Obama’s foreign policy owes a lot to Jimmy Carter’s

Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast:

1369766135553.cachedSince Obama assumed the presidency, hawks have been comparing him to Carter. And the analogy makes sense. In important ways, Obama’s foreign policy and Carter’s have had the same basic focus: the restoration of “solvency.” The concept comes from Walter Lippmann, who in 1943 wrote that “foreign policy consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation’s commitments and the nation’s power.” Just as a government cannot indefinitely incur financial commitments that exceed the money it has in the bank, Lippmann argued, it cannot indefinitely incur international commitments that exceed its national power. The longer it tries, the weaker it will get.

For Carter, the cause of this insolvency was the global Cold War. By the 1960s, George Kennan’s limited, mostly nonmilitary strategy for preventing Soviet domination of Western Europe had swelled into a commitment to stop any communist movement from gaining ground anywhere on earth, if necessary by force. And by the time Carter took office in 1977, that effort had led to Vietnam, a war that had damaged America’s economic strength, democratic system, and national morale.

Obama inherited his own solvency gap. George W. Bush had defined the Global War on Terror as a new cold war, meant to defeat jihadist terrorism, prevent nuclear proliferation, and spread democracy across the Muslim world, and beyond. Like the old cold war, it was nearly infinite in scope. And like the old cold war, it has justified military interventions that have sapped America economically, geopolitically, and morally. Since 9/11, Obama noted last Thursday, “our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home.”

More here.

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