One day this month, as the nation shuddered with fears of an Ebola outbreak and American warplanes pounded Sunni militants in Syria, President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, invited a group of foreign policy experts to the White House to hear their views of how the administration was performing.
She was peppered with critiques of the president’s Syria and China policies, as well as the White House’s delays in releasing a national security strategy, a congressionally mandated document that sets out foreign policy goals. On that last point, Ms. Rice had a sardonic reply.
“If we had put it out in February or April or July,” she said, according to two people who were in the room, “it would have been overtaken by events two weeks later, in any one of those months.”
At a time when the Obama administration is lurching from crisis to crisis — a looming Cold War in Europe, a brutal Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and a deadly epidemic in West Africa — it is not surprising that long-term strategy would take a back seat. But it raises inevitable questions about the ability of the president and his hard-pressed national security team to manage and somehow get ahead of the daily onslaught of events.