And even though the foreign policy section of the SOTU might have been set to Engelbert Humperdink’s country classic “Make the World Go Away,” on balance Obama’s record — no spectacular successes (save killing Osama bin Laden) and no spectacular failures — has been pretty much on target. No attacks on the continental United States, al Qaeda central dismantled, a better image in parts of the cruel and unfriendly world? I’ll take it.
Despite his rhetorical aspirations, Obama wasn’t going to be a transformative figure in foreign policy as much as a transitional one. The world’s just too complex for grand bargains. And that transition was designed to move the country from a hyperactive foreign policy driven by ideology to an approach grounded more in the way the world actually is, including the reality of America’s own financial and economic travails. It was a downsized foreign policy in an age of austerity, fatigue, and impatience with grand plans for saving the world.
Has Obama’s foreign policy been perfect? Clearly not. With that said, America is safer now than it was under Bush and has a better image around the world.
The United States simply can’t be an global police force – the world doesn’t want us to be and we couldn’t afford it if they did.