Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Fareed Zakaria is the latest columnist to acknowledge that although President Obama’s foreign policy decisions have been largely correct, they’ve been sadly unaccompanied by any magic powers:

President Obama has not made a major mistake. He has done a skillful job steering the United States out of the muddy waters he inherited — Iraq, Afghanistan — and resisted plunging the country into another major conflict.

….Obama’s strategy of putting pressure on Moscow, using targeted sanctions and rallying support in Europe is the right one — and might even be showing some signs of paying off.

….From the Asia pivot to new trade deals to Russian sanctions, Obama has put forward an agenda that is ambitious and important, but he approaches it cautiously, as if his heart is not in it, seemingly pulled along by events rather than shaping them. Once more, with feeling, Mr. President!

I’ll concede that as a political partisan, maybe I’m cutting Obama too much slack. But I still wonder what all these critics want. I don’t mean the Bill Kristols and John McCains of the world. I know what they want: maximum confrontation, maximum bluster, and maximum military intervention. But what about the others? Like Zakaria, they sort of grudgingly recognize that Obama’s actual foreign policy actions have been about as good as they could have been, and yet they’re still unhappy. They want inspiration, dammit! They want the rest of the world to fall immediately into line. They want victory! That’s how it happens in the movies, after all. The president gives a big speech, and everyone swoons.

I wonder: Has any president in history been so widely criticized for doing everything right but not crowing loudly enough about it? I mean, it’s nice to think that a silver tongue would have gotten congressional Republicans to support intervention in Syria and Germans to approve harsher sanctions against Russia, but it’s just not so. I think everyone knows this perfectly well, but we find it so frustrating that we blame Obama for it anyway. It’s as if we’re all five-year-olds.

Which, come to think of it, maybe we are. We want this circle squared—triumph on every front but without any actual exercise of military power—and when we don’t get it we demand someone to blame, logic be damned. Before long we’re going to be holding Obama responsible for the fact that pi doesn’t equal three.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate