Monday, February 14, 2011

Niall Ferguson is Out for Blood

I had something to say about Niall Ferguson’s declaration of war against the Obama administration’s foreign policy, or perhaps its lack of one, here based on his cover story in Newsweek. Watching him on the Morning Joe show makes me think I may have underestimated Ferguson's zeal to cut Obama down to size.  See for yourself:

It will be interesting to see how many opinion-leaders jump eagerly to Obama's defense.


Dave said...

Whoa, he was breathing fire! It was actually somewhat comical to see the WTF expression on the other pundits' faces: you could almost hear their jaws hitting the floor.

But, as for the man's core point about "not having a strategy": Krauthammer made a similar point in yesterday's Post, drawing a distinction between having an Agenda and having a Doctrine (and claiming that Obama may have the former, but definitely hasn't stated the latter). And I have to say, I found it a pretty compelling argument. Whether you agree with Krauthammer's specifics on the Egypt issue or not, he's done a good job of capturing what's often been the beef with Obama: he doesn't outline in advance his principles for making an upcoming decision, choosing instead to "wait for all the data to come in" and then to sit down and make a pragmatic call.

You could argue that that's a smart approach. But it's one thing to not communicate your guiding principles in advance, and another to simply not have any. When the administration is flopping around aimlessly as they appeared to do on the Mubarak question, the impression I get is that they don't have any.

Link to Krauthammer:

Mean Voter said...

Thanks to Dave for the link to the Krauthammer article. And thanks to Ron for posting this video piece.

I was absolutely stunned by it - both by the shock of the questioners (I think I heard them tittering in the background) and the clarity of Ferguson's answers.

It will be interesting to see who rallies alongside Obama. But you can't argue with Ferguson's and Krauthammer's point. Obama truly does not have a strategy. It is a frightening thought. There is an interesting piece in today's WSJ about Saudi Arabia, which could be the next dictatorship to topple. I hope that the State Department is mobilizing now to begin some scenario planning.

I'm really concerned about the Obama/Clinton twosome. As Ferguson said, these are not experienced people and we have no foreign policy.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you say that Niall Ferguson is out for blood. I took his comments to be a pretty good summation of what's going on in this White House. He wasn't so quick to say that the entire Obama administration's foreign policy will be a disaster. He did say that it is too early to tell. But he's a heavyweight historian who clearly knows what he's talking about, and he's saying there appears to be no strategy coming from this White House.

DannyP said...

I'd rather have a president without a strategy who deals with foreign policy crises on a case-by-case basis than a president like Bush committed to a bad strategy that saddles us with disastrous mistakes like the Iraq war.

Dave said...

DannyP --

I think you've established a "false choice", as Obama likes to say. Choice #1 is no strategy; Choice #2 is a bad strategy. Of these two, you prefer #1. But you're omitting Choice #3, which is a *good* strategy. I'm casting my vote for #3.

The "well at least he's better than Bush" argument is what I imagine Ferguson is getting at when he says that Obama's foreign policy strategy is "I'm not George W. Bush; love me." I mean, that's setting a pretty low bar for success. Surely we should expect more.

Anonymous said...

To DannyP: I think time will tell us whether the Iraq War was bad strategy. While unpopular now, very few thought at the time it was a mistake. Again, time will tell.