A CBS News poll finds that only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing on foreign policy. 49 percent disapprove. Obama actually polls better when it comes to his handling of the economy and of health care than he does on foreign policy.
Robert Kagan points out, however, that Obama has been giving Americans the detached, non-interventionist foreign policy they want after the Bush years. So why is his foreign policy so unpopular?
Kagan’s hypothesis is that Americans may want the minimalist, narrowly self-interested foreign policy Obama has delivered, but they aren’t proud of it. Thus, they do not credit the president for giving them what they want. As Kagan puts, “to follow a leader to triumph inspires loyalty, gratitude, and affection; to follow a leader in retreat inspires no such emotions.”
My hypothesis is different. Obama has delivered the foreign policy Americans wanted, but not the results they hoped that policy would produce. The world does not love America, as many thought it might once we elected a figure as transcendent as The Anointed One. The world does not respect America because its “red lines” mean nothing. And the world has made a mockery of Obama’s faith that we have left 19th and 20th century realities behind.
Minimalism and detachment may be appealing, but foolishness and weakness are not. As I wrote a few days ago:
To say that Obama has delivered the foreign policy Americans want is not to say that he’s delivering the results Americans expected or want. Jimmy Carter delivered the foreign policy we wanted — a foreign policy, he liked to say, as decent as the American people themselves. But when that foreign became associated with American hostages in Iran and Russian troops in Afghanistan, decent Americans recoiled. . . .
Polling shows that Americans are recoiling once again.