Yesterday (11/22/10) Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post wrote a column headlined “Obama’s Foreign Policy Needs an Update,” where he worried that the White House suffers from a”lack of grand strategy — or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.”
The irony inherit in complaining that Obama’s foreign policy is too old-fashioned and in need of some of the old Kissinger magic should be obvious enough. Less clear is why anyone would single out Condoleezza Rice like this; was the Bush administration’s foreign policy uniquely strategic?
But the calls for Obama to get himself a Kissinger seem to be a regular feature of the Post‘s op-ed page.
–David Ignatius (7/8/10):
The two modern American masters of Machiavellian diplomacy, Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both practiced their art at times comparable to this one — with the country suffering from reversals in war and loss of confidence in its political leadership.
So it’s an interesting thought exercise to imagine how a national security adviser with the secretive, back-channel style of a Kissinger or Brzezinski would play America’s diplomatic hand now. Mind you, I’m not suggesting what policies these two would actually recommend today but, instead, what a more creative diplomatic approach might produce in a time of difficulty.
When I say “creative,” what I partly mean is devious. Both Kissinger and Brzezinski did not always state publicly what they were doing in private.
Ignatius did acknowledge that “Not all of Kissinger’s machinations were successful.” Well, that’s one way to put it. He added:
But if ever there were a moment when a battle-fatigued United States needs a wily strategist to explore options, this is it. Just who could play this role among the administration’s current cast of characters isn’t obvious, and that’s a problem President Obama should address.
And then here’s David Ignatius again, a mere nine months earlier (10/8/09):
I have been looking for a “doctrine” because, frankly, strategic thinking has been this administration’s weak spot. A pragmatic president has surrounded himself with pragmatic advisers — a retired Marine general as national security adviser, a former senator as secretary of state, a career intelligence officer as secretary of defense. None are grand strategists on the model of Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski.