Leading From The Rear, Again
The unfolding tragedy in Egypt, following the continuing tragedy in Syria confirms for me the accuracy of the complaints from foreign policy people that the Obama foreign policy has been a grand case of "too little, too late." Vali Nasr's book (in the box on the left side of the main page) makes the case that Obama's first term foreign policy was not run from Foggy Bottom but rather directly from the White House, with too much influence from Obama's political team. In Nasr's view, and he was at State for the first two years of Obama's tenure, good foreign policy and the marriage of hard and soft power took a back seat to politics and image during the first term.
You can dismiss Nasr's critique if you think his view is colored too much by his closeness to the late Richard Holbrooke and his working in the State Department, but his point of view fits into a larger narrative where the Obama White House had a very limited and risk-averse approach to foreign policy, whereby Obama's political team ensured the primary focus was on getting out of Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, and being tough enough in Afghanistan. Add to that this White House's lack of appetite for tackling anything difficult that could risk Obama's approval ratings, and couple that with the failure of the CIA to see the emerging trouble, and opportunities from the Arab Spring, and what you have are Syria and now Egypt.
Initially, I dismissed criticism from John McCain and others about Obama "leading from the rear" as the whining of political losers who didn't want to ever accept Obama's legitimacy as a commander-in-chief. But upon further review, and as we get farther into a two-term Obama presidency, I am forced to accept that the actual and potential foreign policy failures bequeathed by this president to his successor are not only daunting but were also preventable had this president let great professionals run foreign policy and yes, national security rather than his political advisors and underachievers.