Get ready. An inflammatory article is likely to provide the ammunition for Romney's attack on Obama in the next debate. Surprisingly (or maybe not), the heavy weapons have been deployed by an Obama supporter, a former foreign policy insider whose motives can only be inferred. She labels the Obama national security and foreign policy team as "dysfunctional...a disappointment," characterized by a strategy that has "lost its way, whose approach to Syria has amounted to "anxious thumb-twiddling."
The column was posted yesterday on a Foreign Policy magazine blog called By Other Means, penned by Rosa Brooks. According to her bio, she's a law professor at Georgetown University. She was a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the State Department. In 2004, she was a foreign policy advisor to the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
The post is undoubtedly over the top, even intemperate. And I do not doubt for a minute that the points she makes will spit from Romney's mouth in Monday's debate.
Today, she posted another blog. headlined "A Washington Apology," which actually means a non-apology apology. The "apology" starts with this sentence: "I am an exceptionally poor crystal ball reader, so I have been a little taken aback by the amount of comment, both positive and negative, provoked by my column on the dysfunctionality of the Obama foreign policy team." In short, Ms. Brooks is not sorry she wrote what she did. At the end of the post, we learn that the only part of the blog for which she is truly sorry is that the screed appears to be one-sided, in that she failed to include some good things the Obama administration accomplished.
More beneath the orange croissant...
It is difficult to overstate the broad and harsh nature of Brooks' critique of the Obama administration. Unfortunately, Brooks offers little evidence beyond vague anecdote to substantiate her charges. Rather, she claims to speak for "widely felt" opinions of current staffers, and enormous swathes of policy are painted with the brush of incompetence, mismanagement, confusion, and inaction.
Here's a sample:
Despite some successes large and small, Obama's foreign policy has disappointed many who initially supported him. The Middle East initiatives heralded in his 2009 Cairo speech fizzled or never got started at all, and the Middle East today is more volatile than ever. The administration's response to the escalating violence in Syria has consisted mostly of anxious thumb-twiddling. The Israelis and the Palestinians are both furious at us. In Afghanistan, Obama lost faith in his own strategy: he never fought to fully resource it, and now we're searching for a way to leave without condemning the Afghans to endless civil war. In Pakistan, years of throwing money in the military's direction have bought little cooperation and less love.From there, Brooks turns to Russia, China, and Pakistan, giving each a phrase, or even a whole sentence.
The causes, according to Brooks: A weak, inexperienced President who indulges in political nepotism and cronyism. "To some extent, his errors are errors of inexperience: Obama simply undervalued issues of strategy, structure, process, and personnel," she writes.
The cures, according to Brooks:
1. Get a strategy
2. Get some decent managers
3. Get some people who actually know something
4. Get a backbone
5. Get out of the bubble
6. Get rid of the jerks.
Brooks says she was a loyal soldier: "...during my time as a political appointee, I did precisely what political appointees are supposed to do: I worked hard to advance the president's agenda, and in public I always tried to stick loyally to the White House talking points, even when I privately disagreed.
She proclaims her continuing support for Obama, saying his policies are saner than Romney's and promised to write about the Republican candidate's views next week.
So Brooks is "taken aback" by the fact that her friends and former colleagues have chastised her for her column, primarily for writing and publishing it just before the upcoming foreign policy debate.
I expect Romney to use Brooks' article as the basis for many of his debate points. Gee, with supporters like Brooks, think Obama needs enemies?
There is one small sign of institutional support for the Obama administration, however. In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius' column suggests that the CIA is backing the Obama version of the events in Libya. Ignatius has his finger on the pulse of the spy shop. And it wouldn't be a complete surprise if the Agency would just as soon avoid a resurgence of the neocons in the White House national security apparatus.