonable possibility) that Power would be Clinton’s Secretary of State, we can likely expect a return to the older version of American interventionism, which will probably do harm in the world and to the U.S. Ah, if only Bernie Sanders had any articulated foreign policy at all to which we could reasonably compare this.

The transformational issue for Obama was bombing Syria, where he declared a “red line” and then didn’t bomb when Assad crossed it. But does anyone think Syria would be better off today if the U.S. bombed it to smithereens? When has that worked? When has the supposed hit to American prestige if we didn’t bomb actually manifested itself? Seems to me the hit to American prestige was starting a stupid war in Iraq that we weren’t even prepared enough for to understand the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Islam. Obama went down this road in Libya. It didn’t work. And unlike Hillary, he learned from it.

And, my God, he even has a clue about the history of America’s terrible foreign policy of the past and it influences his actions.

The president also seems to believe that sharing leadership with other countries is a way to check America’s more unruly impulses. “One of the reasons I am so focused on taking action multilaterally where our direct interests are not at stake is that multilateralism regulates hubris,” he explained. He consistently invokes what he understands to be America’s past failures overseas as a means of checking American self-righteousness. “We have history,” he said. “We have history in Iran, we have history in Indonesia and Central America. So we have to be mindful of our history when we start talking about intervening, and understand the source of other people’s suspicions.”

Now, I certainly have my criticism of Obama’s foreign policy, especially around trade. But when was the last president with a better foreign policy? Grover Cleveland, who for all his faults was at least anti-imperialist? FDR I suppose is the better answer. But it’s been a long, long time. It may be a low bar but Obama has easily cleared it. The deals with Cuba and Iran are tremendously important and change the trajectory of the nation.

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  • twbb

    “Rejecting those who would draw lines in sand and start wars to defend American prestige–including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Joe Biden, among many, many others–Obama instead has operated at a higher level than most of his advisors, seeking to defuse conflicts and, in his words, “not do stupid shit.”

    I thought Joe Biden had turned dove over the past decade or so.

    • ThrottleJockey

      He was against the Afghanistan surge (Best line ever: “Why is it that our side needs lots of training by Americans, but the Taliban don’t need lots of training?”), against going into Libya, and against even going after Osama in Pakistan.

    • MDrew

      That doesn’t ring true to me about Biden & Syria. (I suspect he might have said ‘credibility’ is an important consideration, but not that Obama absolutely must bomb because of it. Or maybe, he did. I don’t know.) But regardless, people who get that close to the decision points are rarely consistent across all decisions wrt to a binary-ish hawk/dove (or even wise/idiotic) assessment scale. People have lapses and make mistakes. On the whole, I think we have to glad in general about the overall direction of the influence Biden had on Obama FP – something I wasn’t necessarily expecting when Obama chose him for VP.

      • MDrew

        1) *I* misread the quote there; I thought it was specifically talking about “red line.” My mistake.

        2) I actually think in that line Goldberg is drawing a distinction between Obama and those in his coterie who supported the Iraq War in 2002, or in any case the resolution to back coercive diplomacy with credible threat of force against Saddam – on that basis. It’s something he does in similar terms, naming he same names multiple times in the piece. So this wold have little to do with Biden’s or anyone else’s disposition about using force while serving in this administration.

        3) What is reported about Biden’s view of the Syria/red line situation in the piece is actually quite interesting. He’s quoted to have argued “passionately” (quote of Goldberg) that (quote of Biden) “big nations don’t bluff.” But he later is reported to have validated Obama’s decision to get (or not get, as Biden had to know was likely) Congress’ approval. “’It matters to have Congress with you, in terms of your ability to sustain what you set out to do,’ he said. Obama ‘didn’t go to Congress to get himself off the hook. He had his doubts at that point, but he knew that if he was going to do anything, he better damn well have the public with him, or it would be a very short ride.'”

        It’s entirely possible Biden at that point somehow thought Obama would get approval and then carry through with the strikes, in keeping with a reading of “big nations don’t bluff” that takes it to mean that Obama had committed and had to bomb for the sake of credibility. But that doesn’t seem at all most likely to me. Most likely to me seems like Biden’s advice meant something like, “IF you’re going to go down this road of threatening to enforce your red line (which everyone is telling you you must do), then what in fact you MUST do is determine that you will be able and prepared to deliver on the threat *should you come to a place where truly your hand is forced and the force becomes necessary.” It seems obvious in the age of the imperial presidency that of course the POTUS has this capability. But in fact, Obama himself knew he would be further out on the constitutional limb than he wonted. Moreover, Biden might have been saying, *if you know now that you absolutely are not prepared to use force to back up these new threats (making the show of potentially enforcing the red line was itself a new set of threats beyond the initial red line) because you don’t think such a use of force would be justified on the merits*, then you must not go further down this road of threatmaking.

        Advising that if you are going to threaten force you must be sure to be *able* (and willing) to follow up threats with meaningful force should the threats not produce the desired change in behavior (otherwise, desist in the threats) is very different advice from what reigned in Washington and world capitals in those hours, which was that, in order to demonstrate that threats were not made in absence of such commitment, *force must follow threats as a matter of course* regardless of what events intercede. Biden’s advice was sound.

        Beyond the Iraq vote, which is a shared error, I don’t honestly get how one looks at Joe Biden on foreign policy and on that basis decides he doesn’t want him in the presidency. He’s about the best there is to be found in his generation; granted, it’s time to move onto the next generation, where, if I could be assured everyone would have Joe Biden’s FP judgement, I would take that over a more upside-downside set of choices. But I’d take Biden himself, as well.

        • MDrew

          …This is in contrast to Clinton’s statement (which one can presume was also was her advice): “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

          Now, I would draw a distinction on her behalf (which nevertheless I suspect may be too charitable to her real meaning, but I want to grant it anyway) between “saying you’re going to” and “threatening to.” In her view, apparently, the intention to strike, period, had been announced (one way or the other). I’m guessing the president will tell you that no such announcement was made; that the idea of strikes stayed as a public matter always in the realm of threat.

          Nevertheless, the difference between the overall character of their views is plain.

  • tsam

    “One of the reasons I am so focused on taking action multilaterally where our direct interests are not at stake is that multilateralism regulates hubris,”

    Nothing causes more grand mal sadz for neocons than this attitude.

    The deals with Cuba and Iran are tremendously important and change the trajectory of the nation.

    I think these are the most understated of Obama’s accomplishments, personally.

    Obama was a pretty dang good president, on the whole.

    • Still is. He takes the job seriously, and is the most intelligent President, I think, in my lifetime. The runners up for that title allowed their personal– demons? peccadilloes? insecurities?– to trip them up. That doesn’t seem to happen with Obama, who weighs advice but never gets pushed into things, and who has a remarkable temperament.

      • FMguru

        Obama has made his share of mistakes (deferring to foreign policy experts, thinking there was a reasonable core of the GOP with whom he could negotiate in good faith, etc.), but he also has the nearly-unheard-of ability to actually learn from his mistakes.

        • twbb

          Obama’s mistakes tend to arise from one flaw; he is very much a technocratic elitist, and he is too easily swayed by other technocratic elitists who make themselves out to be tough pragmatists (see, e.g., John Brennan, James Clapper, Timothy Geithner). Other than that he’s been a pretty good president.

          • FMguru

            You can add the generals who sold him on the Afghan Surge back in 2009 to your list of credentialed elite technocratic experts he was too deferential towards. He’s learned to be a much shrewder and more skeptical consumer of credentialed elite technocratic expert opinion since then.

            • The 2009 surge probably prevented the collapse of the Afghan government and the conquest of most of the country by the Taliban. People forget just how bad the military situation there was by the end of Bush’s terms, and why Obama campaigned on refocusing there.

              Now, if you want to make this argument about his accession to their advice about the second surge, you’d be on much better ground.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I’m also of the opinion that he acquiesced out of political considerations–gasp. He didn’t want to start off being considered “Bambi” after so much media–even liberal oriented media–portrayed him that way.

            • tsam

              I think he had to learn the hard way about deference to the assholes that run the military. I think he learned right about the time guys like McChrystal were badmouthing him to the media and getting their stupid asses fired. That was a boss move on Obama’s part–having pictures taken of him firing that dirtbag…

          • ThrottleJockey

            I get the James Clapper and Tim Geithner (especially Tim Geithner!) but what’s with the John Brennan criticism? Drones???

        • Phil Perspective

          There is one area where he hasn’t. Israel/Palestine. Funny considering Goldberg should be locked up at The Hague, if there was any justice in this world.

    • The deals with Cuba and Iran are tremendously important and change the trajectory of the nation.

      Meanwhile, in Hillary Clinton’s statement of support for the Iran nuclear deal, she made sure to say that it does not foretell any broader diplomatic opening.

      Which is a serious bummer to me. As far as I’m concerned, that is the most important part.

      • tsam

        I stand by my previous declarations that she is an asshole. She’s playing to the hawks–you’d think she’d learn from serving under a cautious and diligent president. Guess not.

        • I don’t think she’s playing to anyone. I think this is really her.

          • tsam

            I don’t think she’s faking it either. She still seems to have too much of that lunkhead cold warrior mentality.

            I still want to gag when I think back to her being out there with the GOPers, inventing this “moderate opposition” in Syria (that was apparently invisible to everyone except hawkish warfappers) that we should be arming as a strategy to…well, they never said what the actual goal was.

            • Joe_JP

              I respect Clinton and think she is a serious (not sarcastic) public servant. But, things like this depress me some and remind me the limits of the possible among the realistic options out there. Her supporters will rightly provide various things to show her positives but that doesn’t change that.

              • I respect Clinton and think she is a serious (not sarcastic) public servant.

                Much like Biden, I’m very glad we had her to implement Barack Obama’s foreign policy. I just don’t think either has the judgment for the top spot.

              • tsam

                I’m still a supporter–looking at her overall body of work. I really wish I believed she wouldn’t start a war to look like she’s tough, or because of the “Washington Playbook” (We hate Cuba, Iran, wary of the Russians, yay for Saudi Arabia, etc…)

                I know it’s not all simple and I couldn’t handle the job, but I can’t think I’d be wanting to start a war anywhere unless it could be proven that it was necessary and that the historical context of the crisis to which I’d be responding would line up with facts and reality (meaning I wouldn’t let some asshole tell me a strongarm dictator like Saddam Hussein would harbor religious fanatics like Osama Bin Laden in his country)

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I can’t support her. My 2 biggest issues in this election are Income Inequality and Preventing Another War. She’s crappy on the first one, and crappier on the second. She really does strike me as LBJ to Obama’s JFK. I think its more likely than not that under her we have another ME war with tens of thousands of American ground troops.

                • She really does strike me as LBJ to Obama’s JFK.

                  Oh, so actually a good president instead of a mediocre one?

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Lol, I’m a big big fan of LBJ. But this is a foreign policy post. JFK sent advisers to Vietnam, LBJ sent divisions. Obama has set up a small military footprint in Syria and Africa. I have no doubt Clinton would dramatically expand that.

                • witlesschum

                  Lol, I’m a big big fan of LBJ. But this is a foreign policy post. JFK sent advisers to Vietnam, LBJ sent divisions. Obama has set up a small military footprint in Syria and Africa. I have no doubt Clinton would dramatically expand that.

                  JFK risked a nuclear war to save political face over making a missile trade with the Russians, Turkey for Cuba. That’s the basic fact of the Kennedy Administration I can’t get past. Comparing a man like Barack Obama to that reckless dickwit is monstrously unfair.

                  “Not as bad as LBJ on foreign policy” is a bar most 20th Century presidents clear, honestly.

          • The Lorax

            I don’t want Obama to leave! His foreign policy has been really excellent. And that we don’t kill people for “credibility” or similar-such BS is a feature, not a bug. I thought then and think now that the US did the right thing by not attacking Syria. We got the chemical weapons out–that was the point. It’s the suck-on-this diplomats around Obama who kept saying “red line!” “red line!”.

            We will not see another president with his self confidence and good judgment and ability to learn from his mistakes. He’s been really excellent.

            • ColBatGuano

              Yeah, Obama’s ‘failure’ in Syria was using the red line term once which, for some reason, was a no take backsie’s line according to the neocons.

            • I don’t want Obama to leave! His foreign policy has been really excellent. And that we don’t kill people for “credibility” or similar-such BS is a feature, not a bug. I thought then and think now that the US did the right thing by not attacking Syria.

              Same with the Malheur wildlife sanctuary.

              • The Lorax

                Yep. Exactly. And it worked out as it should have, with the principals in custody.

              • Nick056

                Minor in the grand scheme, but apparently several FBI agents lied during debriefings on the highway shooting. Fortunately for all of us, the actual killing seems to hold up under scrutiny, but it’s a black mark on an outcome that otherwise vindicated the strategy.

                • The Lorax

                  Ugg. That’s distressing to hear.

                • witlesschum

                  Of course they did. Idiots.

                  Happen to have a non-crazy link to read more about that?

                • Hogan
                • Just lovely.

                  A completely justified shooting of a guy who was going for his gun, but because those FBI agents lied about whether they fired shots, all the wingnuts get to throw shade on the whole thing.

              • MDrew

                Larison really digs into him for even entertaining the idea of following through on the Red Line as long as he did. Not to mention for issuing the Red Line warning in the first place, which I see very little mention here. While I think Larison grades a little too harshly in giving almost no, or very grudging, credit for avoiding getting us mired in a deathtrap there, ultimately I don’t see how there’s a way to argue he’s exactly wrong.

                There were no good options for Syria. But it’s really hard to argue that Obama has managed it in a feature-not-bug kind of way in any respect, even including managing to avoid bombing (except he didn’t, really, did he, not in the end?).

                This is coming from someone who overall thinks he managed Syria about as well as he could, and did the rest of FP quite well except for maybe Afghanistan. But there’s just no way to say there’s any feature to be seen in Syria file management. What they managed was to avoid making it another sucking wound for United States interests very strictly defined (like, life and limb of our guys and women).

                • How can you write a three-paragraph comment about Barack Obama’s handling of Syria without once using the term “chemical weapons?”

                  Stripping the world’s worst chemical weapons violator of its arsenal is a feature.

                  I know I’m just screaming into the void here. Everyone else could give a crap about chemical weapons, but I think that was not just a feature, but one of the very best things he’s done on the foreign policy front.

                • (except he didn’t, really, did he, not in the end?).

                  This is so shallow. You’re eliding the difference between attacking the Assad regime and attacking ISIL merely because the latter is (partially) inside Syrian territory.

                • MDrew

                  I’m not remotely trying to downplay that; I was all over that as a benefit of the overall outcome when he was being pilloried by the likes of his own former Secretary of State for his handling of the situation.

                  But there is a difference between a feature and a benefit. Obama was clearly torn up over ho to handle the situation. I don’t buy for a second that he doesn’t regard issuing the red line as a real unforced error – just a moment of carelessness from all I can tell. A feature is something you design; a bug is something that doesn’t work in what you design.

                  The CW outcome was a found nickel on a walk you had to take because you left something at the office. Good job; way to make it come out well (enough – it’s clear there were some costs, even on the credibility front, especially with allies – that’s not all BS, it’s just not good enough reason to bomb on its own). Seriously, I’m glad it worked out this way. Credit.

                  But it’s not a feature. He was not looking to have all of that go that way. He simply didn’t think Assad would use CW on a large scale. The press was (er…) pressing him on what his line on Syria CW was; he thought he was setting it far enough down the field he wouldn’t have to worry about it while still sounding tough, and it didn’t work out that way.

                • MDrew

                  I’m not eliding the difference. But Isil’s stength isn’t unrelated to the regime. It’s not like I wish Obama would have knocked out Assad so that he could move on to striking Isil or something. But they are related pressures (not even that unlike partial pressures in physics), and ultimately it’s not like we can say he managed to come out of the situation avoiding bombing in Syria. That would be inaccurate. And, yeah, it’s correct to view it as one, big-ass, complex, interrelated situation over there.

                • I’m not remotely trying to downplay that

                  When you write a medium-sized comment about his handling of Syria without ever once mentioning it, while repeatedly saying there were no “features” to point to, it sort of comes across like you don’t consider it particularly meaningful.

                  I don’t buy for a second that he doesn’t regard issuing the red line as a real unforced error – just a moment of carelessness from all I can tell.

                  The term “red line” was the error, but remember, he used that term in the middle of a statement in which he was emphasizing the importance of the chemical weapons issue to our policy. His entire point was to say that he couldn’t foresee a situation where there would be American military intervention except in the case of chemical weapons usage. That was designed in from the beginning – chemical weapons were a top foreign policy priority for him from the very beginning, especially in Syria but also elsewhere.

                  You’re simply wrong about the chemical weapons outcome being a consolation prize. Why do you think he brought up – let me repeat that, HE BROUGHT UP, not the person who asked the question – the issue of chemical weapons in response to that question about whether there might be American military intervention in Syria? The press was not pressing him on the chemical weapons issue. They were asking about intervention into the civil war, and he said no, with the exception of chemical weapons. And used the wrong term while making that point.

                • I’m not eliding the difference. (Several sentences eliding the difference).

                • MDrew

                  One of Isil’s prime motivations is to seize territory from Assad, since he is weakened by civil war. Yes, they are located partially in Syria, but in fact they are also based there as much as in any other country.

                  I am not trying to elide the difference between bombing Assad over chemical weapons and bombing Isil in Syria. But what is shallow is to view these as so unrelated that, to link them, because they are interrelated, within an overall assessment of Obama’s handling of Syria, amounts to eliding the difference. “Saying X is linked to Y elides the difference between X and Y” is the shallow position here.

                  The Syrian civil war, Assad’s chemical weapons use in that war, and Isil are obviously interrelated problems broadly unified under the general policy problem of the Syrian civil war (and ongoing state weakness in Iraq, but then that’s exacerbated by the Syrian civil war), and it’s not a problem Obama managed to come through without applying U.S. force in Syria. That’s what I said, and it’s obviously a correct statement.

                • MDrew

                  So he set the terms of the red line around CW intentionally.

                  Nevertheless, it was the “red line” error that forced him into a staredown with Assad and Putin over it. He clearly was not seeking that, and clearly was more interested ultimately in fudging any line(ish thing) he drew than having to defend it. I maintain he did not expect to have to deal with CW use by the regime, that’s why he selected it as the line he didn’t mean to draw.

                  All of which is to say, it was a walk he did not intend to take. But he found a nickel along the way. And good for him.

                • Vague terminology like “they’re not unrelated” doesn’t mean anything.

                  “Saying X is linked to Y elides the difference between X and Y” is the shallow position here.

                  No, not really. You’re just using words to look like you’re saying something. If you had something to say, you’d have said it by now.

                  I maintain he did not expect to have to deal with CW use by the regime, that’s why he selected it as the line he didn’t mean to draw.

                  “Did not expect” and “did not intent to act in the eventuality” are different concepts. He both expected and intended to act in the case of a serious chemical weapons crisis. That he hoped it wouldn’t come to that does not make acting any less of a pre-determined, intentional policy choice.

                  And he was so “forced” to act because of the red line that he ignored 2-3 previous chemical attacks. He acted after Ghouta because acting after Ghouta was something he believed in. Shallow, inapplicable metaphors about nickels not withstanding.

                • MDrew

                  Uh… yes? He was forced to issue the threats after Ghouta because his hand was being obviously forced, after he displayed that he was not inclined nor had expected to have to enforce his red line after multiple incidents in which, had this been an intentional play where threat to use force in the midst of civil war resulting in the removal of CWs from Syria was the desired endgame – a feature, not a found nickel.

                • Narrowing your terms to the point where only outcomes that were presciently predicted years before a policy was put into place have a status beyond mere luck, or are reflective of a policy being successful, is a debate stunt that contributes nothing to a serious effort to consider the wisdom and efficacy of Obama’s handling of Syria.

                  You’re reifying. Your comments have ceased to be about anything except your own tortured metaphors.

                • MDrew

                  It wasn’t my metaphor.

            • Lee Rudolph

              Maybe Hillary (or Bernie) could appoint him Secretary of State…

            • ThrottleJockey

              Red Lines are important. You don’t issue them lightly, and once issued you do diminish your credibility if you don’t back it up with force. Obama’s mistake was in issuing the red line to begin with. That was an amateurish mistake. He must’ve been tired or something.

            • JG

              Let’s examine it (forgive me if I leave some stuff out):

              1. Pivot to Asia- good
              2. Russian Restart- failure but blame scumbag Putin. It was worth a try.
              3. Libya- very bad (though I suspect it would be a shithole no matter what)
              4. Iraq and Afghanistan- okay. I still think withdrawal was the right move and there is no way you could salvage these debacles.
              5. Syria- okay. The rebel program was a fuck up but I am glad he didn’t go whole hog after Assad. I am skeptical about bombing ISIS but I think you have to do it. Now I will roll my eyes at lefties who think it’s all the eeeevil Americans’ fault there is violence in Syria.
              6. Iran- excellent
              7. Cuba- excellent
              8. Europe- excellent. It was very important to mend fences with the Euros after the Bush debacle years.
              9. Ebolapalooza- excellent. Obama showed a cool competence when it was desperately needed.
              10. Drones- bad
              11. TPP- ?????
              12. Getting OBL- excellent
              13. Ukraine- okay. Not much I think you can do here.

              And lots of minor stuff but those are the big things I could think off the top of my head. Overall that is a pretty good combo. Two groundbreaking achievements, good strategies for Asia and Europe, and the destruction of America’s number 1 enemy. The Middle East was the messiest area but I doubt even Bismarck could sort this current situation out. I’m generally anti-intervention but I think ISIS should be attacked without committing ground troops so I guess I am okay with it. My biggest problems with Obama are national security state stuff which I think he has been pretty bad with, though I will concede I could be wrong and maybe drones are really that much of a necessity.

              Seems like Obama’s most important contributions are stepping back, opening some doors to previous adversaries, and not fucking things up too badly. Sadly it appears that this mindset will merely be a blip in the radar.

          • DrDick

            Agreed. It is completely in line with everything else she has said publicly on foreign policy. It is one of my major objections to her.

        • socraticsilence

          Um…Given all the evidence isn’t saying she’s a hawk more likely than her merely pretending to be one?

          • DrDick

            Yep.

      • sam

        I sometimes think that at least some of her mindset has been driven by gender politics forcing her to be more hawkish than she otherwise would be – that she has to “prove” that she can swing as big a military stick as the boys, and it basically turned her into a neocon asshole on foreign policy.

        But at the end of the day, the cause probably doesn’t matter if she truly thinks this way.

        And I say that as someone who generally likes her on a lot of things.

        At least I can hope that, as she has learned to ditch the bumblefucks who ran her 2008 campaign, and learned how to speak to intersectionality, and learned to evolve on a variety of other things, she can learn from Obama on this. Maybe. It’s still got to be better than whatever idiocy Trump’s got planned, right?

        • tsam

          I sometimes think that at least some of her mindset has been driven by gender politics forcing her to be more hawkish than she otherwise would be – that she has to “prove” that she can swing as big a military stick as the boys, and it basically turned her into a neocon asshole on foreign policy.

          That seems plausible to me, though I would hesitate to assume it’s true.

        • The Lorax

          Is there any way we can get Mark Penn to run Trump’s campaign?

          • Mark Penn would never sully himself by associating with someone like Donald Trump.

            (I kept a straight face all the way though that line!)

        • JG

          she has learned to ditch the bumblefucks who ran her 2008 campaign

          has she?

          • sam

            She definitely ditched Mark Penn, who was the biggest problem.

    • shah8

      tsam, one of the things that made me so mad about this article is that it talked so little about the process with Iran, and so much frothy blather about Syria. The sheer focus on Obama as a “do nothing-er” in this article is seriously misleading. I mean, ‘don’t be a violent idiot’, is that such a controversial opinion?

      • ResumeMan

        Well, yes, it is. And while it’s gratifying that Obama actually sticks to it, it also underscores how depressing it is that he’s leaving.

      • tsam

        I mean, ‘don’t be a violent idiot’, is that such a controversial opinion?

        Well, considering the public pants-shitting that has been going on over Muslims, ISIS, Bin Laden, Al Quaida…

        Obama has been excoriated over and over for his lack of murdering the goddamn shit out of all their faces since he took office. He’s been tough enough to eat that shit and stick to his principles, which has likely saved a lot of lives.

        But the focus on his “doing nothing” is boilerplate Serious Media Person being Serious Media Person because dirty bombs and whatnot.

        • Just a Rube

          Well, considering the public pants-shitting that has been going on over Muslims, ISIS, Bin Laden, Al Quaida…

          And of course, he “murdered the goddam shit out of” one of those faces.

          Not that Republicans like to dwell on that fact.

          • JG

            Imagine if Bush got him. We would hear about it in the media every week.

          • Matt McIrvin

            In fact, they like to emphasize that Obama had nothing to do with it and Osama was killed by good Republican Navy SEALs acting independently on their own recognizance.

        • Halloween Jack

          Obama has been excoriated over and over for his lack of murdering the goddamn shit out of all their faces since he took office.

          When he’s not being excoriated by the other side for drone strikes against the likes of Anwar al-Awlaki, whose American citizenship they like to emphasize (not so much with his urging Muslims in America to attack it).

  • LeeEsq

    This might be the only time Loomis had something positive to say about Jeffrey Goldberg.

    Obama’s policy towards the Middle East seems to be like Truman’s Containment policy towards Communism in modern form.

    • Goldberg is terrible, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about him at this site before.

      • Warren Terra

        A quick Google finds a bunch of LGM posts focusing on Goldberg, at least the first dozen or so of which are not Loomis posts.

  • Kazanir

    Re: Biden, that was my understanding as well, but I’m not sure what the post-Afghanistan-2009-decision evidence for that is off the top of my head.

    I was so mad about that 2014 comment of Clinton’s that I commented on Balloon Juice at the time that it reminded me of 2008 and how much I didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton. There is no mention of the fact that plenty of empires have let their “organizing principles” lead them straight into doing stupid shit that has knock-on effects for years or decades, but those same “principles” blind them to being able to analyze those consequences intelligently.

    It reflects extremely well on Obama that he was “rip shit” angry over this.

    • Rob in CT

      Yeah, that article reminded me forcefully of my misgivings about how our FP would be handled under her. Gah.

      It tells me that whatever she may say, she really hasn’t learned anything.

      • ExpatJK

        Yeah, I am increasingly nervous about her, both as a candidate and in terms of policy.

    • MDrew

      Interesting that now it’s reported she apologized for the comments. It sure seemed like a major and deliberate interview granted to a major outlet that’s established itself as sort of the major tribune that this administration goes to to try to explain its foreign policy to elites (Goldberg in particular, which is distressing). Was this Clinton making a mistake about what she meant to provide the magazine with for publication? Tough for me to buy that.

      And what kind of apology was it? “Sorry, but I just didn’t have any choice: your approval nubers were looking terrible back in those days”? Or what?

      What was the deal with this rather savage assessment of Obama FP performance – and then an apology?

  • Ransom Stoddard

    Clinton’s hawkishness is definitely making me a little bit more nervous about her presumable ascendance as POTUS (though I’m still of the opinion she’ll make an excellent president). It’s really too bad that term limits prevent Obama from running for a third term.

    • SIS1

      When I compare her and Sanders, foreign policy is the one area that makes me even consider Sanders as the candidate.

    • witlesschum

      Presidential term limits really seem to have done us more harm than good. Probably saved us from Reagan ’88, but prevented Bill Clinton ’00 and Obama ’16. Dunno if Ike runs in 1960 because of health, but doesn’t seem so bad if he does.

  • Anon21

    Given the fairly high likelihood (or at least reasonable possibility) that Power would be Clinton’s Secretary of State

    Hmmm…

    • Long time ago, lot of water under the bridge, very similar views of the world.

      • Anon21

        Maybe. I can’t get a handle on whether the Clintons’ reputation as grudgeholders is a right-wing smear or accurate.

        • Warren Terra

          There’s the old cliche that Living Well Is The Best Revenge; for a remotely sane person (ie, not for Nixon) getting sworn in as the Leader Of The Free World is sufficient Living Well to count as sufficient Revenge for most past slights.

    • Hogan

      She was an NSC staffer while Clinton was SoS. I would imagine they worked it out.

      • Manny Kant

        Because the NSC and the State Department generally get on really well together?

        • Hogan

          The Sec of State is a member of the NSC.

          Are you thinking of the NSA?

          • Joseph Slater

            Or NSFW?

            • Halloween Jack

              NASA, baby!

  • yet_another_lawyer

    The transformational issue for Obama was bombing Syria, where he declared a “red line” and then didn’t bomb when Assad crossed it. But does anyone think Syria would be better off today if the U.S. bombed it to smithereens? When has that worked? When has the supposed hit to American prestige if we didn’t bomb actually manifested itself? Seems to me the hit to American prestige was starting a stupid war in Iraq that we weren’t even prepared enough for to understand the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Islam. Obama went down this road in Libya. It didn’t work. And unlike Hillary, he learned from it.

    I’m sympathetic to that logic, but then the mistake was to declare a “red line” in the first instance. It damages your credibility for any and all future “if this, then that” statements. It absolutely can be the case that it’s in the national interest to do nothing in that type of situation– but it seems like it’s rarely in the national interest to set yourself up to lack credibility. It’s a venal sin compared to Iraq, but still a mistake.

    • Scott P.

      There’s no reason to think it has had or will have the slightest effect on American ‘credibility’.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        So what if Obama (or his successor) wants to lay out an, “If you do x, I bomb” warning but this time have others believe he really means it? Pinky swear? Call it a mauve line?

        • sonamib

          Well, the threat of force was credible enough that Assad agreed to have the chemical weapons removed from his country. You know, chemical weapons that might have fallen into jihadist hands. Why do some people always seem to forget this?

          • ExpatJK

            Thank you! I am not comfortable with the saying it –> bomb it or else line of thinking.

          • Why do some people always seem to forget this?

            Some people on the right want to paint Obama, or any President who fails to bomb people when given the chance, as a weak capitulator.

            Some people on the left want to paint Obama as someone who was stymied from achieving his goals by anti-war activism.

            Both narratives are ruined if you notice that he got more than went in hoping to achieve.

            • sonamib

              Both narratives are ruined if you notice that he got more than went in hoping to achieve.

              Yeah, he got a lot more from diplomacy than he ever could otherwise. Can anyone reasonably sketch a war scenario in which Syria ends free of chemical weapons?

              • They use them all?

                That doesn’t really rebut your argument though.

                • sonamib

                  Heh, hadn’t thought of that one.

              • ColBatGuano

                Maybe they could have shipped them back to Iraq?

                This is snark.

    • tomscud

      Yes, it was. Much less of a mistake than deciding that going to war was better than ignoring the “red line”, which is what pretty much the entire Washington consensus wanted him to do.

    • tsam

      but then the mistake was to declare a “red line” in the first instance.

      In the end, Russia stepped in and got the weapons out and destroyed them. Maybe it was a mistake, but a means to a better end than most of the other options would have left.

      I’m not sure that would have happened without a plausible bomb threat…?

    • The Lorax

      Because the world recently has had questions about whether America is down with bombing folks in the Middle East.

    • CP

      I’m sympathetic to that logic, but then the mistake was to declare a “red line” in the first instance. It damages your credibility for any and all future “if this, then that” statements. It absolutely can be the case that it’s in the national interest to do nothing in that type of situation– but it seems like it’s rarely in the national interest to set yourself up to lack credibility. It’s a venal sin compared to Iraq, but still a mistake.

      Didn’t Obama declare a red line only to find an uproar in Congress led by Republicans who thought he was exceeding his authority or not doing enough, depending on which way the wind was blowing at any particular point? I seem to recall that, whether or not he intended to make good on any threat, he was facing trouble in Congress that he hadn’t anticipated (and which he effectively neutralized by putting the ball in their court and asking for an authorization, at which point it turned out they didn’t want the responsibility, so they just huffed and puffed and ended up doing nothing).

      • ColBatGuano

        Yes, watching the Republicans simultaneously declare him to be wimping out by failing to bomb Assad while also denying him Congressional approval to bomb was a rich vein of irony.

  • FlipYrWhig

    Rejecting those who would draw lines in sand and start wars to defend American prestige

    “Prestige” seems like a tendentious slide from what the article calls (citing its direct use) “credibility.” “Credibility” is adjacent to the Samantha Power “responsibility to protect” without being identical to it: it may flow from taking on the “responsibility to protect” that there’s a responsibility to follow through on said protection, ergo “credibility.” So “credibility” is a flashpoint, because it leads somewhat inevitably to military action, and I get that. But “prestige” takes all of that and makes it mock-worthy and hints at imperialism, which I don’t think is fair.

    I remember the debate over genocide and intervention in the 1990s and I don’t think it’s any easier to resolve now. That said, it’s proper to have that debate again, especially in light of Obama’s different answer than either Clinton’s. And to never stop having it for that matter.

    • Dilan Esper

      I don’t think the debate about genocide ever really occurred. Clinton just announced that we were the world’s genocide police and started intervening.

      It’s actually a fairly easy issue. We are not the world’s policemen, and we aren’t responsible every time someone outside the US murders someone else outside the US. We do have a large military, but we should actually have a smaller one, partly because having a big one tempts us into being more interventionist than we should be.

      The reality is that you can’t create a limiting principle that allows interventions to “stop genocide”. Saddam was surely genocidal against the Kurds, so that gets you the Iraq War. Every bad war the US has ever gotten into could be perfectly justified on humanitarian grounds. There’s always someone to “save” in every conflict.

      • SIS1

        Clinton’s two big interventions were both tied to the collapse of Yugoslavia. I would argue that those interventions had far more to do with managing the post Cold-War fallout in Europe than anything to do about actual genocide prevention.

        We did nothing in the 90’s in the DRC, even though that war was in many ways a direct result of Rwanda, and we outsourced East Timor to Australia, which wanted the job.

        • njorl

          Possibly. I remember expecting mass expulsions and ethnic violence across the Eastern Bloc countries. There were large, unpopular minorities in many of those countries. Demonizing them and subjecting them to violence was not a healthy precedent to allow. Deterring a repeat of Nogorno-Karabahk across all of Eastern Europe was a worthwhile objective.

          • sapient

            What Clinton did in Yugoslavia was good. I’m not convinced that standing on the sidelines when we can do something to mitigate atrocities is a great foreign policy. In fact, Libya wasn’t a bad idea either. No one can convince me that Libya (or the greater Middle East) would have been better served by ignoring what was happening there. It didn’t turn out well, but neither would it have otherwise.

      • I recall Madeline Albright once saying something like:

        “What’s the point of having this great military if you can’t use it?”

        • That line gets misinterpreted, though.

          During the Kosovo War, there was concern that high-altitude bombing from fixed-wing aircraft was inaccurate and causing civilian casualties, so the administration wanted to use attack helicopters. Attack helicopters would have required closer bases, not those in Italy. To have closer bases, Powell told her, they would have to be defended with a brigade of M1-Abrams tanks. She asked how long it would take to get them from Germany to (I think) Slovenia, and he said something like nine months.

          It wasn’t a statement of “We’ve got this great military and I want to use it.” It was a statement of “We’ve got this great military and it can’t even be made available when we need it.”

          That, btw, is where the quickly-deployable Stryker project came from.

          • Marek

            +1 Srebrenica

          • MDrew

            Thanks for that context there, joe, I wasn’t up to speed on that.

            But I’m not sure if I dislike the statement just the same… or a little worse for knowing it.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I think Spiny below raises some valid points about Syria that show it’s NOT a “fairly easy issue.” The US shouldn’t go it alone; that’s what international organizations are for, and it’s really supposedly the whole damn point of the UN. But multilateral intervention is still intervention. Is that still a problem, still being the world’s policeman, etc.? (It’s been a while but I feel like this is what Semmel’s _Liberal Ideal and the Demons of Empire_ is about…)

      • Spiny

        We are not the world’s policemen, and we aren’t responsible every time someone outside the US murders someone else outside the US.

        Let’s stipulate this is true. We are still humans. Do you propose we stop up our ears if anyone about to be murdered asks for help? If not, how do you suggest we decide when and who to help?

        • Dilan Esper

          “Help” doesn’t have to mean violence. Diplomacy, accepting refugees, humanitarian aid, bearing witness, war crimes prosecutions, etc., are all forms of help.

          The people who favor violence do it because they like violence and like the US dominating the world.

        • Back away slowly, Spiny. Avoid eye contact.

        • Morse Code for J

          In that event, I propose that the President request two things from Congress:

          (a) Put a surtax on the top 1% of individual and corporate taxpayers large enough to cover the costs of running the DoD for a month, as a downpayment on the costs of whatever operation is ultimately proposed; and

          (b) Use eminent domain to establish a housing project for refugees from a humanitarian crisis in every state’s capital city, while guaranteeing at least the median household income in cash and social benefits to each person.

          I suspect that would screen out the bullshit pretty quickly.

    • The Lorax

      In the Balkans, we could do something. In Rwanda, probably not. In a proxy war between the Saudis and Iran, there’s nothing we can do.

  • ExpatJK

    This was a very good interview (one of the rare times I will compliment Goldberg – we don’t agree all that often, but when he’s on point he is on point).

    I would agree with tsam about Obama’s presidency. I have major issues with the drone war, and think that plus the ‘water under the bridge’ approach to torture are among the biggest failings of his presidency. That said, he certainly has had a calm and rational approach to a variety of foreign policy crises that could have very much gone to custard in other hands. The quotes relating to Clinton do not make me optimistic about her in the WH, although of course she would be light years better than any of the GOP contenders.

    • Manny Kant

      Goldberg’s own views are obnoxious, but he generally seems good at this kind of thing.

  • I don’t think Kerry belongs in that list, at least not based on what’s in the article. His actions, as described by Goldberg, amount to publicly arguing Obama’s positions at the time Obama held them. When Obama was in favor of strikes on his own authority, Kerry argued that. When Obama shifted to going to Congress, Kerry argued that. When Obama pursued the chemical weapons deal with Putin, Kerry worked on and then publicly supported that. There isn’t anything in the article about Kerry pushing for a position in internal discussions, the way there is with Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. The language about Kerry “arguing for” a position is all about his public statements in line with the decided (and then later undecided) administration policy.

    Quite the opposite, Kerry says, “It (the notion that Obama erred by stepping back from bombing) just doesn’t make sense. But I can’t deny to you that this notion about the red line being crossed and [Obama’s] not doing anything gained a life of its own.”

    “Gained a life of its own” is the type of language you use when referring to a belief you don’t consider to have a sound factual basis.

    • ExpatJK

      I mostly agree, although from the article it seems like Kerry really pushed back with respect to Syria.

      At least this part of the article indicated that Kerry was arguing for a specific position:

      Obama has steadfastly resisted Kerry’s requests, and seems to have grown impatient with his lobbying….At a National Security Council meeting held at the Pentagon in December, Obama announced that no one except the secretary of defense should bring him proposals for military action. Pentagon officials understood Obama’s announcement to be a brushback pitch directed at Kerry.

      • But remember, that’s referring to the period when Obama himself was supportive of military action. In that context, he’s talking about leaving the military planning to the Pentagon, not about the decision of whether or not to take action.

        • ExpatJK

          True. I guess during this period he was pushing the option for the position, which is not the same as arguing it despite Obama’s opposition.

          • It’s also quite easy to picture John Kerry pushing his way into affairs that are someone else’s bureaucratic turf and needing a brush-back from doing that, no?

            • ExpatJK

              Yes, this scenario is quite easy to visualise.

        • Rob in CT

          The article goes on to quote Kerry as saying that he’s more interventionist-leaning generally than Obama, though. I’d quote it but I actually have to run. It’s in there, I swear I didn’t imagine it.

          • Well, sure. I can certainly picture Kerry being closer to 70/30 on Libya than 51/49, for example.

    • The Lorax

      JFL: What is your take on Obama’s use of drones in places like Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia?

      • If you’re talking about the strikes carried out in the war against al Qaeda, I’m generally favorable.

        I don’t think there has been a strike in Somalia in over a year.

        • The Temporary Name
          • Wow! I guess that’s “had.”

          • The Lorax

            Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about when I mentioned Somalia.

        • The Lorax

          I am, too. Well, with the proviso that civilian casualties are kept down. I’ve some allegations of very high civilian death counts.

          • He certainly tightened up the rules over the course of his term. Look at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Pakistan data sheet, for example.

            • The Lorax

              That’s helpful. Thanks. Put that on your blog!

            • Matt McIrvin

              That is really interesting.

              Look at 2006! Just two drone strikes that year and they seem to have mostly killed a large number of children. The numbers really ramped up during Obama’s first term but they seem to have gradually gotten more discriminate. An ambiguous record, to be sure.

  • MPAVictoria

    “Ah, if only Bernie Sanders had any articulated foreign policy at all to which we could reasonably compare this.”

    As far as I am concerned this is a huge point in Sander’s favour. The current foreign policy establishment of both parties is made up of evil shitheads who would only provide awful advice. Sanders has proven smart enough to oppose most of the stupid/evil/misguided military adventures the US has involved itself in over the last 40 years. Lets hope he continues to listen to his instincts and ignore the evil shit heads.

    • Rob in CT

      I dunno if I think Samantha Power is eeeevil. I think she’s dangerously wrong.

      Agreed on the rest – we need someone who, like Obama, has the ability to say no when everyone is clamoring for yes.

      • kped

        Agreed. I wouldn’t call everyone evil, just wrong, misguided. Like, I truly believe Kerry or Powers or Clinton thinks going into Syria would do good. I think they are wrong, but I don’t think they are evil for thinking it.

        It’s not quite Kissinger/Nixon “let’s just bomb everyone”, or the GOP candidates talking about who could turn the middle east into the nicest parking lot. That shit is evil.

        • MPAVictoria

          Eh I stand by evil shit heads though maybe they are just that dumb.

      • Dilan Esper

        I think Power is evil.

        Indeed, I think one of the great ironies of interventionism is that it often cloaks evil in the rhetoric of good. The US murders A LOT of foreigners in order to “save” and “protect” the objects of Power’s selective humanitarian concern. That’s pretty evil in my book.

    • AMK

      What is refreshing about Sanders is that he clearly doesn’t subcribe to the whole “grand chessboard” notion of foreign policy because he understands that for the elites making the policy, the pawns always end up being those other people’s children.

      It’s hard to believe any politician could publicly endorse a return to some kind of draft system, but I imagine he knows damn well that neoconservatism and Samantha Power-style world policing would die a thousand deaths the minute upper-middle class kids were mailed their first draft cards. It would not be a bad thing.

      • kped

        If any country should have the draft, just to check people in power, it’s America, for the reasons you state.

        Now…the rich have ways of getting deferments, but just the fear of war would go a long way…I’d hope…

        • Hogan

          Didn’t keep us out of Vietnam.

          • Yeah. And if you compare how troops are used in the post-draft era to the “throw ’em onto the beach and hope some get some equipment onto the sand before they die” tactics of the draft era, the theory that a draft would restrain us becomes even less plausible.

            As it turns out, rarer, more expensive resources are treated as more valuable than cheap, common ones.

            • rea

              Ah, to quote an old imperialist:

              A scrimmage in a Border Station —
              A canter down some dark defile —
              Two thousand pounds of education
              Drops to a ten-rupee jezail

            • djw

              Yeah, the “draft will restrain excessive military adventurism” theory is vaguely plausible in theory, but doesn’t stand up to empirical scrutiny at all.

              • Matt McIrvin

                I think it’d work if and only if they started drafting people up to age 75 and putting them on the front lines.

          • tsam

            Without deferments, it might have.

            • Peter T

              Nah. Military service then becomes another ticket for the ambitious to punch – and they fret if there are not enough wars to go around.

      • The Lorax

        Do you think Sanders’ FP would be substantially different from Obama’s? He’s no Chomsky, though some on the far left seem to think he is.

        I wonder, in particular, if his FP would look substantially like Obama’s once he started getting the PDB every morning.

        • JG

          Yeah, I imagine it is very different when you are sitting in the chair. You can say drones are bad but then you get this info saying we can take out this scumbag who wants to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.

          • Sanders’ statement on the Obama’s use of drones was that he would continue them, but be perhaps a little more cautious.

    • witlesschum

      I don’t see why him keeping quiet is a point in his favor, though. It worries me that he won’t really focus on it and will allow someone to the right of Obama to run his foreign policy.

      Especially given how constrained the next Democratic president is likely to be by a GOP house on domestic policy, it’d be nice for Sanders to differentiate himself from Clinton.

      • Just a Rube

        Indeed. Bush was never big on foreign policy during the campaign; the result was he let Rumsfeld and Cheney run his foreign policy.

        Who would be Bernie’s Secretary of State?

    • DrDick

      Pretty much. American foreign policy has largely been totally FUBAR since WWII. The hubris of being one of only two superpowers.

      • JG

        In fairness the US has been pretty great at alliance building. We have a pretty damn impressive list of buddies. But our interventions/coups……………

        • DrDick

          It is pretty easy to form alliances when you are the 900 pound gorilla in the room plus you give lots of candy to your “friends”. Everybody in western Europe has been able to hold down defense spending to modest levels because of our bases (which also stimulate their local economies).

  • The transformational issue for Obama was bombing Syria, where he declared a “red line” and then didn’t bomb when Assad crossed it. But does anyone think Syria would be better off today if the U.S. bombed it to smithereens? When has that worked? When has the supposed hit to American prestige if we didn’t bomb actually manifested itself?

    This analysis leaves out the surrender of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, compelled at gunpoint. It’s not as if Obama threatened an attack and then did nothing, or as if “didn’t bomb” was the sole, or even most important, outcome. Achieving a substantive material accomplishment well beyond what could have been achieved by military force must have played some role in how American actions were understood.

    • njorl

      I agree. The worst that can be said of Obama in that situation is that he didn’t put on a good show of it. He went to congress to get a resolution to use force in the matter and they balked. Before he could come up with plan B, Syria was offering up their weapons. It might have looked better for Obama if he had some plan B as a visible threat before Syria gave up their weapons, but only a fool would think that there was no threat coming.
      The tangible result was as good as could be expected. I’ll take that over a good show any day.

    • The Lorax

      This. 1000x this.

  • “Ah, if only Bernie Sanders had any articulated foreign policy at all to which we could reasonably compare this.”

    This line is the equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s statement about “Don’t do stupid stuff” not being a foreign policy vision.

    • Karen24

      The problem with Sanders on this is that I see him too easily becoming Lyndon Johnson, The Sequel. Sanders clearly prefers domestic issues and doesn’t care much about foreign policy, a situation which has not served us well in the past.

      • Sanders seems to have a basically dovish approach and a low level of deference towards the military establishment, though. LBJ was rather notably otherwise.

      • Bruce B.

        But Sanders clearly has an overall sense of the kind of America he’d like, which includes a strong thread of not creating suffering. Johnson had no particular objection to the US being a global warmonger; Sanders does, if only implicitly, because massive warmaking and the brutality that goes with it aren’t compatible with his principles on domestic policy. Running modern wars would run against ground he’s staked out about financial priorities and the accountability of officials, just for starters.

  • kped

    Well, wouldn’t the whole Libya fiasco go under “stupid shit”? And sure, Clinton may have favored it, but clearly, Obama is not above saying “no” to “stupid shit”, so let’s not say everything he did was smart.

    But definitely much, much better than the last guy!

    • “The whole Libya fiasco” was the Libyan civil war. The article describes Obama considering the NATO intervention a failure for not achieving the lofty goals intended for it (bringing Libya from a war-torn country in the midst of a civil war to a stable democracy), not for causing the situation to which NATO responded.

      It also includes him talking about the positive results the mission did achieve – preventing a years-long civil war and the physical destruction of the country. You are, of course, free do draw your own conclusions about whether accomplishing that was “stupid shit.”

      The article notably does not include Obama saying he regrets the military intervention.

      • MDrew

        Do you not regret it?

        • Do I regret supporting an operation that shortened the civil war by years?

          No. Of course not. Why would I?

          None of the negative outcomes would have been avoided by letting Gadhaffi conduct his slaughter in Benghazi. It just would have been Syria. The notion that a military dictator in the Middle East in the second decade of the 21st century could put down a protest-cum-rebellion with military force and everything would go back to the stable place it was before is nonsense.

          • MDrew

            I didn’t say it would, but that doesn’t make the outcome that occurred better nor the intervention a good idea.

            • The absence of a years-long civil war resulting in many thousands of additional deaths, even greater instability, and a much larger terrorist problem (as we see in Syria) makes the outcome that occurred better and the intervention a good idea.

              • MDrew

                Assertions.

                • Syria happened.

                  Your pretense of believing in a stable post-massacre Libya is equally an assertion, with the additional downside that there is no plausible reason to think it might be true.

    • Warren Terra

      It depends on what you think the Libya intervention was. Minimally stated, we intervened to forestall a budding genocide, which we successfully accomplished. We get blamed for not bringing stability to Libya, but I suppose the argument is that attempting that would qualify as “stupid shit”.

      • MDrew

        “Minimally stated”?

        I would say. We changed the regime after saying we weren’t going to. The result was a political vacuum that was filed first by Al Qaeda and then Isis.. It’s possible a political vacuum was in the offing because of the civil war regardless – but it’s also possible that merely more contained instability was.

        It was stupid shit: to topple a regime in such an unstable place, to fail to follow up by preventing an ongoing political vacuum (but providing that follow-up is not something that choosing on our own we actually should have wanted to get involved in), and to even think that we (or others ostensibly even better-positioned i.e. the Europeans) would be able to or have the commitment to follow up a regime change with enough diplomatic and military presence to make the new situation not a(nother) terrorism-enabling empty space on the map.

        Had we left it at preventing one massacre in on particular place, as the intervention was initial presented to the world, maybe, MAYBE that could have ended up being not stupid shit.(But what, really, were we accomplishing? Clearly, as our actions ended up showing, it doesn’t make sense to stop just one massacre when we know more will follow.)

        But what we did was indeed stupid shit.

        • We changed the regime after saying we weren’t going to.

          No, the Libyan people changed the regime. Absent NATO support, the al Qaeda and ISIL would have taken over virtually the entire opposition.

          You write the Libyan people and the entirety of the history of the civil war except for NATO out of your entire analysis, so you can pretend that everything that happened there was the result of an American intervention.

          • MDrew

            Absent Nato support the opposition likely doesn’t topple the regime, or much less likely does. We can then seek to strengthen moderates in the opposition and try to work with them and the regime (a regime we managed to tolerate for 40 years, and worked with to score a counterproliferation victory under GWBush) to seek an end to the violence, and work with both to fight international terrorism there, prioritizing it according to the degree of threat it poses to us, as we do for all international jihadist affiliates worldwide.

            • Absent Nato support the opposition likely doesn’t topple the regime, or much less likely does.

              Again, just like Syria, where Assad hasn’t been toppled. Is Syria stable? Free of terrorist groups holding territory and exporting terror?

              The Libyan state didn’t collapse at the end of the civil war; its collapse became inevitable at the beginning, a month before the UN even voted.

              (a regime we managed to tolerate for 40 years, and worked with to score a counterproliferation victory under GWBush)

              It’s not. About. Us. The Libyan people weren’t on board with your desired future for Gadhaffi. Sorry.

              The collapse of the Libyan state and the rising threat of jihadist infiltration/takeover of the opposition were situations we were faced with and responded to. You err in convincing yourself that Libya is Iraq, and those things happened because of us.

              • its collapse became inevitable at the beginning, a month before the UN even voted

                “Collapse” here meaning, collapse of its ability to function as a state that can enforce its writ across its territory.

              • MDrew

                The Libyan state didn’t collapse at the end of the civil war; its collapse became inevitable at the beginning, a month before the UN even voted.

                Well, that’s a claim, and one in which “collapse” could mean various things.

                The Libyan people weren’t on board with your desired future for Gadhaffi. Sorry.

                That may be true, but it doesn’t follow that they were going to be able to overthrow him without outside support of the kind we gave them.

                The collapse of the Libyan state and the rising threat of jihadist infiltration/takeover of the opposition were situations we were faced with and responded to.

                Again, I suspect you are fudging the meaning of “collapse” here. A state in prolonged collapse isn’t necessarily worse than a completely eliminated state. And state collapse and terrorist presence is not something that has only one possible response, namely aiding the final overthrow of said state. There are other ways it is possible to respond.

                You err in convincing yourself that Libya is Iraq, and those things happened because of us.

                I’m not clear why it matters really whether they happened because of us or not (nor why you conclude I’m convinced they happened because of us), nor why it would be that if they didn’t happen because of us, that would make it the more prudent response to aid in pushing the state into final overthrow through a sustained bombing campaign.

                • You’re still missing the most important fact: Gadhaffi clinging to power while an insurgency raged across his country wouldn’t have prevented any of the negative outcomes you’re talking about – the massive death toll, the rise of jihadist fighting forces – any more than Assad’s clinging to power prevented them in Syria. You’re right that the rebellion may not have been able to topple him. It may have just carried on a years-long full-scale civil war while jihadists flooded the country. Um…yay?

                  This notion that Gadhaffi having formal power, as opposed to the existence of the rebellion, as the determinative factor in whether Libya is stable is thoroughly disproved by the example of Syria.

                • A state in prolonged collapse isn’t necessarily worse than a completely eliminated state.

                  “A state in prolonged collapse” is also known as “a full scale civil war raging for many years.” Even if we were to agree that both situations have the same likelihood of producing the terrorism problem, avoiding that outcome itself is worthwhile, even if it comes up short of the “stable democracy with no terrorist sanctuaries” goal.

                  You know, Drew, you have often remarked over the years about the horrible hell that the U.S. inflicted on Iraq, not primarily through direct American-on-Iraqi violence but by creating a situation in which insurgency, terror campaigns, and something a lot like a civil war caused the locals and neighbors to kill each other.

                  Now, you seem to be arguing that reducing that particular hell in Libya is a meaningless accomplishment.

                • And just to be perfectly clear: you are the one conflating different meanings of “collapse,” while I am the one disaggregating those differences and clarifying what parts are (loss of capacity to govern) and are not (holding formal power in a capital enclave) relevant to the negative outcomes from the Libyan Civil War.

                • MDrew

                  I have remarked on how horrible it was that we created the situation that led to that in Iraq. I’m fairly sure I have been much less positive about what the situation we created made it appropriate for us to do in response, which is the the proper analogy here, though ultimately I acquiesced in a view on that I now regret.

                  I have always been internally sick about the moral place that our Iraq intervention put us in in terms of what our responsibility was to try to manage the fallout, whether owing to having put the events in motion, or owing to humanitarian concerns. I allowed myself to be brought along to the idea that some combination of culpability (and, honestly, honor-saving, which is distinct from acting out a genuine felt culpability) and humanitarianism required us to do what we could in the aftermath. But I certainly don’t know that I ever argued forcefully for that; I was at best reluctantly unable to see a way around it.

                  But I’ve learned from that; now I feel differently. That’s the whole point here. Not only do I now question whether I even had that concession right in Iraq (or, more to the point, I don’t think I did); here, there was no culpability or honor-saving involved. This was purely a question of humanitarianism and security concerns.

                  Is it possible that, treating intervention as a purely neutral act, the intervention had on net positive effects. Yes, I can’t deny it’s possible. We don’t know the counterfactual. But your argument has essentially relied on an assertion that the primary negative effects critics focus on (terrorist infestation) would have been present in either timeline, plus a bunch of assertion about how much better it is that we ended the civil war.apparently on humanitarian grounds. I just don’t see how intervention survives even a modestly intervention-averse bias in that calculus. We don’t use military force to shorten every civil war we can find on the globe, and for good reason: it’s not a sustainable doctrine.

                  If there had been a civil war raging in Iraq in 2002, this would have been my position just as much as it was my position since there was only a long-simmering ethnoreligious conflict; it was my position on Libya in 2011, though I was giving Barack Obama a lot of slack basically just because I trusted him; it’s m position on Syria, and would be even if Russia wanted us to intervene, and the only reason I reluctantly went along wth people with a different position regarding the situation in Iraq after we created the civil war was that our not being involved would have been a matter of removing our troops from a situation they were already involved in, and which we had created, which to me at the time seemed an almost unbearably disgraceful course of action that I just couldn’t bring myself to call for (though now believe, had I done so, I would have been taking the right position).

                • But your argument has essentially relied on an assertion that the primary negative effects critics focus on (terrorist infestation) would have been present in either timeline, plus a bunch of assertion about how much better it is that we ended the civil war.apparently on humanitarian grounds. I just don’t see how intervention survives even a modestly intervention-averse bias in that calculus.

                  Syria.

                  Syria.

                  Syria.

                  Syria.

                  Your pretense of the unknowability of the alternate timeline is destroyed by the example of Syria. That’s why you won’t answer it.

                  We don’t use military force to shorten every civil war we can find on the globe, and for good reason: it’s not a sustainable doctrine.

                  Some of us are able to distinguish between distinct events and take relevant details into account. That you merely chuck every question about military action into the same bin does not require or even suggest that I do. I haven’t said that intervening to shorten every civil war on the planet would be a good idea. Your observation that doing so would be a bad idea means nothing to this conversation about Libya.

                • MDrew

                  Why is Syria such an instructive example for Libya? Won’t the course of civil wars against dictators depend greatly on the particular nature of the dictator in question and the situation in which he is ensconced, and of the opposition? It wasn’t the same regime or the same dictator. We also didn’t know what would unfold in Syria at that time, though I suppose you’re inclined to credit our officials with foresight on that question and how it ought to inform their decision about what to do in a different place before the civil war there had even begun?

                  I realize you don’t support intervention in every civil war. The question is, what is the reason that isn’t at least the aim of your moral logic? Just the limit of our capacity? Sometimes we’ll just be flat-out prevented, or the costs will just be obviously too high. But everywhere that’s not the case, what’s the reason we shouldn’t, until we run out of guys or bombs or money?

                • Also, the notion of jihadist takeover in Libya isn’t solely dependent upon looking to the example of Syria. It has been well-documented that the Gulf states were looking to back proxies in the fight against Gadhaffi, just as they’ve been doing with Nusra and other baddies in Syria, and that al Qaeda came sniffing around the opposition in the early days and were told to beat it. They were told to beat it because they already had backers.

                  Why is Syria such an instructive example for Libya? Won’t the course of civil wars against dictators depend greatly on the particular nature of the dictator in question and the situation in which he is ensconced, and of the opposition?

                  See above. The important similarities were the structural ones – the old-fashioned Arab nationalist dictator, the opposition that began as an Arab Spring movement attracting both Islamists and democrats.

                  We also didn’t know what would unfold in Syria at that time, though I suppose you’re inclined to credit our officials with foresight on that question and how it ought to inform their decision about what to do in a different place before the civil war there had even begun?

                  I credit our officials with making the observation that major powers were backing Assad, that there wasn’t broad uniformity of opinion both in the country and around the world that he had to go, and that he had a much stronger military than Gadhaffi.

                  The question is, what is the reason that isn’t at least the aim of your moral logic?

                  Some of us, Drew, actually take considerations other than our own “moral logic” into account in a meaningful way.

                • I don’t think it’s going to be possible to get you to understand the reasoning that isn’t “moral logic” that places limits on Libya-Style intervention.

                  Suffice it to say that I have said, going all the way back to March 2011, that Libya was a unique situation that is unlikely to serve as a model for future actions, because it involved such a remarkable, probably irreproducible, set of circumstances.

                  So the notion that supporting the Libya intervention compels support in many other similar cases is simply false.

                • MDrew

                  I suppose Kosovo was likewise unique.

                  It’s clear that there are limiting factors that make the costs too high or the likelihood of success too low in many situations where we might intervene. The question is, why are we intervening? What’s the limiting principle on why not to intervene every time the conditions clear up to get it below cost X and above success probability Y? Or is that simply what we should do?

                  Because unless we limit the moral logic for the reason to intervene, then it’s just a matter of there being a different decision maker in place who weighs costs and outcome likelihoods a bit differently before our foreign policy is just radically different.

                  We need to decide what it is we’re even trying to do and why, not simply limit our actions by saying “we’ll act when the conditions allow it” (even if we limit that to “when they uniquely allow it.”)

                  Otherwise you’re writing Bush v Gore every time we intervene. Because there is one clear way that Libya was not unique among our interventions: it’s an intervention that we did. It’s not one of one.

                • Kosovo isn’t a comparable situation. The Kosovaars weren’t fighting to overthrow the government of Serbia.

                  Because there is one clear way that Libya was not unique among our interventions: it’s an intervention that we did.

                  Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. You think you’re saying something and you’re not.

                • MDrew

                  Kosovo isn’t a comparable situation.

                  I’m surprised to hear you say that.

    • Bootsie

      Libya could’ve been so much more of a fiasco (for us, I mean. It was already a fiasco for the Libyans) than it was.

      The “stupid shit” part of it may actually have been the decision to forget that Libya existed after Gaddafi got 86’d.

      • MDrew

        Right, so the actual logic of the action called for extensive, on-the-ground engagement with, like, guys with guns n stuff. Which Obama was not up for.

  • Davis X. Machina

    Ah, if only Bernie Sanders had any articulated foreign policy at all to which we could reasonably compare this.

    What part of Les ouvriers n’ont pas de patrie don’t you understand?

    • postmodulator

      Well, all of it.

      • MDrew

        Win.

  • glasnost

    Obama went down this road in Libya. It didn’t work. And unlike Hillary, he learned from it.

    This is dumb. Where the hell are actual foreign policy blog owners? Look, I don’t like Hilary Clinton’s foreign policy instincts either, and I’m happy with BO’s foreign policy choices, because his excessive nonintervention is a refreshing corrective to decades of the opposite problem. But there is no fair or reality-minded analysis where the Libya intervention didn’t work.

    Of course, if you choose to define work as “Libya ducked under a tablecloth and became Denmark”, but the operation and it’s goals did not involve creating a democracy, eliminating instability, or various other unrealistic things. We went there to stop a massacre and we stopped it.

    The comparison with Syria is apt. Political violence in Libya has killed something like 5000-8000 people since Qaddafi fell. In that time, the Syrian civil war has killed something like 100 times as many people.

    Libya was a success by any metric remotely related to realistic objectives and actual actions taken during Libya. Unlike Iraq, we didn’t start the civil war, we just reacted to it. We unquestionably saved a lot of Libyan lives do to the alternative case of not doing anything, and that includes considering all the bad stuff since then.

    • But there is no fair or reality-minded analysis where the Libya intervention didn’t work.

      Well, Barack Obama doesn’t think it worked so there’s that.

      • Bootsie

        Though I think that’s less his opinion of what was done during the intervention and more about how badly Libya was mishandled and abandoned after Gaddafi died in a ditch.

        • The two can’t be separated.

          • Obama does a pretty good job separating them in the Goldberg article.

        • EliHawk

          And, of course, who was the President while it was mishandled? I generally approve of Obama’s foreign policy instincts, but it’s clear that at least part of the blame for post-intervention failure there, articulated in the two NY Times articles about it a few weeks ago, was an inablity or unwillingless by the White House to do heavy lifting in post-conflict management. When HRC says “Don’t do stupid shit” is not a foreign policy principle, I interpret it less as being in the “pro-stupid shit” camp, which is a pretty terrible straw man from Obama, but rather that not doing things can also be a recipe for stupid shit, something you saw plenty of times in the (Bill) Clinton-era on issues like the Balkans. And not doing well with the aftermath in Libya was some stupid shit.

          • And, of course, who was the President while it was mishandled?

            Sarkozy, than Hollande. Unless you mean Mohammed Magarief and then Nouri Abusahmain, but “President of the National Assembly” is really more like a prime minister.

            Talking about Libyan history, including the civil war and its aftermath, as an American project is remarkably nearsighted.

            • EliHawk

              Just because the UK and France pushed the US and NATO to go in does not absolve the US from responsibility for its aftermath. It’s like saying the US should have left Tony Blair in charge of handling all post-conflict arrangements for Kosovo, because he was a driving force for intervention. It was a collective project with collective, including American, responsibility, and collective, including American failure to deal with the aftermath. There aren’t easy answers with any post-conflict environment, but the White House’s complete apathy, farming things down to working groups, not having any meetings among key principals, and setting high barriers to any US Aid and Involvement was a recipe for failure, and one that came from the White House down.

              • Talk of absolution is a dodge to avoid the inconvenient facts by using church language.

                Britain and, especially, France were the relevant regional powers who should have filled the vacuum. They had the historical and ongoing relationships. You might has well ask why Germany wouldn’t do a similar job in the case of a comparable situation in the Caribbean.

                Your comparison to Kosovo is absurd, an exercise in simply swapping out the names of countries without regard to the geo-political and diplomatic realities.

                There is nothing to back up your determination to put the responsibility primarily in our laps except your own comfort wth viewing the rest of the world through an American lens.

                We don’t call the shots everywhere.

                • EliHawk

                  Your comparison to Kosovo is absurd, an exercise in simply swapping out the names of countries without regard to the geo-political and diplomatic realities.

                  So France and Britain are the relevant regional powers in North Africa but not… Europe. Yeah, that makes sense. The US, not just France and the UK, intervened, and the US had some responsibility in the aftermath, and did a piss poor job of it.

                • No, France and England are not the relevant regional powers in the Balkans. Why would they be? What history of French or British involvement in the region are you thinking about, pray tell, comparable to that of their involvement in Libya?

                  None, right?

      • Davis X. Machina

        To be fair, it was Obama’s tablecloth.

      • Well, Barack Obama doesn’t think it worked so there’s that.

        Nor does he think it was a mistake or express any indication that the intervention shouldn’t have happened, so there’s also that.

        He said it didn’t work to achieve the ambitious goal of transforming a nation in the middle of a civil war, with a collapsed loon-ocracy of a government, into a stable democracy. That is plainly not the same thing as saying it didn’t work period.

        • MDrew

          What does he think it worked at, and does he think that was worth the full net result? And if the net result is the result of lack of follow-up, why didn’t we provide the follow-up?

          • Maybe you should read the article and see what he has to say.

            I’ve already answered this question several times on the thread, but really, you should read the article.

            • MDrew

              That’s fair.

      • The Lorax

        It did what it was nominally intended to do–keep a genocide from occurring.

        • I’m reminded of people who say the Korean War was a failure because it left the peninsula divided.

          Wasn’t that, like, the entire point?

          • The Lorax

            If they couldn’t move the goalposts ex post facto, most of the FP establishment would have nothing to do.

            • MDrew

              So we’re really doing this? We’re getting snarky in favor of the Libya intervention?

              • Just you, MD.

                The rest of us are having a serious discussion of what the Libya operation did and didn’t occur, and all you’ve been able to bring so far is your OMG face.

                • MDrew

                  “Wasn’t that, like, the entire point?”

                  Yeah, no snark there.

                  I don’t know where I’ve snarked on this thread.

                • Sorry you define “snark” as “brevity.”

                  Not my problem.

                • MDrew

                  You don’t, like, commonly use the word “like” in that way when you are arguing in earnest.

                • I earnestly believe that the point of the Korean War was to prevent the conquest of the South. Honest to God.

                • MDrew

                  I’m sure you do, but the “like” remains snark within that statement, and the snark relates not to your belief about Korea, but your belief about the relevance of that example to the present dispute.

          • MDrew

            So the point of the Libya intervention was to crate a political vacuum that could be filed by terrorists?

            You shouldn’t be reminded of Korea in that way. The point was apparently to stop a genocide. People aren’t criticizing the intervention for doing that but no more, they’re criticizing it for possibly producing something more dangerous for us than there otherwise would have been, despite perhaps preventing a genocide.

            • The people criticizing it for that live under the comfortable delusion that a post-massacre Libya would have been a stable place without a terrorist-lead rebellion.

              The notion that the NATO intervention, as opposed to the civil war it responded to, was the cause of the collapse of the Libya state demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of how the world works.

              Look at Syria if you want to see what Libya would have looked like after Gadhaffi government massacred some of the opposition. The al Qaeda and ISIL forces are a whole lot stronger than they are in Libya. The death toll is a whole lot higher. It’s even less politically stable.

              When did alleged leftists start believing the military dictators can produce stability by making the streets run with blood? Oh, right – March 2011.

              • MDrew

                So if it weren’t for Iran and Russia standing behind Assad, you would want us doing this in Syria, too?

                • Not having them standing behind Assad wouldn’t be enough. Russia, at least, would have to be actively on board.

                  Libya was a unique case, in that there was nobody who didn’t want to see Gadhaffi go.

                  Also, Syria has a much stronger army and air force and much tougher territory than Libya.

                  Let’s say, it would be a closer call.

                • MDrew

                  omg, to coin a phrase.

                • So let me get this straight: you’re reduced to a state of wordless shock by my articulation of the belief that the involvement of major global and regional powers would play a meaningful role in someone’s foreign policy calculations.

                  Good for you, d00d!

                • MDrew

                  I honestly don’t follow.

                  I mean, setting aside our bombing of Isil, we’re “involved” in trying to resolve the conflict; hopefully that means we’re playing a role in people’s foreign policy calculations. I support that.

                  It’s happening around a table, though.

                • I’m sorry to hear that.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Political violence in Libya has killed something like 5000-8000 people since Qaddafi fell.

      Has this count been updated to include the “political violence” of the second Libyan civil war? What percentage of a population has to die before “massacre” becomes apt again, and we have to re-intervene?

      • The best estimates of casualties during the Libyan Civil War are about 10,000 people in the seven months of the war. That’s about 1400 a month.

        You’re saying there may have been up to 8000 in the four and a half years since. That’s about 140-something per month.

        So, I’d say the answer to your question would be, somewhere in the very large gap between the two numbers.

        • Morbo

          To say nothing of the refugee comparison, where the difference is closer to three orders of magnitude.

        • Aaron Morrow

          Technically, I was quoting glasnost saying that those numbers were correct, and trying to clarify. I apologize for not being clearer. Thank you for attempting to answer those questions below as well as above.

      • I would guess that the number does include the “Libyan Civil Warof 2014,” since the death toll from that fighting is estimated at about 4200 people, and the notion of almost as many dying in 2012-13 as since the Benghazi and Tripoli-based forces started fighting is quite implausible.

    • SIS1

      Given that the better estimates of how many people died during 2011 vary from a low of 2,000 to around 9,000 by the new Libyan government, the fighting AFTER the end of the anti-regime civil war have been in the same universe as those killed during the initial war.

      Your “analysis” ignores some vital differences between these two countries, including a big difference in the population density, and more importantly, the prevalence of weapons, including heavy weapons in the country. Qaddafi had a rather weak military machine compared to the vast arsenals assembled in Syria. It should be no surprise that a lot more people have been killed in a war happening in a more densely populated place being waged with much heavier firepower. Its that much heavier concentration of weapons that would not only have made intervention in Syria much more expensive and dangerous, but also makes a post Assad situation more dangerous.

      To imagine that had we intervened in Syria, and Syria had delved into continued fighting afterwards, like Libya did, and that that fighting would be on the scale of the small battles in Libya is basically indefensible, and that is of course ignoring the whole issue of chemical weapons.

    • DrDick

      But there is no fair or reality-minded analysis where the Libya intervention didn’t work.

      Really?

      • There have been quite a few explanations of the other side of the argument.

        You linked to the google search page on the words “Libya disintegrating.”

  • Warren Terra

    When has the supposed hit to American prestige if we didn’t bomb actually manifested itself?

    The longstanding winger answer to this is that Castro still rules Cuba. I happen to like Obama’s effective rebuttal-by-deeds, effectively making the case that Castro doesn’t have to be considered a mortal enemy and vital threat, but that’s the winger answer (well, the one they switched to after “Unleash Chiang Kai-Shek!”)

  • Bootsie

    Sorta OT, but I enjoy how Obama’s relationships with Putin and Netanyahu are fueled not only by pragmatism but a personal hatred he has for those two and vice-versa.

    • ExpatJK

      Yes, the stories about him telling Netanyahu off and calling Putin “not extremely stupid” are beautiful.

    • Warren Terra

      I think it’s a mistake to think of it as personal; I like to imagine Obama as putting the country’s interests above his personal emotions. In any case, the problem with Netanyahu and with Putin is that they’re not reliable bargaining partners and don’t adhere to institutional norms. For the most part neither is interested in working with Obama, and that’s the problem. When they are interested – such as on Syrian chemical weapons, or whatever happened behind the scenes regarding Russian interests in Iran and in Iran’s nuclear program – personal animus doesn’t seem to interfere.

    • sonamib

      Don’t forget the Saudis. I really enjoy seeing those bastards screaming out in frustration against the Iran deal. Annoying, high-maintenance allies indeed.

      • heckblazer

        IIRC Robert Gates once said that the Saudis are always willing to fight Iran to the last American.

      • JG

        Who is our most annoying ally? Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey? I think Israel is probably the most annoying but the Saudis the most despicable.

    • James Kitto

      I can’t wait for Obama’s first book post-presidency. Not only is he temperamentally more honest than any other recent president, but his opponents have shown him no courtesy that he need reciprocate by glossing over the worst of their bullshit.

      • The Lorax

        I think this at least once a week. It’ll be a must read.

      • He’s also a better writer than any other recent president, having gotten a book onto the NYT bestseller list before he was famous.

      • JG

        It’s well known that Obama despises Washington political culture (not a surprise given the tone of his first campaign) so I hope there is some juicy gossip and shit talking.

      • tsam

        I do hope we get to find out how Boehner keeps that healthy orange glow!

  • Davebo

    The Iran deal is a good start but US companies still can’t engage in contracts to increase their oil production while European and Asian countries can.

    The energy industry in the US is going to be hurt even more by increased Iranian production so it would be nice if they could at least profit a little from increasing said production.

  • glasnost

    I’ll go a step further and say that I’m not sure BO made the right (or wrong) call about Syria, and I don’t really trust the opinion of anyone who is sure. Yes, US policy is horribly overfocused on methods of “helping” foreign citizens that involve blowing up other foreign citizens. And in a narrow sense, it’s in our cold-blooded realist best interest to stop jumping into these kinds of no-win quagmires. Okay, but half a million Syrians are dead and we arguably could have saved, say, half of them, if only by creating disincentives for large-scale organized combat and establishing an effective monopoly on heavy ordinance.

    It’s not the same as Iraq. We started Iraq. I mean, Syria was a horrible political loser, so I don’t blame BO. Who knows, maybe he saved Hilary Clinton’s presidency for her by staying out. But the correct comparison with Syria is a more expensive & horrible Bosnia. I don’t know how I feel about “no more Bosnias” as an organizing principle.

    • sonamib

      Why Bosnia? Were the Serbs supported by a regional power? Were they supported by a superpower?

      • EliHawk

        Well, they were also backed by Russia, who flipped their shit at the Kosovo intervention (which was why it was NATO-backed and not UNSC-Russia vetoed). And they mucked around in it as part of the endgame (US and Russian troops had some unfriendly encounters at an airbase, I think). But Russia was too weak in the Yeltsin-era to effectively block unified Western intervention.

        • sonamib

          But Russia was too weak in the Yeltsin-era to effectively block unified Western intervention.

          I think this part is pretty important. I mean, NATO could get away with expanding into the freakin’ baltic states at that time.

    • The thing is, Russia and Iran would have seen us and raised on any action we took. They have important national interests at stake, and we don’t, so they would certainly be willing to put more into the war than we ever would.

      • JG

        This is really the key thing. For Russia and Iran this is the center of their foreign policy, for the US it is just one front of many and one that is not particularly important to us. The most important thing for the US is getting rid of ISIS and Russia knows this.

    • FlipYrWhig

      This dovetails with what I said above. “Responsibility to protect” emerged from a period when nonintervention left a whole lot of people dead: the Yugoslavian conflicts, Rwanda, etc. Reducing almost all intervention to an international dick-measuring contest called “prestige” makes a joke of something bleak and tragic. Of course you don’t do stupid shit. Is all intervention prima facie (prima faeces?) stupid shit? There’s the rub.

      • JG

        This is something the far Left doesn’t really get: you can’t have a foreign policy that is simultaneously moral, pacifist, and non-interventionist. I think there are many leftists who pretend that all violence stems from US intervention.

    • SIS1

      Bosnia is not a valid example, as it was a fight over just one portion of an already broken down country (Yugoslavia) which was contested between two groups that already had gotten their own piece of the actions (The Serbs keeping Serbia, the Croats getting Croatia) trying to get additional land on their own and fighting a third group (Bosniaks) trying to get their own piece. In Syria, everyone has been fighting for the whole with the exemption of the Kurds, who are trying to carve something out. Iraq, Syria’s mirror, remains a far more accurate model for what would happen.

      Also, NO one ever advocated seriously for any action that would have given the west the ability to establish any sort of monopoly on heavy weapons – the only means to do that would be a ground invasion, you know, like in Iraq.

  • shah8

    Okay, a bit more than a third through, but this is a terrible long form article.

    • Grumpy

      Why?

      • shah8

        In short. Goldberg isn’t genuinely interested in what Obama is saying. He’s mostly interested in how Obama feels about the things people are saying about him. There isn’t any sort of thoughtful examination of how the Obama Foreign Policy administration actually thinks about and pushes policy through. Just a bunch of vignettes about how someone did this or he did that. In parts of the essay, Obama is gently trying to catch Goldberg’s attention about what’s actually important, Goldberg just registers, and blathers on what he’s going to blather on about anyways.

        Goldberg is utterly facile and attention deficit-y. As a result we have next to nothing on the more meaningful foreign policy initiatives and relationships of almost eight years of Obama.

  • SIS1

    I love having a President that bothers to ask the hard questions about US military intervention, and who doesn’t bother to inflate the importance of “credibility” or “prestige”. Being a credible, prestige seeking idiot is not a plus.

    • JG

      “Prestige” is nice if you are playing Victoria 2 but it is not that useful in the real world.

  • Spiny

    But does anyone think Syria would be better off today if the U.S. bombed it to smithereens? When has that worked?

    I spent time in Syria, I know people who fled before and during the revolution, and people who stayed to try to help the revolution. There are many Syrian opinions about what the international community including the US should have done which are not reducible to “bomb the country to smithereens” or “stay out imperialist dogs”. Have you ever bothered to find out what those ideas were? Does it ever even matter in these discussions?

    Seems to me the hit to American prestige was starting a stupid war in Iraq that we weren’t even prepared enough for to understand the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Islam. Obama went down this road in Libya. It didn’t work. And unlike Hillary, he learned from it.

    It’s difficult for me to calmly express how much I hate that this has become the default attitude of “anti-war” Americans. So much is lumped together here that is not comparable, and so much is ignored, all so that we can re-litigate 2003 while hundreds of thousands die in Syria at the hands of their own government and people who style themselves anti-war can scream at those who still hold out hope of doing something about it. This isn’t anti-war thinking. It’s a myopic obsession with fighting the last rhetorical war.

    Obama is the best president I’ve seen and am likely to see. I don’t believe he could have prevented the Syria catastrophe, and I don’t believe he caused the Libya catastrophe. But because he is a genuinely good and intelligent man, unfortunately I think he will wonder for the rest of his life whether – instead of just avoiding adding to the body count in Syria – he could have done more to reduce it.

    • SIS1

      Have you polled the Syrians who didn’t want a revolution, or who have stayed loyal to Assad? or should we consider them non-Syrians for the purposes of discussions?

      Because what you leave out is that that government you say is killing Syrians (which is correct) is made up of Syrians as well. Hence the term civil war.

      • Spiny

        Of course they’re Syrians. The fact that this is an (extremely one-sided) civil war in no way means international actions cannot have beneficial results.

        • SIS1

          Sorry, but this was not an “extremely one sided” civil war at all. If that were the case, why would, according to the estimates out there, the casualties for fighting men on the side of the Government fall between 93,000 and 141,000? And if it were “one sided”, the Russians wouldn’t have, at the urging of the Iranians, gotten involved to prevent a collapse of the Assad forces.

          One sided civil wars don’t last 5 years.

          The Syrians who oppose Assad have failed for over 5 years to come into ANY sort of agreement about what kind of government should replace him. There is no clear possible successor, there are no clear political alternatives, and the most powerful of the militias arrayed against Assad even on the ‘moderate rebel’ side have always been Islamists whose idea of a post-Assad Syria most certainly don’t match the kind of regime the West would be interested in having set up.

          • Sorry, but this was not an “extremely one sided” civil war at all. If that were the case, why would, according to the estimates out there, the casualties for fighting men on the side of the Government fall between 93,000 and 141,000?

            Because the large majority of the casualties have been civilians, not “fighting men,” and the death tolls there run about 9:1 killed by the government.

            • SIS1

              “Because the large majority of the casualties have been civilian”

              Nope.

              The best link I can provide is unfortunately for wikipedia, but estimates of the number of people actually killed vary greatly. And only in one of them do Syrian civilians make up the majority. in most of the other ones, men of fighting age are the bulk of documented deaths.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Syrian_Civil_War

              And yes, the government has been the biggest killer of civilians, given their policies of trying to terrorize people out of rebel held areas, but that of course doesn’t change anything with regards to the war being “one sided”.

              • I see what you’re saying about “one-sided” – you’re taking it as a statement about the military balance of power.

                But please note, “men of fighting age” is not the same as “fighting men.” Rounding up and killing “men of military age” who are civilians is still killing civilians.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Rounding up and killing “men of military age” who are civilians is still killing civilians.

                  And, indeed, rounding up and killing “men of military age” who are soldiers sounds very much like a war crime to me. Am I mistaken?

                • SIS1

                  And civilian does not just mean women and children. The government leads in killing civilians due to its superiority in access to heavy weapons, but the scenario you speak about, “rounding up men”, can be done by anyone with a gun and control of territory, and thus there was plenty of stories about pro-government men being rounded up and killed by rebels or ISIS.

                  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has its detractors, but its as good a source as we have, and when they label someone as a fighter, I trust they know the difference, and their numbers show that civilians do not make up the majority of the dead – the the majority of those who have died in this war are individuals who would be labelled combatants.

                  None of that excuses the decisions of the Assad regime to actively target civilians in rebel held areas to force them to flee (their means of depopulating rebel areas to ‘drain the swamp’) but at the same time, it does show that the narrative some try to create about this war is incorrect. This is truly a Civil war, with plenty of Syrians on BOTH sides.

                • Donald

                  Sis1 is right about this. There is an enormous rhetorical gap between how most Americans talk about Syria and the breakdown of the casualty figures that the Syrian Observatory puts out– I first noticed this a couple years back. Amerivcans in both parties would talk of Assad killing 100,000 of his own people back when the death toll was in that range and then you’d look at the numbers and a minority were civilian and the largest single category of deaths were pro Assad fighters. Which was weird in itself — I wondered if some of those ” fighters” were actually military age men killed by the rebels. It doesn’t make sense that the side with the heavy weapons was losing more men, unless the opposition fighters were extremely good or some of those claimed military dead were civilians murdered by the rebels. And as I recall there was a hint of this in the categories– that is, a hint that people were killed for being supporters of the regime.

                  My point is that both sides are awful, but the talk in the US simply didn’t match up with what figures we had. I was paying attention to this in 2014– it might have changed since, but I doubt it.

    • sonamib

      Yeah, let’s just ignore that Assad is being propped up by Iran and Russia. I’m sure the US intervening would just have been fine and dandy for them. They wouldn’t feel the need to escalate, I’m sure.

      Also, a US ground invasion of Syria was never on the table. It’s pointless to argue about it, the American people were not even close to accepting that. The only realistic intervention is a bombing campaign, and since the London blitz, we know how well those work.

      Edit : And let’s also ignore that he got rid of the chemical weapons. How on Earth is that not reducing the body count in Syria?

      • EliHawk

        And let’s also ignore that he got rid of the chemical weapons. How on Earth is that not reducing the body count in Syria?

        Because the thing that was, and still are, killing countless Syrians are barrel bombs and the like? Chemical weapons are bad. They had a minuscule impact on Assad’s ability to massacre.

        • sonamib

          A minuscule impact is still better than the alternative. Because the alternative was a bombing campaign. Which never achieve much besides adding to the bodycount.

        • Calling homemade chlorine gas and state-stockpiled sarin by the term “chemical weapons” is roughly as meaningful as calling chlorine gas and nuclear weapons “WMDs.”

          And chemical weapons had a “minimal impact on Assad’s ability to massacre” because the international laws and norms about chemical weapons – which some of us have taken seriously regardless of what was going on in Syria – restrained him from making full use of that ability.

      • Spiny

        Trust me, I don’t ignore that Assad is propped up by Russia and Iran. I have never advocated for a US ground invasion of Syria, no Syrians I know have either, and the officials being castigated in this post also didn’t argue for invasion. There are other actions – including non-military actions – that have been put forward. I don’t pretend any of it would be simple or would not cause reactions from Assad et al, but I argue it’s immoral not to consider whether we can act to help the dying, and what we might be willing to risk to do it.

        And let’s also ignore that he got rid of the chemical weapons. How on Earth is that not reducing the body count in Syria?

        It did reduce it. It was a credible threat that had a tangible outcome, which should make people who exclaim that the US can do nothing good for Syrians think twice. And Obama still had to fight with people screaming at him for “starting” a war.

        I’m not saying he has done nothing, I’m saying he will wonder whether he could have done more.

        • sonamib

          Ok, it appears I misunderstood you. But what other options did you have in mind?

          • Spiny

            I roughly align with The Syria Campaign. One of their priorities right now is to rally support for breaking the regime sieges of civilian areas. They outline that campaign here: http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2016/01/9274/breaking-siege-qa-syria-campaign/

            The international community – with US backing – should be acting on UN resolutions more forcefully to get aid and support to civilians in towns besieged by the regime, and establish safe zones for them.

            • sonamib

              Sounds reasonable. I’ll check it out when I have more time.

              • Spiny

                Thanks, I really appreciate that.

    • EliHawk

      It’s difficult for me to calmly express how much I hate that this has become the default attitude of “anti-war” Americans. So much is lumped together here that is not comparable, and so much is ignored, all so that we can re-litigate 2003 while hundreds of thousands die in Syria at the hands of their own government and people who style themselves anti-war can scream at those who still hold out hope of doing something about it. This isn’t anti-war thinking. It’s a myopic obsession with fighting the last rhetorical war.

      This, all of this, so much.

  • njorl

    The transformational issue for Obama was bombing Syria, where he declared a “red line” and then didn’t bomb when Assad crossed it.

    I get annoyed when people get angry about Obama doing “nothing” about that. He got Syria to give up their chemical weapons after that. That seems far better to me than bombing them and killing more of their civilians as a punishment for them killing their civilians with chemical weapons.

  • It’s normal to see a range of opinions on a president’s foreign policy team, but Goldberg’s article supports something I’ve been thinking for a while: that Obama is the most dovish person among the foreign policy principals, with everyone else some distance or other to his right. That’s pretty remarkable.

    • Cheerful

      Shades of Cuban Missile Crisis JFK

  • CP

    Now, I certainly have my criticism of Obama’s foreign policy, especially around trade. But when was the last president with a better foreign policy? Grover Cleveland, who for all his faults was at least anti-imperialist? FDR I suppose is the better answer. But it’s been a long, long time.

    FDR/Truman is a strong contender for best foreign policy in our history, IMHO. Roosevelt spent the 1930s with the Good Neighbor Policy in Latin America, which was at least an improvement over much of the previous few decades, and doing the best in Europe that a right wing isolationist Congress would allow. He did a good job in World War Two, I think pretty much everyone agrees. And then, Truman actually followed up on that with what’s probably the best post-war reconstruction job we’ve ever done – Marshall Plan, North Atlantic Treaty, and containment doctrine. There are still things to take issue with in both cases, but IMHO the amount of good they did, especially that last bit (postwar Japan and Western Europe) is something the likes of which we’ve never seen since. Or, probably, before.

    • tsam

      Well, Korea. Don’t see how the rest of that peninsula was worth what we spent to have a stalemate that’s still going on now.

      • You don’t see how preventing the conquest of South Korea was worth the current non-fighting deployments?

        I think deterring the North from starting another war of conquest is the best use of American power since World War II.

        • tsam

          I was thinking of the 33,000+ that died in the conflict.

          • The Temporary Name

            I think at the time I would have been against. However North Korea is a penal colony/slaughterhouse. The use of keeping NK forces out of the south seems obvious, and the lives saved in the millions.

            • CP

              Obviously yes, retroactively.

              I can’t say that I would’ve said the same thing at the time, though. Comparing Syngman Rhee and Kim Il Sung after just a few years in office, it seemed like a pretty six-of-one or half-dozen-of-the-other situation, two asshole third world dictators. There was no way to know at the time that South Korea would eventually take on a path of prodigious development and democratization while North Korea sank deeper and deeper into the world’s worst Orwellian system. (If you look at the other big Land War In Asia we got involved in, the one the North won completely – it’s true that Vietnam nowadays doesn’t look like South Korea, but it also looks nothing like North Korea).

              Easy to say now, looking back, that it was all worth it because of how horrifically the North turned out versus how well the South turned out, but that’s us Monday morning quarterbacking. I don’t know that, had I been in Truman’s shoes, I would’ve been willing to tell people that yes, this is totally worth the 33,000 lives we’ve invested in it, because it may not look like it now but someday

              • tsam

                Yeah–all good points. I was just looking at it from a geographical/strategic position. There’s already basically another Cold War between China and the US, and I’m not sure I would have wanted to start another world war, which was a possibility then.

      • heckblazer

        Things might have gone better if that asshole MacArthur didn’t disobey orders and provoke China by pushing all the way to the Yalu.

      • CP

        That’s why I noted “there are still things to take issue with,” potentially. Korea was the biggest one on my mind. The other two were the nuclear bombings, and the support for the creation of Israel. Again, things that can be argued about, but I can see why people would hold them against him.

        • tsam

          Yeah. It’s pretty easy to have these arguments all these years later, and not know what an alternate history would look like, makes all a bit silly.

        • JG

          You take issue with the creation of Israel? Or do you mean the ethnic cleansing?

          I think Truman handled it as well as he could by accepting the ’48 war as a fait accompli.

  • postpartisandepression

    I feel like I am in an alternate universe reading this and most of the comments. It is as though in your universe Syria is a huge success story along with Egypt and the Ukraine.

    Hey as far as I am concerned sitting around and doing nothing is the same as bombing the crap out of someone. It is like in the school yard where all the other kids stand around and watch the bully beat up on some poor kid and then say well if I had helped more people would be fighting and this way it is only one person getting hurt.

    Obama has been a complete failure precisely because he just stands there and watches the bully. I am right up there with the other women in his administration who said we can’t just stand by and watch this. Yeah Libya is still a mess but Qaddafi is gone and any argument that we should have stood back and basically let him stay in power is just as bad as trying to help.

    Iraq was a disaster of monumental proportion but that is because we initiated it and for no good reason. Helping a population that is trying to rise up against tyrrnny is something worthwhile even if it does not go the way we want it to. At least we are trying.

    I can’t believe you people. I suppose Bill Clinton shouldn’t have helped in Yugoslavia either. So no I will be happy to have a president that stands up to bullies without initiating conflicts of her own. Doing nothing is the same as bombing the crap out of people. I guess it makes you fell better that you can just pretend that you didn’t really do anything wrong.

    • SIS1

      The lesson that Obama understands and you obviously don’t is that comparing the complexities of international affairs to a playground is idiotic and basing one’s actions on such comparisons is acting stupid.

      You can argue that allowing Qaddafi to have stayed in power would have been worse, yes, and that is the point! That it is not obvious that letting him stay in power would or should be considered a demonstrably worst outcome, or that perhaps a different type of intervention might have been better.

      • postpartisandepression

        The point is doing nothing is the same as doing something. The only difference is who dies- the good guys or the bad guys. Maybe that is simple enough for you.

        It is absolutely true that you may end up making things worse or helping the “bad” guys inadvertently but doing nothing has the same result.

        It is just a lot easier to do nothing rather than do something and that is why Obama and people like you choose to do nothing and then pretend that action had no consequences that can be blamed on you.

        And we have a real world example- doing nothing in Syria has given us 5 years of war , lots of dead civilians and a refugee crisis that we are also doing nothing about. Non actions have consequences.

        • Rob in CT

          the good guys or the bad guys

          Oh for fuck’s sake. Good guys and bad guys? Simple is as simple does, I guess.

        • It is just a lot easier to do nothing rather than do something and that is why Obama and people like you choose to do nothing and then pretend that action had no consequences that can be blamed on you.

          Obama often does something. He also sometimes does nothing.

          Expressing a preference for one over the other in the absence of specific facts demonstrates one to be concerned only about that preference, with outcomes being brought in merely for their utility as arguments for that position.

          • tsam

            He. Doesn’t. Even. Try.

            WERST PRESIDENT EVER

    • wengler

      I liked the part where Obama didn’t start WW3 over the sovereignty of the far eastern part of Ukraine(part of the US’s core territorial security).

    • I am right up there with the other women in his administration

      Calling Poe.

      Iraq was a disaster of monumental proportion but that is because we initiated it and for no good reason. Helping a population that is trying to rise up against tyrrnny is something worthwhile even if it does not go the way we want it to

      Yes, definitely calling Poe.

    • MDrew

      Clarifying.

  • PJ

    Well, maybe the practical question is: is there anyone else who’s going to replicate this? Certainly not Clinton, but Sanders’ lack of independent foreign policy ideas will not insulate him from all of the DC lifers who are bound to come into his orbit if he reaches the GE. Certainly some aspects of the drone policy are the symptoms of conventional wisdom still rearing its ugly head even within the “don’t do stupid shit” doctrine.

    • Rob in CT

      Re: Sanders, we’d just have to hope he has the sort of backbone Obama has shown: to trust himself more than the advisors who will most likely be all pushing for interventions.

      That said, I would like to see Bernie take this issue on more seriously. One thing he could do is point out the fact that the USA can do things in response to conflicts that do not involve the use of force.

      Though I’m not sure how it would play politically, as one of the big things you can do is take in refugees…

      We really, really need our FP people to get more comfortable with using “soft” power, even though it has major limitations too.

      It’s good to understand the limitations of hard power. But, as others point out, there are moral issues with simply looking away when something horrible is going on*.

      So, what to do? I think lefties who want less US military interventions should really think about and advocate for alternative approaches – not just “do nothing.” For both moral and practical reasons.

      *I have a higher tolerance for this than many others here at LGM. Somewhat oddly for a liberal I guess, my non-interventionist stance is more paleocon in nature than liberal/pacifist.

      • Sanders strikes me as having the character traits to do this – the “backbone,” the willingness to push back against experts, the stubborn self-confidence – like Obama, but not as much of the master of the subject matter.

    • postpartisandepression

      Wow again in what universe do you live that you would like someone to continue this policy so we get more Syrias and Iraqs?

      • so-in-so

        One in which we don’t hand out aspirin to people who are bleeding for the sake of “doing something”?

        Making things worse for everyone is not usually a “good” choice.

      • Rob in CT

        More Syrias and Iraqs? The clusterfuck that is Iraq is largely (though certainly not entirely!) on us, for hauling off and stupidly invading that nation to topple its government and “transform the region” or somesuch neocon bullshit.

        Syria’s civil war was not something the USA could have prevented. Further, without Russia on board it’s not something we could have even substantially mitigated.

        You’re simplistic fool. Tell us again about good guys and bad guys.

        Also, will be joining up for these (admittedly hypothetical) operations, or are you in the 101st Chairborne?

        • Also, will be joining up for these (admittedly hypothetical) operations, or are you in the 101st Chairborne?

          I think Glenn Greenwald, of all people, had the best take on the “chickenhawk” argument: it’s only really appropriate in the case of someone who argues for war, and against the anti-war position, using charges of greater courage or other personal virtues that would be demonstrated by joining the military. Otherwise, you might as well ask someone advocating for health care reform when they’re going to become a nurse.

          • Rob in CT

            Don’t fully agree. Don’t fully disagree either.

            Hey as far as I am concerned sitting around and doing nothing is the same as bombing the crap out of someone. It is like in the school yard where all the other kids stand around and watch the bully beat up on some poor kid and then say well if I had helped more people would be fighting and this way it is only one person getting hurt.

            The charge here is that opposing getting involved in (any, every?) conflict around the world = moral complicity roughly equivalent to standing around watching a bully beat up his victim. That at the least implies cowardice.

            Of course, this isn’t a schoolyard so the whole thing is silly.

            • Couldn’t it just as easily be read as a charge of lack of compassion, or excessive self-interest, or a faulty strategic sense about the bully’s cost/benefit analysis?

              I don’t think “Can be read as a statement about courage” gets you there.

            • so-in-so

              For the school yard analogy to really work, the teacher wouldn’t just separate the fighting children and send one or both to the Principles office, but would begin kicking and punching the bully him/her self. Not exactly what we view as a “moral exemplar”.

              Given this is 21st century America, maybe the teacher is “packing” and opens fire on the fighting students.

      • tsam

        That’s some GR8 B8, M8. Quick suggestion for commenting on foreign policy–the derpy pundit class bullshit is almost certain to be wrong-headed, oversimplified garbage. It feels good, but it’s wrong. So you might consider not blaming Obama for Iraq because he didn’t kill the shit out of everyone, or blame him because Syria started their own civil war. But if you feel that heavy involvement in Syria would have made everything all happy and cool, feel free to make the argument.

  • Rob in CT
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