Andrew Sullivan condemns Walter Russell Mead’s assault on Obama’s legacyHistorians in the News
If you’re looking for a majestically sweeping indictment of everything president Obama has achieved in foreign policy over the last six years, go read Walter Russell Mead’s screed. The rise of an ISIS-led Sunni insurgency in Iraq is, apparently, “a movement that dances on the graveyard of his hopes.” No one wants to take on the emperor with no clothes or “the full and ugly course of the six years of continual failure.” He’s not done yet: “Rarely has any American administration experienced so much ignominious failure, or had its ignorance and miscalculation so brutally exposed.” And on it goes. The Obamaites “have piled up such a disastrous record in the Middle East” that they couldn’t be trusted to “negotiate their way into a used car lot.” And the final denouement:
The President isn’t making America safer at home, he doesn’t have the jihadis on the run, he has no idea how to bring prosperity, democracy, or religious moderation to the Middle East, he can’t pivot away from the region, and he doesn’t know what to do next.
Inevitably, when one reads a piece like this, you expect the author to tell us what he would do next. If the results of specific Obama policies have been so disastrous, then surely he must be able to point to several mistakes, offer an alternative in hindsight, or, heaven forfend, provide a constructive proposal today. But you will, alas, find no such thing in the screed. The most you’ll get it this:
How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lost—and why? What role did the administration’s trademark dithering and hairsplitting over aid to ISIS’s rivals in the Syrian opposition play in the rise of the radicals?
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