A foreshadowing?

Noah Pollak has written a devastating critique of Bush administration foreign policy in its waning days. Pollak begins with John Bolton’s assessment: “Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.” Then, after a survey of administration policy with respect to North Korea, Lebanon, and Israel, Pollak offers his own summation:

The State Department has been allowed to slip completely off its leash and the whole gang is pursuing its two most favorite pastimes: obsessing over the Palestinians, and making concessions to America’s enemies. Only six more months to go.

This conclusion sounds harsh, but I believe it is largely supported by the evidence Pollak cites (Bolton’s is excessive only by virtue of the word “total”). Though hardly the most important such piece of evidence, this report in Haaretz of intervention by State Department officials, including Secretary Rice, on behalf of individual Palestinians in minor disputes with the Israeli government seems telling.

Historians re-examining what are generally thought to be sea-changes in policy effectuated by a new administration sometimes find (or claim to find) the seeds of the departure in certain policies of the previous administration. Thus, some say that FDR’s radical policies for dealing with the depression have their antecedents in some of what Hoover tried. Others say that Carter was already engaged in some of the efforts at de-regulation for which the Reagan administration is known.

If Barack Obama is elected president, historians may well conclude that the defeatist drift of his foreign policy was well underway by the time he took office.

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