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Forget Strategic, What About Rational?

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So, I run across this piece about Obama’s foreign policy strategy, or lack thereof:

What comes through clearly from this and other articles, as well as memoirs from Administration insiders and foreign counterparts, is how much of what passes for “big picture” thinking in the White House is purely reactionary–not to events in the world but to what are perceived as the sins and errors of past American policy.

The author, Steven Postrel, in the preceding paragraph makes a compelling case for how there is not single strategy or guiding principle for how this administration does things:

This dog’s breakfast of random objectives, even if achieved, would do little or nothing to make the U.S. stronger or safer or to advance American ideals. It is not attached to a serious diagnosis of threats and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, or adversary and allied incentives. None of the four objectives materially reinforces another, nor do they work together to accomplish a coherent foreign-policy goal. While I could put on a debater’s hat and cobble together a diagnosis and guiding policy to which these objectives could be attached to form Rumelt’s kernel, that is not a debating position I’d expect to be able to defend effectively. Good luck, for example, trying to reconcile the elevation of climate-change objectives–which can only be accomplished by preventing emerging economies from developing along the same lines as the OECD nations–with a devotion to free-trade principles. A best-case scenario deal with Iran would inhibit that country’s use of nuclear power, a precedent that would also hinder the climate-change objective. Recognizing Cuba without preconditions sends a signal to the Iranian government that they can get what they want with minimal concessions, making a deal harder to close and ratify. And those are just the internal contradictions. The lack of contact, for the most part, between these initiatives and the actual pressing problems facing the United States is glaring.

“Immature” is the best way I can think to describe this approach – maybe even “childish.”  But it is not limited to foreign policy, nor is it strictly limited to the executive branch.

Also this morning I ran across an article about an effort to develop a copper mine in Arizona.  Big battle because, dig this, the land is sacred (you know religiously significant) to a Native American tribe.  So, a week after SCOTUS tramples the religious concerns of a vast majority of Americans, the religious concerns of few hundred, maybe thousand people are being used to hold up a project worth billions of dollars.  The incongruity is stunning.

One begins to suspect that principles like religious freedom and expression are not the guides here, but whoever throws the biggest, loudest fit.  Again, “childish.”

The key question is how can those of us that still hold to principles and truths, even sacrificially so, continue to do so without joining the chorus of tantrums – especially when our principles tell us that throwing tantrums is not the way to go?


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