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Opening Arguments

I am your destiny

Most of the criticisms I hear about President Obama's foreign policy generally fall either into the "he is disengaged" category or represent some version of  "he wants to be friends with the world instead of accepting the U.S. superpwer status as a good thing." Those are pretty general, tough. It's possible to think a little more specifically. Did you know, for example, that there are four traditions in American foreign policy -- the Jacksonian, the Hamiltonian, the Wilsonian and the Jeffersonian?

Jacksonians "are generally not much interested in foreign policy. But when Americans are attacked, the respond with righteous fury and a determination to utterly destroy the enemy."

The Hamiltonian tradition "seeks to make the world safe for American commerce, accepts amoral concepts like national interest and balance of power and is willing to use force in morally ambiguous situations."

Wilsonians have an "affection for international institutions and respect for international law."

The Jeffersonian tradition "wanted to keep a pristine agricultural America apart from the evil European empires."

American foreign policy has been successful because American leaders have, in varying proportions, blended its four traditions together. Obama seems to be aloof, to varying degrees, from all of them.

Yeah, aloof. But an "I am the forger of our new desitimy" aloofness. It's been clear that on domestic policy Obama has never seen himself as the guardian of American tradition. He has dedicated to upending that tradition and remaking America to suit his vision. That seems to be where he's at in foreign policy, too.