Monday, August 2, 2010

Some Remarkably Obtuse Foreign Policy Analysis by Stephen Walt

Although I strongly disagree with Stephen Walt's hostility toward Israel, and his conspiracy theories regarding the so-called "Jewish Lobby," I usually at least respect his foreign policy analyses covering subjects not involving Israel. His latest article is called, "Obama is zero for four and Republicans are sitting pretty." Among other things, he points out four areas where Obama's foreign policy has failed. If Obama is 0 for 4, Walt's analysis is 1 for 4 at best. Let's look at issue number 1, Iraq.

it's now clear that the much-vaunted "surge" was a strategic failure, and Iraq could easily spin back out of control once U.S. forces are gone.
No, that isn't clear at all. It is instead a poorly supported opinion. Obviously things could spin out of control at some point; there's no way to secure the situation for all time. That's an impossible standard for success. But the actual success of the surge is the only reason we are even able to consider withdrawing from Iraq on decent terms. Unless you think a permanent, major-force U.S. presence and war effort in Iraq is a good idea -- which Walt does not-- calling the surge a strategic failure is flat-out idiotic. And there's more nonsense about Iraq.
Even in the best case, Iraq can only be judged a defeat for the United States
Another ridiculous assertion. It is obviously far too early to render a final judgment on the long-term consequences of the Iraq War. Neither Walt or anyone else has any idea what Iraq will be like twenty-years from now, or the future state of its relations with the U.S. Walt's blithe assertions reflect an inability to look past present conditions, or consider any possibilities aside from his preconceived assumptions, which he apparently mistakes for facts.

Walt's second point concerns Iran. Here Walt laughably argues that the Obama administration has been too harsh in its demands of Iran. Seriously.

the U.S. position on Iran remains: "first you give us everything we want -- namely, a complete end to nuclear enrichment -- and then we'll be happy to talk about some of the things that you want."
In Walt's world, the U.S. needs to offer up some preliminary concessions to a rogue regime like Iran. Remember, this guy is actually a leading realist. Unfortunately, being a realist school foreign policy proponent apparently has little to do with facing reality.

Naturally the third point is Israel/Palestine, where Walt thinks Obama caved in to the evil Jewish lobby. There's a big surprise. What Obama actually did was to apparently recognize that his one-sided pressure on Israel merely encouraged Palestinian intransigence. He belatedly backed off after risking major damage to U.S. relations with Israel. Obama screwed up badly in the Middle East, but for pretty much exactly the opposite reasons that Walt believes.

And finally there is Afghanistan, where Walt joins the majority narrative that the war is going badly, it's a no-win situation, and Obama's escalation makes it a political albatross. That's his one piece of reasonable analysis, but it didn't exactly require much insight. Overall this was one of Walt's weakest pieces (aside from those directly focused on Israel).

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