As the American cable news entertainment channels focus on the artificial “American Sniper” controversy, the Obama administration’s issuance of its second and final national security strategy (the last one was done in 2010) was buried deep in the back pages of the newspapers. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t choose to know much about U.S. foreign policy or American history, and therefore even the small minority that watches cable news or movies about such topics thinks they represent reality. For example, Clint Eastwood, a Republican, uses his movie to helpfully rewrite history to confirm George W. Bush’s fantasy conflating pursuit of the 9/11 attackers with his unrelated and disastrous invasion of Iraq. No matter that the heroically portrayed Chris Kyle, the sniper, is part of a US force that invaded the country in violation of international law for no good reason and is killing an Iraqi insurgency – which is trying to fight off the foreign occupiers and their oppressive Shi’ite government – that didn’t exist before the invasion. And Eastwood’s alternative reality, like leftist Oliver Stone’s similar blockbuster film fantasy a few years ago about the liberal icon JFK’s assassination, has a good chance of hardening in the public mind.
That’s because most Americans (unlike say Europeans), including US policymakers, are ignorant of their own history, even recent history – and especially where foreign policy is concerned. And because they are foggy on this history or choose to ignore it, American policymakers have difficulty developing a coherent strategy for the United States. Obama’s strategy fails this test too, but it at least recognizes the limitations of US military power in remodeling countries around the world to American liking. In an introduction to the strategy, Obama writes, “…America leads from a position of strength. But this does not mean we can or should attempt to dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world. As powerful as we are and will remain, our resources and influence are not infinite. And in a complex world, many of the security problems we face do not lend themselves to quick and easy fixes.” Given the recent dumping of trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives (American and local) in losing wars (OK, I said it) in Afghanistan and Iraq and the current U.S.-induced or -aggravated chaos in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, this statement should be obvious on its face. It is apparently not to administration critics, such as the ubiquitous Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and his sidekick Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), however, who berate Obama for running a weak foreign policy that is too reluctant to use American power.