In an uncharacteristically glowing column about President Obama, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks has penned a piece in today’s paper that lavishes praise on Obama for the skillful way he has handled foreign policy throughout his term. Coming from a journalist who has generally been supportive of Republican causes and positions, these congratulatory words about the Democratic president can’t be welcomed in the campaign headquarters of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Brooks said that the current state of world affairs requires a nimble, flexible foreign policy that recognizes the internal strife that most of the world’s nations are dealing with.
“He, Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the rest of his team have created a style of policy making that is flexible, incremental and well adapted to the specific circumstances of this moment. Following a foreign policy hedgehog, Obama’s been a pretty effective fox,” Brooks writes.
Brooks likens our current global affairs to a cocktail party where everybody is suffering from indigestion or stomach problems.
“People are interacting with each other, but they’re mostly focused on the godawful stuff going on inside,” he writes. “Europe has the euro mess. The Middle East has the Arab Spring. The U.S. has the economic stagnation and the debt. The Chinese have their perpetual growth and stability issues.”
“It’s not multi-polarity; it’s multi-problemarity,” he continues. “As a result, this is more of an age of anxiety than of straight-up conflict. Leaders are looking around warily at who might make their problems better and who might make them worse. There are fewer close alliances and fewer sworn enemies. There are more circumstances in which nations are ambiguously attached.
“In this environment, you don’t need big, bold visionaries. You need leaders who will pay minute attention to the unique details and fleeting properties of each region’s specific circumstances. You need people who can improvise, shift and play it by ear. Obama, Clinton and the rest are well suited to these sorts of tasks.”
Brooks does recount mistakes he said President Obama made earlier in his term, such as believing he could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and clumsily backing both sides into corners and making peace even further from a reality, and announcing a withdrawal date from Afghanistan at the same time as he announced a surge, meaning the entire mission was doomed to failure.
“Over all, though, the record is impressive,” Brooks writes. “Obama has moved more aggressively both to defeat enemies and to champion democracy. He has demonstrated that talk of American decline is hooey. The U.S. is still responsible for maintaining global order, for keeping people, goods and ideas moving freely.
“And, partly as a result of his efforts, the world of foreign affairs is relatively uncontentious right now. Foreign policy is not a hot campaign issue. Mitt Romney is having a great deal of trouble identifying profound disagreements. If that’s not a sign of success, I don’t know what is.”