Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do Hawkish Presidents Make Other Countries Dovish?

The last 18 months have been tough on Mr. Obama. His foreign policy seems to be taking nothing but left hooks to the liver.

Many of the 2016 GOP candidates have launched their campaigns by telling everyone how unlike Obama they will be on foreign policy. "The President is weak!" so the narrative goes.

I hate to defend a politician, but back when megahawk Bush was in office, Russia still aggressed outside its borders - anyone remember the 2008 Georgia crisis? Bush tsked-tsked Putin, and then presidential candidate McCain threw out plenty of harsh rhetoric. And it wasn't all talk; W. Bush had spent eight years throwing soldiers and bombs at various "evildoers." None of those displays of aggression kept Putin in check.

If anything, the War in Iraq showcased the flaws of interventionism; it showed a weak U.S. If Reagan had gotten mired in prolonged conflicts as stupid at the Second Iraq Invasion, would he be remembered as having "won the Cold War?" Bush's adventurism showed a U.S. that once again couldn't win a war of containment (containing communism in Vietnam and containing terrorism in Iraq)...so what exactly was Putin supposed to fear?

Allegedly wimpy Obama attacked Libya (now a failed state) without authorization, another Rubicon moment in a long list of them. He also didn't hesitate to intervene in Pakistan and Yemen (now a failed state), This didn't keep Putin or anyone else from doing what most politicians do; intervene abroad to create a "strong leader" narrative at home. The fact that Putin flouted the world under both "War on Terror" Bush and "My Red Line Keeps Moving" Obama probably tells us something about assuming a tough-guy president will necessarily convince other world leaders to play nice.

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