NEW HAVEN, Conn. — One of President Obama’s national security aides believes that the former president was “cautious to a fault,” and “failed” to “escalate” when it was needed.
Charles Kupchan — who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for European Affairs on the National Security Council in the Obama White House — gave an in-depth critique of Obama’s foreign policy this past Friday at Yale University’s two-day conference on “Grand Strategy.”
“Obama was up against a foreign establishment that wouldn’t let go and went through a torturous debate over whether to cut losses in the Middle East. We would regularly swat away bad ideas from the State Department, including sending 100,000 troops to Syria,” reflected Kupchan.
Kupchan has written 9 books about globalization and international relations. Before serving Obama, he taught at Princeton, worked in the State Department, and was the director for European Affairs on the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration.
“Obama is deliberate and cautious to a fault and landed in an uncomfortable ‘no-man’s land.’ He picked the middle ground between what the foreign policy establishment was telling him and where he wanted to go. He possessed an uncanny ability to avoid spirals. At times when he needed to escalate, he failed to do so. Sometimes you need to develop a reputation for holding your ground. Libya is a perfect example of that. Syria is a perfect example of that. Afghanistan is a perfect example of that.”
On Trump, Kupchan spoke more critically.
“Trump will do too little and too much,” continued Kupchan. “He will do little to protect the international institutions we’ve built since WWII and too much in engaging us with new problems.”
Audience attendees included Goldman Sachs analysts, Yale graduate students pursuing PhDs, and history enthusiasts drifting in-and-out.
Kupchan is now a professor at Georgetown University.
Davis Richardson is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. His writing has appeared in Vice, Nylon Magazine, and Capitol File. Follow him on Twitter @davisoliverr