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Former aide slams Obama's 'minimalist' foreign policy

Ex-State Department official Vali Nasr
Ex-State Department official Vali Nasr

Former State Department policy advisor Vali Nasr criticized the Obama administration during an interview with France 24 on Wednesday for deprioritizing foreign policy in favor of domestic concerns.

According to Nasr, although Obama and his inner circle have neglected foreign policy they still want to dominate the making of it:

“You have a combination of a White House that is not interested in foreign policy but also wants to control foreign policy completely,” Nasr told host Marc Perelman.

He blasted Obama for thinking that “foreign policy begins at home and that the United States can afford not to take a leadership position in the world.” Obama assumes the U.S. should do less around the world, according to Nasr, while other countries take on more responsibility.

“There is definitely an isolationist trend in America, a war fatigue from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think the president has decided to anchor his own policy in that trend in America. So he’s not quite isolationist - I would say he’s a minimalist.”

Nasr pointed to the Arab Spring and the resurgence of Al Qaeda as key examples of situations that require American engagement.

He was especially critical of Obama’s passive response to the Syrian imbroglio, saying the U.S. cannot allow Syria to “disintegrate into dust” because it would enable Al Qaeda to take control of large swathes of territory.

In addition, he objected to allowing Turkey and Qatar to lead the way in Syria as Britain and France spearheaded the effort to remove Gaddafi in Libya because the conflict could potentially spill over into neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan and destabilize the entire region. He also accused the administration of ignoring State Department and Pentagon advisors who favored a more assertive approach.

He also blamed Obama for importing the Iraq strategy into Afghanistan, insinuating that counterinsurgency and nation-building were ill-designed for the mission. Obama wasted an opportunity to forge a political settlement in Afghanistan at the outset of his first term, he argued, because before announcing a withdrawal deadline the U.S. could have leveraged its military presence with the insurgents.

Nasr has been promoting his new book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, which, according to a review in the New York Times, is laced with “vitriolic anger at the Obama White House,” likely driven by the contentious relationship between the administration and Nasr’s former boss AfPak special envoy Richard Holbrooke.

The review also says Nasr’s valid analysis is overshadowed by an “eagerness to see virtually every action taken by the Obama administration on foreign policy through as dark a glass as possible.”


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