Reading this piece by Jackson Diehl on a report concerning US foreign policy goals in the upcoming years of the Obama Administration, I kept thinking to myself, "If Diehl thinks the Bush Administration approach to foreign policy was such a success, why did the rest of the world rejoice when he left office?"
The whole "Freedom Agenda" was nothing more than a recipe for interfering in far too many places in the world where we have neither the resources nor interests to do so. Furthermore, the argument that we can, in some way - alchemy? hypnosis? - change the "behavior" of states through engagement is just not supported by the facts. Consider Cuba. It's been 50 years since the revolution, the embargo, a failed CIA-sponsored invasion, all sorts of nonsense. Still communist. China? I have been thinking a lot lately about Deng Xiaoping's response to Pres. Carter's lecture to Deng on human rights: "How many millions do you want?" While we invaded Iraq supposedly to overthrow a horrible dictator, we did so even while engaging and giving aid to another dictator, in Uzbekistan. Central Africa has been embroiled in conflict for nearly two decades, from Uganda and Rwanda to the ongoing conflict in the Congo, with festering sores like Chad and the Moroccan domination of Western Sahara (the last a specific issue before the UN Security Council, just like Iraq). Who can forget Burma/Myanmar? Well, the US State Department did, at least under Bush, even though it is, perhaps, next to North Korea, the most nightmarish place on earth for human beings, in a political and social sense.
The "Freedom Agenda" of the Bush Administration, besides being far too broad and unrealistic, was a dismal failure because other countries understood it to be hypocritical, unworkable, yet nevertheless and excuse for the US to start mucking around where it doesn't belong. By refocusing on our core interests, both near- and long-term, a return to realpolitique is a marvelous thing, precisely because it allows us, as a nation, to set priorities and allocate resources where they can be used effectively. Whether or not the one's Obama has set can be a source of discussion. Whining about the end of the miserable Bush Administration record on foreign policy, however, should just make people laugh.