Is it possible for an American president to carry out accidentally an isolationist foreign policy? That odd question crossed my mind last week as I talked with various foreign-policy experts about the Middle East, Russia and Afghanistan. There can be no doubt that by his words and his travels, President Obama intends to be anything but an isolationist president. He proudly called himself a citizen of the world while in Berlin during the campaign. He has gone out of his way to travel the world, speak to the world and reach out for the favorable judgment of all the peoples of the world.
And yet, wherever one looks, one sees American influence visibly and voluntarily shrinking. Consider three world hot spots: The Middle East, Russia and its near abroad, and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In the Middle East -- whether you talk to Jew, Arab, Turk or Kurd, to Sunni or Shia -- the de-Americanization of Middle East policy increasingly is the emerging factor to be reckoned with. The uncertainty of the American trumpet, the indecisiveness of the American hand and the modesty of the American goals are freeing the strong and forcing the weak in the area to prepare to fend for themselves. American ineffectiveness (under both George W. Bush and Mr. Obama) in the face of Iran's nuclear quest drives nuclear acquisition plans throughout that unstable zone.
We saw the effect of reduced American influence most recently in the matter of the flotilla to Gaza. With America playing "honest broker" instead of Israeli ally -- the net result was an absence of American deterrence to anti-Israeli instincts. Israel backed off, and her enemies notched a victory and are planning for future, more intrusive challenges to Israeli sovereignty. In the absence of a stern American presence, all the murderous forces indigenous to the region are being let loose.
Our imminent departure from Iraq is another dangerous case in point. As Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. -- who is in charge of the withdrawal -- reaffirmed recently, we will reduce troop levels to 50,000 even if no new Iraqi government takes shape:
"It's going to be painful; there's going to be ups and down. But I do think the end result is going to be that we're going to be able to keep our commitment (to leave)."
Speaking recently, however, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Mr. Obama said that the U.S. commitment to Iraq endures and that as U.S. troops depart, "a strong American civilian presence will help Iraqis forge political and economic progress." Well, we can hope so.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.