It's embarrassing when President
"I do believe that some conversations and key issues must be talked about again once we come out of the other end of the political election atmosphere in the United States,"
Less than six weeks before the election, the Obama campaign's theme song might as well be the old country music favorite "Make the World Go Away." This may be smart politics, but it's not good governing: The way this campaign is going, the president will have a foreign affairs mandate for … nothing.
The "come back after Nov. 6" sign is most obvious with Iran. The other members of the P5+1 negotiating group understand that the U.S. doesn't want serious bargaining until after the election, lest Obama have to consider compromises that might make him look weak. So the talks with Iran that began last May dither along in technical discussions.
Ahmadinejad and some of his aides let slip during their visit to New York that they may be willing to offer a deal that would halt enrichment of uranium above 5 percent. Is this a good deal or not, in terms of U.S. and Israeli security? Sorry, come back later.
Will Israeli Prime Minister
The Obama arm's-length approach is evident with Egypt and the other nations that are convulsed by the Arab uprising. The U.S. is launching an innovative economic-assistance program to help President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. But you don't hear much about it this election season. Nor is there much public discussion of the covert U.S. effort to aid the Syrian rebels, or the war in Yemen, or the godawful mess in Iraq.
And though Obama was eloquent in his speech to the
I'm told that the talk in the Libyan underground is about a "global intifada" like what the new al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been preaching for the last five years. But ask U.S. officials about that subject and you get a "no comment."
To be blunt: The administration has a lot invested in the public impression that al-Qaida was vanquished when Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. Obama would lose some of that luster if the public examined whether al-Qaida is adopting a new, Zawahiri-led strategy of interweaving its operations with the unrest sweeping the Arab world. But this discussion is needed, and a responsible president should lead it, even during a presidential campaign.
Perhaps the most disheartening example of a topic that has been deep-sixed during campaign season is the war in
The president hasn't really made any bones about his wait-till-later approach. He put it frankly to Dimitry Medvedev, then president of Russia, back in March when he thought the microphone was off: "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility."
This strategy of avoiding major foreign policy risks or decisions may help get Obama re-elected. But he is robbing the country of a debate it needs to have — and denying himself the public understanding and support he will need to be an effective foreign policy president in a second term, if the "rope-a-dope" campaign should prove successful.