The establishment media has declared U.S. President Barack Obama a failure in foreign policy. He is worse than George W. Bush, say some journalists; he is worse than Jimmy Carter, say others. In much of this criticism there is a phenomenon operating in the background that goes unmentioned: The opinion pages of the large circulation dailies in New York and Washington are either liberal internationalist or neoconservative, meaning they all have a bias for action, for doing dramatic things to make the world a better place. Realism, which has a sturdier pedigree -- going all the way back to Thucydides' "The History of the Peloponnesian War" -- encapsulates how most people in government and business actually think, but it has relatively few followers in the major media. And realism counsels caution, because a bias for action can often lead to disaster. Because Obama has had until this recent Iraq crisis the opposite -- a bias for inaction -- the major media simply hate him.
So let's see how he is doing.
Though the defense budget has been cut rather dramatically, the United States under Obama still deploys its Navy and Air Force in the four corners of the world, protecting sea lines of communication as well as the balance of power in the major geographical theaters. This is doing something on an imperial scale. Nevertheless, passively accepting America's worldwide military armature is a far cry from trying to shape events, which a president is expected to do and which Obama is not doing. You can shape events without military intervention, but Obama is not even doing that.