Obama's Iran deal and a pattern of incompetence

Obama's limited experience and lack of serious interest in anything other than getting the US out of foreign wars was always going to create some serious shortcomings in US foreign policy

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Taylor Dibbert
On 25 November 2013 13:23

Many have been following the Obama administration’s implosion with little surprise. This president’s innate arrogance and propensity for making grandiose speeches that are seldom connected to realistic, actionable policies has always been a bit too much. Still, people throughout the world hoped for more from a man who exuded so much charisma.

The Obama administration will invariably try to turn the recent nuclear accord with Iran into a major publication relations victory, but the reality is more complex. Besides, even on discussions over the matter, it looks like the French (and the EU’s Catherine Ashton) are the ones actually running the show.

And it’s true that a “deal” has just been reached, but let’s keep the rhetoric realistic. This is an “interim agreement.” The next steps are going to be far more complicated and far more difficult. This is a “limited” deal in every sense of the word and leading US Senators, among others, have already come out and criticized the agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it’s a “historic mistake.”

It’s no surprise that Obama has been a disaster on the foreign policy front. Having almost no personal experience in foreign affairs prior to assuming the presidency, Obama essentially continued Bush’s strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan and showed he’s not been able to craft a winning agenda of his own.

It was inevitable, however, that his limited experience and lack of serious interest in anything other than getting the US out of foreign wars would  create some serious shortcomings in US foreign policy. The Middle East remains a ticking time bomb.

His grand “pivot” to Asia has not resulted in any major breakthroughs. And by completely ignoring Latin America, he has missed an opportunity to create greater stability and enhanced cooperation in the region. 

One could see these mistakes coming.

It’s no wonder there is so much talk about American “decline” these days. After all, the man occupying the Oval Office believes that American exceptionalism is an anachronism.

It’s true that the US needs to get comfortable with a more modest foreign policy, but it is still the greatest power in the world and the world needs its leadership. 

What’s not clear is if the president actually understands that. Or that he’s even willing to acknowledge Washington’s preeminent role (and responsibilities) in shaping events in the Middle East and elsewhere. From Syria to Afghanistan to Iraq, US foreign policy is more ineffectual than ever. Again, this is not that surprising.

Regrettably, Obama’s domestic policy is also in profound disarray. Seriously, it looks like the administration can’t get anything right at the moment. How much more time in government do they need to fix things? How much more time do they need to get things right?

Obama’s got to fix the debacle surrounding the healthcare rollout; that’s for sure. But he also needs to do much more to salvage his presidency. One always reads about how US presidents look to foreign policy for successes in their second term.

If Obama’s trying to create any kind of a legacy in the area of foreign policy, he needs to act quickly and decisively in a few key areas. And, as noted, it’s way too early to claim a short-term Iranian nuclear agreement as a foreign policy success story.

Unfortunately, given Obama’s ideological background and existing record, there’s little reason to be optimistic about the next three years. Even members of his own party have begun to desert him. And, even in Washington’s highly dysfunctional environment, results still matter. Perhaps people have finally begun to face reality.

Taylor Dibbert is an international consultant based in Washington, DC. He is the author of numerous articles, reports and the book Fiesta of Sunset: The Peace Corps, Guatemala and a Search for Truth

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