Bill Murchison

Well, all right, you didn't have to agree the Bush policy was wise or practical. But you could agree that at least it was a policy. Obama certainly agreed on that. He heckled and opposed the Bush policy in 2008. We had to cease our overseas military adventures, he said. We had to press the "reset" button with countries such as Iran and Russia. What did it mean to press the reset button? It turned out to mean nothing more than a few speeches.

What was all to come of it was another matter. We could kind of all get along. That seemed the essence of the Obama approach. We'd be nice; other countries would be nice in return.

It turns out that foreign policy -- a thing rooted in national rivalries and jealousies, not to mention hatreds, is conducted below the surface of public life. It is a bit more complicated than allowed for by Obama's logic. In the real world, people are prepared to hack your computers (China), build dangerous weapons (Iran), kill your diplomats (al-Qaida), lie about you (Afghanistan's Karzai) and do other bad things to you.

When it happens, and it always does, a democratic leader needs to be able to talk to people so as to solicit their support and prepare them for setbacks, as well as successes. It can work -- as when Churchill enlisted the British people in the near-impossible cause of beating Hitler. It can fail -- as when a White House staffer, rather than the President himself, announces that, um, we're about to intervene, sort of, in a foreign country where, ah, we think events compel us to do, that is, something.

The most naive foreign policy president perhaps in our history seems unable to appreciate the difference.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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