Over the course of the campaign against Hillary Clinton and now McCain, Obama has elaborated more and more the ideas that would undergird his foreign policy as president. What emerges is a world view that is far from that of a typical liberal, much closer to that of a traditional realist. It is interesting to note that, at least in terms of the historical schools of foreign policy, Obama seems to be the cool conservative and McCain the exuberant idealist.
(bold emphasis added)
This is now (Peter Beinart):
Obama’s problem is not that he doesn’t have big, serious ideas about foreign policy. To the contrary, he has several of them, which he trots out again and again. The first is “collective security,” the idea that the same forces that threaten the United States—global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, financial collapse—also threaten most other nations, and that they can only be solved through intensive global cooperation. In the United States, collective security was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, who told Americans that they were entering World War I not to restore the European balance of power, but to create a League of Nations that would bring all the world’s “civilized” nations together to safeguard their common interest in prosperity and peace. It has been the default liberal foreign policy vision ever since.As was pointed out in the first part, liberal foreign policy is the opposite pole from foreign policy realism.
The "neocon" approach embraced by President Bush tried to borrow some of the best from each view--not necessarily a a bad idea since both traditional approaches possess serious flaws.
But many of those laymen who looked forward to having a "realist" in the White House in contradistinction to President Bush simply didn't know what they were talking about. Zakaria was correct that much of Obama's campaign rhetoric fit the realist pattern. And certainly the president has backed up some of that rhetoric with something close to a robust war strategy in Afghanistan. But Beinart makes a good point as well. Mr. Obama has been focused on dealing in a relatively friendly way with nations aligned against the United States. The lesson of WW2 was that Wilson's collective security wasn't worth beans unless the collective is serious about security. France and Great Britain promised to come to Poland's aid if she was attacked. That's collective security. Poland fell in record time. That's how collective security works when the collective doesn't take security seriously.
Has the United States deepened its ties with any of its traditional allies under President Obama? I've yet to detect the evidence of it. Our ties with Great Britain have been badly frayed. France might be closer to the U.S. than at the beginning of the Bush administration, but that would be primarily because of the former's flirtations with political conservatism under Nicolas Sarkozy. Obama angered the Poles by backing out of a missile defense deal via a compromise with Russia. Perhaps Japan and Australia are poised to ally more closely with the United States.
On the surface, it looks like the United States is reaping all the benefits of looking weak on the foreign policy stage. I hope under the surface things are different.