Obama’s leadership is right for today

Obama’s leadership is right for today

“Because of his unsure and indecisive leadership in the field of foreign policy, questions are being raised on all sides,” the writer declared, adding that the administration was “plagued by a Hamlet-like psychosis which seems to paralyze it every time decisive action is required.” Is the writer one of the many recent critics of Barack Obama’s foreign policy? Actually, it’s Richard Nixon, writing in 1961 about President John F. Kennedy. Criticizing presidents for weakness is a standard practice in Washington because the world is a messy place and, when bad things happen, Washington can be blamed for them. But to determine what the United States — and Obama — should be doing, we have to first understand the nature of the world and the dangers within it.

From 1947 until 1990, the United States faced a mortal threat, an enemy that was strategic, political, military and ideological. Washington had to keep together an alliance that faced up to the foe and persuaded countries in the middle not to give in. This meant that concerns about resolve and credibility were paramount. In this context, presidents had to continually reassure allies. This is why Dean Acheson is said to have remarked in exasperation about Europe’s persistent doubts about America’s resolve, “NATO is an alliance, not a psychiatrist’s couch!”

But the world today looks very different — far more peaceful and stable than at any point in decades and, by some measures, centuries. 

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