Notwithstanding his pretensions to have inaugurated a new era in America’s foreign affairs, President Barack Obama’s conduct of foreign policy represents an unwitting continuation of, and also brings an unintended close to, an era that encompasses the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, notes Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
That surprising claim is central to Michael Mandelbaum’s superb new book, “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era,” he writes for RealClearWorld:
Mandelbaum contends, however, that the failure to bring democracy to Iraq does not distinguish the Bush administration from the preceding post-Cold War administration or the one that followed. Like Bush, Mandelbaum shows, Clinton and Obama pursued foreign policies that elevated the advancement of American values over the pursuit of vital national security interests. In their efforts to transform regimes, Mandelbaum concludes, all three presidents failed….The U.S. inclination to use “the formidable power with which it emerged from the conflict with the Soviet Union” to liberalize and democratize regimes was, according to Mandelbaum, “distinctive and unprecedented.”
Mandelbaum deftly recounts the numerous missions across three presidencies in which America has sought to transform other countries’ internal politics, he adds:
The Clinton administration sought to foster human rights in China, democracy in Russia, and regime change in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. It failed in every case.
The Bush administration endeavored to build free and democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq in the hope of transforming the greater Middle East. It failed.
Like the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Obama administration strove to bring peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians. And it failed.
“If Mandelbaum is correct that the rise of Chinese adventurism and Russian irredentism reaffirms the primacy of power politics even as America retains an interest in prudently employing the nation’s highly limited tools to back the forces of freedom around the world, then the United States can ill afford a foreign policy nourished by fantasy,” Berkowitz concludes. RTWT