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The Hudson Institute's Herbert London isn't happy with the Obama administration's approach to foreign policy:

But there is an underlying philosophical view that has become alarmingly apparent: preemptive declinism, a belief that the United States is not an exceptional nation and is not entitled by virtue of history to play a role on the world stage different from other nations. As Obama sees it, American is merely one of many.

That America is the balance wheel in an unstable world, creating equilibrium out of chaos, is an anachronistic position for this administration. It would seem that it is more desirable to envision a political vacuum or other world powers emerging than assert American influence.

Therefore the Obama administration acts as if it had less leverage in international affairs than it actually has. It appears timorous and fearful sending a signal, willy nilly, that the United States cannot be depended on.

I don't really agree with most of this but I do agree with the final sentence - and that is the perception of American reliability. One of the problems with America's promiscuous use of security guarantees and promises of support is that those on the receiving end of those promises are going to take you at your word. This was the unfortunate fate of Georgia in August 2008 when, after hearing the Bush administration loudly insist that they should be in NATO and are a vital interest of Washington, we did nothing when Russia invaded.

At that moment, Russia effectively called Washington on its rhetoric. But now we're in a position where we've already put our prestige on the line. We'll either have to back down and prove, as London says, an unreliable ally. Or we'll have to continue with the absurd fiction that the security of Georgia is so vital to the United States that it's worth alienating Russia over.

And I think the mixed messages coming from the Obama administration - with Biden poking Russia in the eye and Obama taking a more conciliatory tone - are reflective of the fact that it's not sure how to handle this situation.


Photo credit: AP Photos

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