From the Washington Post: Who has attracted attention in the Obama administration? The answer, so far, seems to be not America’s allies but its competitors, and in some cases its adversaries. If there were a way to measure administration exertion in foreign policy, the meter would show the greatest concentration of energy, beyond the war in Afghanistan, has been devoted to four endeavors: the failed first-year attempt to improve relations with Iran; the ongoing attempt to improve relations with Russia; the stalled effort to improve cooperation with China; and the effort — fruitless so far — to prove to the Arab states that the United States is willing to pressure Israel to further the peace process. Add to these the efforts to improve relations with Syria, engage Burma and everything with Af-Pak, and not much has been left for the concerns of our allies.
This is bad enough, but compounding the problem has been the administration’s evident impatience with allies who don’t do as they are told. Europeans get spanked for a pallid commitment to NATO defense spending even as they contribute 30,000 troops to a distant war that European publics mostly don’t believe in. Japan gets spanked when its new government insists on rethinking some recent agreements. In both cases, the administration has a point, but it’s always easier to hammer allies when they misbehave than to hammer tough competitors such as Russia or China.
The president has shown seemingly limitless patience with the Russians as they stall an arms-control deal that could have been done in December. He accepted a year of Iranian insults and refusal to negotiate before hesitantly moving toward sanctions. The administration continues to woo Syria and Burma without much sign of reciprocation in Damascus or Rangoon. (graphic: ABC)