Cole in Salon: "Obama’s Foreign Policy Report Card"

My Salon column , “Obama’s foreign policy report card,” is available online.


‘ When Obama came into office in January, 142,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq, conducting regular patrols of the major cities. His Republican rivals were dead set against U.S. withdrawal on a strict timetable. He faced something close to an insurrection from some of his commanders in the field, such as Gen. Ray Odierno, who opposed a quick departure from Iraq. Moreover, Obama assumed the presidency at a time when Iran and the U.S. were virtually on a war footing and there had been no direct talks between the two countries on most of the major issues dividing them. In February, the government of Pakistan virtually ceded the Swat Valley and the Malakand Division to the Pakistani Taliban of Maulvi Fazlullah, allowing the imposition of the latter’s fundamentalist version of Islamic law on residents, and Islamabad had no stomach for taking on the increasingly bold extremists.

Eight months later, it is a different world. ‘

Read the whole thing.

Also, if you haven’t checked in on in the past week, you’ll find three closely argued new articles there on the drawbacks of the new American militariesm.

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7 Responses

  1. .
    I agree with the "A" you scored him on Iran.
    I don't have the chutzpah to challenge you on Pakistan.
    But that should be a Gentleman's "C" on Iraq at the very best.

    He has only drawn troops down at the rate prescribed by President Bush.
    He is way behind what he promised during the campaign, and his campaign promises were for a reduction way slower than what was most practical. President Obama is dragging his feet on getting out of Iraq. It looks like he is waiting for some event to justify ramping back up.
    Isn't 120,000 roughly the 2007 pre-surge level ?

    On the Obama watch, for every uniformed US military person withdrawn, more than 1 contractor has replaced them.
    Only about half of the military are actual combat troops. For every combat soldier or Marine withdrawn, more than one Mercenary has replaced them.
    And the number of civil service employees is up.

    For the most part, US troops in Iraq are sitting around, playing video games, within range of harassing mortar fires.
    The US could have possibly withdrawn ALL combat troops by now; certainly double the 22,000 you report. The US could have withdrawn all uniformed support personnel (Intel, Medical, Logistics, etc.) and replaced them with contractors, mostly Iraqi contractors.

    Dr. Cole, your fawning is like that of the Nobel Committee. Wait until there are real accomplishments, like those concerning Iran, before lavishing so much praise.

    an avid student of retrograde under pressure

  2. ref : “Why can't the administration of President Barack Obama get the word out about its policy successes? …he receives his lowest grade for his failure to force America's chattering classes to take notice. While it is a bit of a relief not to be subjected to the constant propaganda of the Bush administration… the Obama administration has gone too far in the opposite direction The Media abhor a narrative vacuum — imho For all his rhetorical skills Mr. Obama (and the Democratic Party in general) have never been clever, base instinct common-denominator storytellers; or, for that matter, Juan ~ gifted educators. Too, if there has been one eye opener these past few months, it is the prevalence and pervasiveness of corporate control of Democratic politicans (e.g., Dodd, finance; Baucus, insurance, etc.) And Mr. Obama is not just facing wingnut (yet skilled, narrative producing media/pundit) opponents and opportunistic, WAR-mongering Republican politicians — the president is confronted by the very daunting task of unwinding this gigantic (but seldom seen and even less well understood) WAR ECONOMY during this, the era of The Great Recession. iow, Job One for the president remains the economy, of which the WARs are but a derivative; and imho the plain truth is that right now the only ‘real investment’ going on Over Here is the war economy. Perhaps, we can't handle this truth, Juan.

    so fwiw, I would not grade Mr. Obama's performance so much in terms of what he has managed to do about this or that geo-political challenge Over There : After all, the Supreme Leader of IRAN in essence shot himself in the foot; General Odierno's forces are "stuck in IRAQ with little to do [but defend themselves]" and fill shipping containers; While many NATO-American Generals are running around advocating an escalation of the WAR ECONOMY, the existing (neglected?) troops under the command of Generals Petraeus and McChrystal in AFGHANISTAN are becoming more and more demoralized. Maybe Mr. Obama's strategy is to just give all these foolish leaders, frenzied pundits and frenetic Generals nothing to push against, or "enough rope to hang themselves," who knows? Certainly, it would be more comforting to US = "chattering classes" if we could figure out if he was in front of or behind "the conversation."

  3. if you believe that Ray Odierno was publicly insubordinate,
    why do you not criticize President Obama for not firing him ?

    McChrystal's insubordination was more nuanced, but Odierno was in his face.
    Who's in charge, again ?

    President Obama is afraid of military generals.
    He inherited a crop that was militarily incompetent, politically adroit, and in the case of Odierno, arguably a war criminal.
    Instead of replacing McKiernan, whose only known fault was accurately describing Petraeus as a brown-nosing political princess, he should have "retired" Her Majesty. Fox Fallon would have been a pretty good choice to replace her.

  4. Juan
    A better headline would have been:

    Obama's mid-east foreign policy report card

    The climb down on nuclear escalation – especially in Eastern European missile deployment has been equally impressive and Nobel-winning behavior

  5. Thanks, Sherm. I've read the article, the comments and the letter. There are still a Few Good Men – not too few, one would hope.

  6. "Far from accomplishing nothing in his first eight months, Obama has been a whirlwind of activity and has already gained a place in the Iraqi, Iranian and Pakistani history books. He receives his lowest grade for his failure to force America's chattering classes to take notice."

    America's 'chatterers' will steadfastly ignore all positive aspects of the Obama administration because they're much too busy trying to destroy him.

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