Saturday, October 20, 2012

The President's Dysfunctional Foreign Policy Team

Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department so when she talks about the disarray in the Obama administration's foreign policy she knows whereof she speaks.

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Brooks, who is actually an admirer of the president, paints a picture of a foreign policy team staffed by neophytes and led by a chief executive who is, simply put, unqualified for the job he's in. She doesn't put it quite that baldly in her essay, but that's the import of what she says.

After summarizing Mr. Obama's foreign policy inadequacies she writes this:
In foreign policy as in life, stuff happens -- including bad stuff no one could have predicted. Nonetheless, to a significant extent, President Obama is the author of his own lackluster foreign policy. He was a visionary candidate, but as president, he has presided over an exceptionally dysfunctional and un-visionary national security architecture -- one that appears to drift from crisis to crisis, with little ability to look beyond the next few weeks. His national security staff is squabbling and demoralized, and though senior White House officials are good at making policy announcements, mechanisms to actually implement policies are sadly inadequate.
Brooks then lists six things the president needs to do to remedy the deficiencies in his foreign policy "team," and elaborates at length on all six in her article. She states that Mr. Obama needs to:

1. Get a global strategy.
2. Get some decent managers.
3. Get some people who actually know something.
4. Get out of the bubble.
5. Get a backbone.
6. Get rid of the jerks.

Her explanations of each of these make for very interesting reading. She closes her essay with this:
President Obama came into office with so much good will -- from his own staff, from the American people, and from the world. But through his own unforced errors, he's lost much of that goodwill. To some extent, his errors are errors of inexperience: Obama simply undervalued issues of strategy, structure, process, and personnel.

These are understandable mistakes for a first-term president with little prior government experience (or management experience, for that matter). But such errors will be far less excusable if Obama gets a second term. If American voters give Obama four more years, he needs to push the foreign policy "reset" button.
This highlights the foolishness of thinking that qualifications don't matter while electing to the presidency a man who never in his life managed anything. Mr. Obama never ran a business, he was never a governor of a state, he was never an officer in the military. Why did anyone in 2008 think he could manage the most powerful nation in the world and what reason has he given us for thinking that the next four years would be any different than the last four?