In the last few days, two eminences grises from the foreign policy community have weighed in on President Obama’s record, and the remarks are quite telling.
Former President Jimmy Carter penned a scathing op-ed that ran in yesterday’s New York Times, “America’s Shameful Human Rights Record,” couching his views as criticism of the nation, though they were really, in so many ways, shot after shot at President Obama.
The former president – in what may be unprecedented in recent history – takes on the foreign policy of a sitting president from his own party, describing the drone program as “top officials…targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens,” as well as legislation making “legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or ‘associated forces,’ a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge)…”
On the other hand, in a conversation with Charlie Rose and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker III, heaps agreement with steps taken by the current administration – positions at odds with those held by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.
On dealing with China on its currency, Baker said: “I think the policy that we should be pursuing is pretty much the policy we are pursuing…One of our big gripes today with China is that they manipulate their currency, and they do. Now, should we call them a manipulator or not? Or would we be better off trying to get over that hurdle quietly through quiet diplomacy and serious diplomacy and strength – strong diplomacy? That’s my view of the way we ought to be approaching that.”
On dealing with the Russians to stop Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program: “If we’re going to have differences with Russia – and we do have some differences with Russia – it seems to me the most important difference we might have is with respect to Iran. And we don’t have that now, and that’s really important. And I don’t think we ought to create a problem with Russia vis-a-vis what we want to do in Iran about their nuclear ambitions as a result of something we might do in Syria. I just think the Iranian issue there is far more important really than how we resolve the Syrian issue.”
On arming the opposition in Syria: “We should be very leery, extremely leery, about being drawn in to any kind of a military confrontation or exercise.” Asked by Rose if that included supplying the opposition with weapons, Baker said, “Well, that’s a slippery slope. The fact of the matter is a lot of our allies are already supplying them with arms. Okay?” Baker said “our allies in the region” are already “doing it. And it’s not something we have to do.”
And on Afghanistan, Baker said, “we’re leaving now, and we’ve said that, and I agree with that.”
As a candidate for president, then-Sen. Obama repeatedly praised the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush. Looks like that emulation – for better or for worse – worked the way he wanted it.