Conducting foreign policy is not the same as practicing medicine. But it would have been good if President Obama had adopted the principle of the Hippocratic oath that requires physicians to “abstain from doing harm.”
Even when the president has sought commendable goals, he has often couched them in rhetoric about joining him on the “right side” of history. This only invited powerful competitors to lock in strategic gains, while leaving erstwhile friends and allies to go it alone. The most recent example of the president setting out an idealistic concept, and then expecting the rest of the world to follow along, is the recently concluded nuclear summit. There is a lot to like about the idea of ensuring the safety and security of nuclear materials around the world. In the end, however, what he claimed as successes did not match the goals he initially enunciated.
The Stimson Center’s Barry Blechman immediately critiqued the summit for doing too little, even arguing that the president should return the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 2009. A bipartisan editorial by the Belfer Center’s Graham Allison and William Tobey echoed the complaint on the pages of theNew York Times, where they called for a greater commitment to the currently operating treaties and policies.
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