Obama's foreign policy: where's the credibility?

President Obama has made consensus the cornerstone of his foreign policy decisions, and that is a huge mistake. What America needs is credibility in our promises and threats. That is the message of the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens in an important column today. Stephens see the drive for consensus including:

Consensus at the United Nations, where the administration has been notably reluctant to use its veto; consensus with the Arab League, whose views led to action against Libya but passivity toward Syria; consensus when it comes to arms control with Russia, or sanctions on Iran. Tellingly, the president's one inarguable foreign policy success-killing bin Laden-was a purely unilateral action.

As for credibility, Stephens notes:

It is not credible to insist that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable"-and then announce plans for the containment of a nuclear Iran. It is not credible to surge 30,000 troops to Afghanistan-and then provide the Taliban with a date certain for the beginning of our withdrawal. It is not credible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds-while promising that Moammar Gadhafi is not a target (falsely, as it would turn out).

It is not credible to assert that the New Start treaty with Russia does nothing to limit U.S. missile defenses-only to be flatly contradicted on the point by the Russian foreign minister at the ceremony exchanging ratification documents. It is not credible to promise better relations with Europe-and then stun Poland and the Czech Republic by abruptly abandoning plans to build missile defense bases there. It is not credible for the administration to endorse Ben Bernanke's decision to flood the world with dollars-and then denounce China for manipulating its currency.

It is not credible to demand within days that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, an ally of 30 years, step down-but make no such demand, after months of unrest, of Syria's Bashar Assad, an enemy. It is not credible to assure Israel that the U.S. will not expect it to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas-and then push Israel to adopt Mr. Obama's negotiating formulas even as Hamas negotiates the terms of its entry into the government. It is not credible to promise support for democracy in Latin America-and then score Honduras for stopping a Chavista putsch while playing every excuse to delay ratification of a free trade agreement with Colombia.

Stephens offers good advice to Republicans, as well. Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Cliff Thier

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