It takes a few to make a patten.
By our reckoning, Barack Obama is the fifth liberal progressive president, and like the other four, he has no coherent foreign policy outside of brute force. Here is our thinking:
Woodrow Wilson made substantial domestic changesmost of which were quite bad. But his foreign policy? He avoided foreign policy, and only got involved in Europe when it was clear America would be on the winning side. In fact, Wilson was more interested in imposing operational rules on Europe than he was in the war itself. After all, Progressive reforms could easily work on those feudal Europeans, right?
Franklin Roosevelt spent the first several years playing up Americas neutrality and non-interventionist policy until he discovered that Americans were losing interest in his domestic transformations. So he mongered up a demand for military build-upbut domestically, not overseas. Not until Pearl Harbor did he begin to unleash Americas military on the world. Heck, he wasnt even sure what countries he would attack until Japan and Germany volunteered. He was just as prepared to go to war with Spain.
Lyndon Johnson had unimaginative foreign policy: hold back the Soviets wherever possible, and maintain Kennedys entanglements. But outside of that, what? He made no overt efforts to engage the Soviets or Chinese in diplomacy, developed few meaningful treaties, and hardly promoted American interests overseas.
Jimmy Carter was much the same: hold back the Soviets here and there, and let things happen. He let the thawing relations with the Chinese re-freeze, even though China was looking to develop business relationships much further. Iran fell under his watch, and with it Afghanistan. His greatest foreign policy achievements, so to speak, were watching Egypt break its deals with Israel, and cancel American involvement in the 1980 Olympics. Weak, at best.
Barack Obama has no foreign policy. His engagement with other countries is the weakest of all: show up, make a speech about what a great guy he is and how things are going to change, and vanish…leaving everything on its own to fall apart. Strong relationships decayed, and weak relationships collapsed. His attitude toward the Arab Spring is the most revealing.
Half-awake readers will notice three Democrats left out of the above. Harry Truman was not a liberal progressive, even though he felt their pressure almost constantly. He was very much a liberal moderate interventionist, and saw the end of World War II as an opportunity to offset totalitarianss gains. While he fundamentally misunderstood Communism (as did most Americans of the day), he believed in a strong foreign policy.
John Kennedy was much of the same mold as Truman, likely because of their respective military experiences. Kennedy wanted America winning not just the political battles, but the PR battles. Much of Kennedys legacy has been re-written by the Progressives: Kennedy went from being an arrogant, impetuous, low-tax, pro-business interventionist towhen his hagiographies were tragically written so soonto a glorious beacon of Progressive hope who sure would have blessed Johnsons high-tax, high-welfare mired foreign policy.
Bill Clinton, of course, remains very much a squish. He was clearly a liberal, but exactly how moderate or how Progressive he was depended very much on polling. He came in strong as a Progressive, offering healthcare reforms and increased regulations; when polls came back showing terrible disapproval ratings, he suddenly centered himself and became more pro-growth in business. Healthcare reform was blamed on his crazy wife, and some vast right-wing conspiracy that failed to show. But Clintons foreign policy was very interventionist: direct talks with Boris Yeltsin, more meddling in the Middle East, and deploying the United States military all over the place. But Clinton had a foreign policy, even if much of it was a mess.
But what the Progressives have in commonto the point of a clear patternis a paper-thin foreign policy that ranges from none whatsoever (Obama) to the Whole World Needs To Adopt Progressive Programs (Wilson). Surprisingly, this stems from the same psychology.
Progressives care nothing about foreign policy, unless it is in their Progressive interest. Progressives see everyone as in need of governmental control, and the biggest enemies to Progressives are not tyrants, Islamists, Communists, maniacs, or terroristsbut domestic folks who enjoy liberty. The first priority is establishing control over libertarian-minded folks and classical liberals here at home; the rest of the world (as far as they know) will quickly follow suit.
When opportunities present themselves, yes: liberal Progressives will jump in. Wilson after World War I was so convinced of his moral superiority that he saw himself as the spiritual leader of Europeyes, he made comments to that effect on multiple occasions.
When Obama saw totalitarian governments in North Africa and the Middle East crumble in the Arab Spring, he saw that as another win for Progressivism. Indeed, he inevitably concluded that his election in 2008 and visit in 2009 was the catalyst for positive regime change in the Arab world. As a result, he did little to nothing to steer it: he was convinced that everything would be for the Progressive best, just as Wilson believed. The Greater Good would need no push or steering: it would just embrace him.
In short, a liberal Progressive foreign policy will always be weaker because the Progressive president sees little point to having one, not when there are so many domestic problems to correct. When foreign policy becomes convenient, as it did for Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama (and half of Clintons presidency), then the result always involves dumping the military in and walking away from the end result. To Progressives, the military is nothing more than a trash clean-up effort that is substantially over-regarded and over-compensated. Think the use of drones today is because Obama likes a strong foreign policy backed by a strong military? Or is more convenient to peg problems with drones and forget about them?
But the militarywhat a great model for society, they believe. From Wilsons creation of loyalty militias, to Roosevelts drafting of the unemployed so they could serve in paramilitary workforces, to Johnsons War on Poverty, to Carters paramilitarization of Health, Education, and Welfare, to Obama administration officials stating that the military is a good model for social organization. Everyone should be in the military, except the military…who is little more than rubbish collection.
In this respect, President Obama fulfills the pattern for liberal Progressive presidencies. So much so that if this country is ever so-deceived to elect another Progressive, we can count on degraded relations with all countries peppered with scattershot military interventions.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.