Reg Henry of the Post-Gazette offered this entry on his blog a couple of days ago.

Having become fed up with Newsweek, I am left with The New Yorkeras the sole magazine I receive at home (not counting Mrs. Reg’s magazines, such as “Husband Training for Smart Women”). The New Yorker never fails to repay the price of a subscription.

The latest example comes in the May 2 edition with Ryan Lizza’s look at Barack Obama’s evolving view of foreign affairs: “The Consequentialist: How the Arab Spring Remade Obama’s Foreign Policy.”

It is a fascinating, knowledgeable, intelligent and none-too-flattering portrait of the president (it concludes that Obama is a president who leads from behind). It is also lengthy, so this constitutes serious homework,

I agree with most of how Reg portrays the article but disagree with what he contends is the writer’s conclusion, or at least what the source of that conclusion is. This is the final paragraph:

Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”

Read more:…1Kg7Cb5kI

What the author offers as an observation more than a criticism is that Obama assumed office with no fixed foreign policy doctrine, instead drawing from a variety of sources and advisors to form the ideas he expressed in his campaign and just after taking office.

And at odds within his administration are those who are idealists and those who are realists. At times, Obama himself has wavered between the two views. I suppose that could be termed pragmatism, adapting to circumstances rather than taking an immovable position.

After all, though the writer notes Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience prior to election. that was also a weakness of G.W. Bush who nonetheless exhibited rigid views, or at least let his advisors steer him that way, and refused to change even when faced with the failure of some actions.

Now I am on record here,  as being strongly opposed to Obama’s actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. I have also praised him for how he handled the Egyptian revolution.

This article changes my opinions not a whit, but does offer at least a little greater perspective on how the decision for the Libyan intervention was reached.

Frankly, in light of some of the rash and/or plain wrong-headed foreign policy actions and positions taken by more doctrinaire Presidents, I think I kind of like my Commander-in-Chief being more flexible, even if I don’t always like the decisions that result.

John Dickerson in Slate offered some post birth certificate analysis in a piece yesterday. One particular sentence, however, struck me as possibly applicable to the whole of Obama’s Presidency so far, and apropos of the gist of Reg’s post and adding more to my reaction to the New Yorker piece.

The president wants to present himself as the only adult in the crazy political world[/url

Could it be that this is true on a larger scale, but people interpret that trait as either lacking fire or leadership or both?

The President, any president, is in the spotlight on every national issue, deliberately or not. But on these issues we also find politicians and pundits of various stripes but of lesser cachet battling for the spotlight and spouting all kinds of thoughts to obtain it, worthy of consideration or not.

But to our low attention span and broadly and sadly uninformed public, these ideas, however ridiculous, convince them that the biggest mouth must be leading because he/she gets the most face time on TV.

So perhaps as this much ado about nothing swirls about him, Obama, rather than failing to lead, is actually attepting to reinstill a more thoughtful and contemplative decision-making process that was missing from the White House for eight years.

I will not assert that this approach has always resulted in better decisions or more effective governance, My record of criticism of Obama on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Guantanamo stands unchanged.

But I, for one, believe this approach is more likly to lead to justifiable and sustainable policies than one that is purely reactive, instinctive, and doctrinaire.

And isn’t that more desirable for the long term welfare of the nation?

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