President Obama seems to be giving Americans the foreign policy they want—a "minimalist" one that refrains from knee-jerk military intervention and requires nations to deal with their own problems, observes Robert Kagan at the Washington Post. So why, then, are his approval ratings on foreign policy so dismal, hovering as they are in the mid-30s? Kagan see a "paradox" at play: Yes, Americans "may want a more narrowly self-interested American policy," he writes. "But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to him for giving them what they want."
Obama's tough speech about Russia yesterday suggests that he may buck this very trend and rally the rest of the world in penalizing Moscow, but only time will tell whether he can do so in his remaining time in office. In general, America is adjusting to its reduced role as a world power, and Obama is the one leading that transition. The public may want it, "but it is not something they will thank him for," writes Kagan. "To follow a leader to triumph inspires loyalty, gratitude, and affection. Following a leader in retreat inspires no such emotions." Click for his full column.