Winston Churchill famously disliked puddings because they lacked a theme. President Barack Obama and his administration inherited a series of rancid foreign-policy puddings from George W. Bush, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, unfortunately, President Obama’s foreign policies, like Churchill’s puddings, lack a theme.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the most visible foreign-policy issues as the new president took office. But the international agenda has been dominated by other problems as well, including Iran and its nuclear ambitions coupled with Israeli responses; the so-called rise of China; Russia; the international financial crises; the Arab Spring; and the fight against Al Qaeda associates and terror. And the pernicious domestic political environment, in which the number-one aim of Senate Republicans was to make Obama a one-term president, would prove unhelpful in the extreme.
These foreign-policy issues remain difficult if not intractable. And, given his inexperience, the president could not reasonably be expected to be up to speed from day one. Yet, even given these realities, three major flaws in Obama’s foreign policy persist today and have handicapped his performance in the international realm.