by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Barack Obama, six years into his presidency, does not have a foreign-policy legacy—or, rather, he does and it’s bad. He has a visceral and understandable reluctance to extend and overextend U.S. power, but where that power has been absent, violence and instability have filled the void. When he overcomes his reluctance to get involved, he picks the wrong place, such as Libya, where the tyrant we toppled was better than many of those attempting to take his place.
Syria, red lines, an exploding Mideast, a Russian president who took the American’s measure and made a move, upsetting a hard-built order that had maintained for a quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union—what a mess.
In late February, at a Washington meeting of foreign-policy intellectuals, Henry Kissinger summed up part of the past six years: “Ukraine has lost Crimea; Russia has lost Ukraine; the U.S. has lost Russia; the world has lost stability.”
What Barack Obama needs is a foreign-policy win, and not only for reasons of legacy. He considers himself a serious man, he wants to deal constructively with a pressing, high-stakes international question, and none fits that description better than Iran and nuclear weapons. And so the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. …
… What is needed is a deal that keeps Iran from developing nuclear weapons, period. A bad deal will be worse and more dangerous than no deal. A bad deal will—perhaps—slow the deadly project, not end it.
None of the reporting out of Lausanne has suggested that a helpful agreement would emerge. Tuesday’s deadline for production of a basic framework was missed; on Thursday, a framework, the contents of which were not revealed, was announced. But President Obama is not known as a good negotiator. He and his White House have given the impression that they want a deal too much—they need the win. It isn’t good when you let the people on the other side know how much you need it.