Sakset/Fra hofta

Barack Obama er kommet under press. Om det er hans egen feil eller skyldes omstendighetene strides de lærde.

Han ble intervjuet av Jeffrey Goldberg, og sa noe interessant om hvorfor han ikke gikk inn i Syria:

Mr. Obama insists he is sending the right signals: He argued to Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg View recently that there are “35,000 U.S. military personnel” in the Middle East who are constantly training “under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past.”

But the president also made the case that Washington is awash with muscle-flexing by those who have not learned the lessons of the past decade. If he had sent troops to Syria, Mr. Obama argued, “there was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

Obama ønsker ikke å intervenere i et land fordi det er muslimsk. Det sier en del om hans forestillingsverden. Hva hvis en slik intervensjon var for å hjelpe sivilbefolkningen? I Obamas øyne veier det tyngre at USA ville bli innblandet i nok et muslimsk land. Er ikke dette en holdning som vitner om en viss isolasjonisme, i en mer opprinnelig betydning av ordet? Obama vil ikke bli innblandet. Men tar verden slike hensyn?

David E. Sanger har skrevet en lesverdig bok om Obamas utenrikspolitikk. Han har gode kontakter innad i administrasjonen. De tør å lufte kritikk, forutsatt at de får være anonyme.

The White House was taken by surprise by Vladimir V. Putin’s decisions to invade Crimea, but also by China’s increasingly assertive declaration of exclusive rights to airspace and barren islands. Neither the economic pressure nor the cyberattacks that forced Iran to reconsider its approach have prevented North Korea’s stealthy revitalization of its nuclear and missile programs.

In short, America’s adversaries are testing the limits of America’s post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan moment.

“We’re seeing the ‘light footprint’ run out of gas,” said one of Mr. Obama’s former senior national security aides, who would not speak on the record about his ex-boss.

“No one is arguing for military action, for bringing back George Bush’s chest-thumping,” the former aide said. At the same time, he said, the president’s oft-repeated lines that those who violate international norms will be “isolated” and “pay a heavy price” over the long term have sounded “more like predictions over time, and less like imminent threats.”

Midtøsten er på vei inn i nye konstellasjoner, jfr. konflikten mellom Qatar og Saudi-Arabia. Sekterismen sprer seg fra slagmarken til utenrikspolitikken.

Kina viser muskler. Har Obama en strategi for disse uventede hendelsene?

But the most stinging critique of Mr. Obama is that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of nonintervention. Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s secretary of state, argues that five years of signaling that others need to step in, of stressing that America can no longer police the world, have taken a toll.

“There was a view that if the United States pulled back and stopped ‘imposing’ and ‘insisting’ in the world, the vacuum would be filled by good things: the international community and the allies,” Ms. Rice said in a recent phone conversation from Stanford University, where she teaches. “But what has filled that space has been brutal dictators; extremist forces, especially in Iraq and Syria; and nationalism.”

Obama kutter militærbudsjettet og slanker de militære til det laveste nivå siden demobiliseringen i 1945. Samtidig øker Kina sitt budsjett med 12 prosent.

Men det i spillet om Syria og Iran at Obamas politikk er mest sårbar.

Still, some senior officials who left the White House after the first term concede — when assured of anonymity — that Mr. Obama erred in failing to have a plan to back up his declaration that President Bashar al-Assad had to leave office. And Arab leaders argue that Mr. Obama’s last-minute decision to pull back from the missile strike on Syria will embolden the Iranians as they decide how much, if any, of their nuclear program to give up.

Obama satset på «smart» militær strategi: droner, spesialstyrker og overvåking/cyberkrigføring. Men disse verktøyene kan ikke erstatte en strategisk forståelse.