Before the Iranian election, US opinion on Barack Obama’s foreign policy divided on predictably partisan lines. Now the picture is more complicated.
Mr Obama’s supporters admired his desire to restore US standing in the world and his willingness to talk “without preconditions” to governments his predecessor despised. This would make all the difference, they believed. The new president’s conservative and neoconservative critics rolled their eyes. They attacked Mr Obama’s naive overtures to dictators, and his unwarranted apologies for supposed US sins.
Those critics see Iran as one more proof they were right. The administration spoke respectfully to Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, seeking not to humiliate but to reach an accommodation. Mr Obama’s speech in Cairo on US-Islamic relations was welcomed in much of the Muslim world and had most US liberals swooning in admiration. And see what happened. The Iranian government has hardened its stance on nuclear materials, persisted with its support for Iraqi insurgents, and stamped on its own people when they challenged a rigged election.
So much for soft power. Mr Obama’s friendly outreach to other states – be they hostile, unco-operative or even supposedly friendly – has been no more productive, say the critics. China is about as implacable, North Korea just as deranged, Europe just as feckless. Russia, which Mr Obama visits this week, bullies and bribes its near-abroad with as little finesse as usual. What a surprise: the world is not smiling back.
Read it all here.