Here is a big idea: President Obama should abdicate his foreign policy responsibilities. I propose that Obama make Vice President Joe Biden the U.S. foreign policy czar, adding the title and role of secretary of state to his portfolio. Look, I’ve never been a big Biden fan and I’m sure we disagree on just about everything. But the United States is facing multiple crises, and the president is no longer credible on any issue, in any region of the world.
This weekend, Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt wrote a smart piece, “Iraq highlights for Obama the threat of disengagement.” After all, this administration’s policy of disengagement has not only made things worse in Iraq, Libya and Syria — to name just a few — but also threatens our national security. And Richard Cohen nails it by characterizing Obama’s policies as “do-nothing.” The jury is in: Obama’s foreign policy isn’t just a failure; it continues to fail, and the consequences keep building. It’s hard to see how Obama can keep things from getting worse.
If the president had the ability to properly conduct the United States’ foreign policy, we would know it by now. And Secretary of State John F. Kerry exhausted his credibility on a quixotic, pointless, unappreciated and time-consuming effort to impose an agreement on Israel and the Palestinians. Whether it is fair or not, Kerry is part of the discredited national security team that must yield to a new, frantic effort to rescue the United States’ international interests.
The president does not have any solid relationships with other world leaders to rely on, he is no longer even expected to provide leadership among our allies and he does not seem to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that the United States is facing. At least Biden is well-liked among foreign leaders, they find that meeting with him is useful and Biden’s staff and alumni are respected in Washington and internationally. Also, the vice president has the personal energy and people skills that are important to successful diplomacy.
I don’t expect the president to admit defeat, but he could save face and do himself some good by declaring that our foreign policy deserves extra attention and that he has asked the vice president to commit the remainder of his time in office to boosting the United States’ national security. Obama should thank Kerry for his service and then they should both get out of the way and let Biden and company try to salvage the United States’ leadership role and begin to make the world a safer place.
Why not? More of the same will only make things worse — and in this case, “worse” means more danger for the United States and our allies. I cannot imagine that the Democratic members of Congress or any Democratic candidate in a competitive race would be anything but thankful and publicly cheer the move. It is almost impossible to defend the president’s stewardship as much of the world smolders.
Obviously, an abdication like the one I describe above won’t happen, but Democratic leaders in Washington need to be thinking about some bold new moves. Blaming George W. Bush is good sport, and redefining failure as success can work for a while, but we need a capable, engaged leader to assert himself on the world stage or we could face threats and challenges in the near future that no one can even imagine today.
I’m posting this from London, which is my final stop on a round-the-world trip that took me to China, Singapore, India and Turkey. I have been a regular international traveler for years, and I have never experienced such dismay about the lack of U.S. leadership. The sentiment around the world has gone beyond worry to near hopelessness as people increasingly count the United States out. When you press our foreign friends about what we should do about this or that crisis, they don’t exactly know — but no one thinks Obama is the solution.
The world needs to see an urgent U.S. re-engagement.
Follow Ed on Twitter: @EdRogersDC