Obama's recent foreign policy has focused on asking for space to delay or stop history until after the 2012 elections. But Jackson Diehl points out that the problem with making space is that it tends to get filled by others.
Barack Obama's foreign policy strategy in this election year might be best summed up by William F. Buckley's famous promise: to "stand athwart history, yelling stop." Wherever war rages, crisis looms, or a truculent strongman glowers, the message from the White House has been the same: "Give me space."
Those were the instantly emblematic words captured by a rogue microphone when Obama met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on March 26. They were followed by an assurance that "after my election I have more flexibility." The next day Obama defensively protested that he was talking about arms control negotiations, and "I don't think it's any surprise that you can't start that a few months before a presidential and congressional elections."
But the Russian government is hardly the only nuisance Obama is trying to put off. A week before meeting Medvedev, Obama phoned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has been off most diplomatic radar screens since he abandoned an attempt to have Palestine admitted to the United Nations last fall.
Why the sudden presidential outreach? A gloomy Abbas has been toying with possible ways to reclaim global attention — such as shutting down his own government. So a bland White House statement, reporting that "the two leaders agreed on the necessity of the two-state solution . . . and for all sides to refrain from provocative actions," was surely incomplete. Can there be any doubt that the phrases "after the election" and "more flexibility" also came up?