So much of our discussion of public policy consists of absurd accusations from the right matched with self-serving justifications from the somewhat-less-right. The most obvious example of this is the perennial think piece on Obama’s foreign policy, which is invariably analyzed as being either foolishly pacifistic or prudently diplomatic. The reality that the Obama administration has used military force on a large scale in many countries is not acknowledged, because it’s not something either major party likes to point out (FAIR Blog, 7/16/13, 8/30/13,3/18/14, 8/12/14).
Obama’s detractors revived criticism that his foreign policy is based on retreat from the world, typified by the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq three years ago, a lack of direct action in Syria and an economics-first approach to driving Russia’s military back from Ukraine.
His supporters argue that his approach has been consistent with his strategy of returning the United States–after post-September 11 wars–to a foreign policy built around economic engagement rather than military intervention.
Obama’s forgotten Afghan surge (graphic: NPR)
How do you write a sentence like this one–”In place of the large military deployments, Obama has relied on smaller operations to manage, rather than resolve, many of the conflicts that have arisen during his time in office”–without mentioning that Obama sent nearly 70,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, tripling the deployment there? Since then, 1,700 US troops have died, and at least 13,000 Afghan civilians, along with an unknown number of Afghan combatants; surely this has a bearing on whether you can characterize Obama’s presidency as a “retreat from the world”?
But the only mentions of Afghanistan, Obama’s biggest single military engagement, in Goldfarb’s piece are in a passage in which Obama adviser Ben Rhodes is allowed to claim that Obama policy there is the exact opposite of what it actually was: