Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Obama Embraces His Inner Bush’

Full piece here.

‘President Obama has long hesitated between the idea that Bush had the wrong strategy and the idea that the strategy was sound but that the tactics and presentation was poor.  He seems now to have come down firmly on the side of the core elements of the Bush strategy.  This frankly is more or less where I thought he would end up; American interests, American values and the state of the region don’t actually leave us that many alternatives.’

Mead makes a good case, but some of the administration’s undercurrents are definitely Left toward human rights (Samantha Power and Anne Marie Slaughter would be examples of Obama’s foreign policy guides…for whom Hilary Clinton’s hawkishness was likely too hawkish), while some of the bureaucratic constraints and choices would be similar for any president.

Mead goes on:

‘The President is nailing his colors to the mast of the Anglo-American revolutionary tradition.  Open societies, open economies, religious freedom, minority rights: these are revolutionary ideas in much of the world.’

I’m not necessarily convinced.  I do still think Obama is giving us more long-term leverage in the Middle-East that McCain would have. He is, to a certain extent, hitting the reset button.  This is very valuable.  As regards Israel, he seems to be more interested in peace and fairness rather than its religiously nationalistic impulses. This frustrates many Israelis and the American religious right to no end, but Obama’s view may simply be naive, aiming so directly for ‘peace’ and the kind of faith universalists have in institutions. Here’s a quote from Obama’s speech:

‘We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.’

Domestically, Obama seems more toward the Great Society, managed economy, minority rights end of the spectrum, much more Left than I’m comfortable with.  There are parts of the  Anglo-American tradition not very well represented by Obama at all (the threat of economic liberty by growth of government, the threat of the excessive egalitarians and their illiberal impulses).

How are the two most recent president’s definitions of freedom (Bush’s human freedom…Obama’s arc of history…) getting crafted into foreign policy?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Transcript of Obama’s full May 19th, 2011 speech here.

Addition: Netanyahu and Obama meeting here, where Netanyahu humbly points out that Obama’s peace vision is not based in Middle-Eastern reality.

Related On This Site:  Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”… From The Washington Post: ‘Obama Authorizes Predator Drone Strikes In Libya’

Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’Walter Russell Mead’s New Book On Britain and America

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