Might as well post this Foreign Policy round table while we're at it, though they should have contacted us.
What stands out from the nine responses is how loosely realism and idealism are defined, and also how everyone has their own focus in foreign policy. We concentrate on Israel, Afghanistan, and Yemen, on Sudan, Somalia, and China, but nuclear weapons were at times the only area of focus. The economy was pulled back into the picture.
Is President Barack Obama an idealist who hit the wall of reality, or is he a realist resigned to the status quo? All that should matter is that his foreign policy is crumbling. Avoiding an economic apocalypse (at least temporarily) and chasing non-proliferation certainly count for something, but he’s down everywhere else.
Country by country Obama is a would-be idealist trapped in a default-"realpolitik" body, pursuing Bush-style policies with an Obama smile.
The argument is that no other solutions exist, but he miscalculated both Israel and the Palestinians' attitudes and was caught off guard by Karzai in Afghanistan. Is it real or ideal to ignore Israel’s mass deportation order and the Palestinian’s plea to the international community, then encourage direct negotiations as soon as possible? Is it real or ideal to give a July 2011 deadline that he probably won’t meet?
How "real" will drones be if America is forced to withdraw in stalemate or defeat?
Obama is also headed for deeper trouble in Sudan because of his “realpolitik” pragmatism, and Yemen is terrifying strategy. Killing Anwar al-Awlaki isn’t “real” and communicating with the governor of Abyan isn’t “ideal”; killing al-Awlaki is ideal and operating with regional officials and local tribes is real.
Meanwhile immigration reform has been shelved and decriminalization opposed by the White House. More arms aren't a realist solution in Mexico.
If we had to choose, Obama is still an idealist who has his hands tied. He probably wishes he were a better realist since he admitted to believing Israel and Palestine wouldn't be so challenging, and has acted as such.
A few other conflicts belong on the list.
Yet beyond idealist or realist Obama doesn’t appear foreign policy and military oriented, beginning and ending at nonproliferation. This isn’t necessarily a fault as other fields are just as important, but it does leave him vulnerable to the multitude of strong hands grabbing at US foreign policy.
We think the real question is why the White House is emulating a former Bush, which never comes up in the discussion.
Friendly or not, this is a man who once said after 290 civilians were shot down by a US cruise missile, “I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever, I don't care what the facts are.”
That statement too is neither idealist or realistic, but merely ignorant.