President Duterte gives new meaning to Obama’s famed ‘pivot toward Asia’.
You almost want to pity the poor president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as he enters the last few months of his administration. The man is an amateur at foreign policy, and it shows in so many ways. The latest is Washington’s wonderment and dismay as it publicly loses another long-time ally. Competent players should not be taken by surprise so often.
To take a simple example, suppose you put Serena Williams on a tennis court, with say, me. Do you suppose anyone could fail to see who was more skilled or competent in the game, based on the way we play? Disregard the score, and observe how a weak player responds to one who plays with skill. The weaker player not only loses, but loses embarrassingly.
That’s what you see with Obama’s foreign policy. He keeps wondering what happened to him. He has no skill, compared with the people on the other side of the net. First of all, he’s not a good listener; second, he’s not that interested in foreign policy; and third, because he’s not interested, he doesn’t plan well. You might add a fourth factor: he doesn’t care. He stumbles around with his racket hanging down, and he doesn’t prepare.
Obama remarks to Stephen Colbert, as if it’s a joke, ‘To be honest, I still don’t know what my Nobel Peace Prize was for.’
As indicators of Obama’s absent attitude, evaluate the people he selects for his foreign advisors. They are yes men and yes women. They don’t even try to persuade the president to develop a strategic vision. They just travel around vaguely, here at home and overseas, doing stuff they think the White House wants them to do. You don’t even have to follow foreign affairs that closely to see Obama’s weakness as leader of his foreign policy team. Obama set this pattern of carelessness, mediocrity, and incompetence early in his presidency.
It has not changed. Obama remarks to Stephen Colbert, as if it’s a joke, ‘To be honest, I still don’t know what my Nobel Peace Prize was for.’ Anyone else might want to meet high expectations for world leadership and statesmanship at the dawn of his or her presidency. Yet we observe the results of decline and defeat right up through the last months of Obama’s occasion of opportunity. Historians will look at his level of skill and interest and say, ‘He was not the right leader for the time.’
You might wonder whether someone else could have done better, but few would have done worse. Obama can claim, ‘we didn’t do stupid stuff,’ but when you watch the bright yellow ball go by you time after time, or you hit the ball out of bounds again and again – that’s stupid stuff.