Most Americans would score Obama poorly on foreign policy issues. It’s a conundrum, really, because most of the things he has done, people seem to have supported him – from pulling troops out of Afghanistan, to not going to war in Syria. And yet, people think he has done very badly with his decisions.
While at first glance it may seem inconsistent, it is not actually inconsistent at all. People don’t necessarily want their opinions of foreign policy matters carried out; instead, what they want is for the Executive Branch to lead and do the right thing for the country. So much information relating to foreign policy is not public and cannot be made privy to public. For that reason, our country has depended on the Executive Branch to use the information to do the right thing for American, first and foremost above what may be popular sentiment or easy.
FDR faced this with WWII. Almost universally no one wanted to go to war but when the United States was attacked and FDR told the American people, “we need to do this”, Americans said okay and fully supported the war effort. Similar situations with Reagan and Panama, Clinton and Kosovo. These were not particularly popular positions, but when the Presidents made their case, Americans by-and-large gave their support.
What the Presidents didn’t do, was ask first. We had leaders who would lead, even it they did something that was not exactly the most popular or easiest — because there has been a mutual understanding that a President will act first and foremost for the best of his country based on his more full knowledge.
Here’s where Obama is different. We now have a president who is trying to do what he thinks will get him the most political points with the people. This is not presidential. This is not how presidents act. This has given us terrible results.
Obama, like all other presidents, has all the information at his fingertips. Instead of doing what he should do on foreign policy questions — which is to lead — he is trying to listen to the people and gauge their temperature, if they are warm to the idea, instead of telling Americans what is right.
What Americans may by-and-large think what is the right thing to do is sometimes wrong because we do not have the full picture. We understand decisions need to be made on sound policy, not politics. But for Obama, his leadership style has been that of politics first, policy second. Because he’d rather do what he perceives is politically beneficial instead of lead with conviction, both his domestic and foreign audiences find Obama to be weak and ineffective in foreign policy matters.