It's hard to imagine in the more meritocratic world of the blogosphere and the web in general that an exhausted incoherent hack like Richard Cohen would have any platform at all. But there he still sits on Fred Hiatt's op-ed page, churning out dated, brain-dead dreck week after week. His latest column really could have been written at any point during any Democratic administration since Carter.
His current (and previous) hero is Robert Kagan, a man who famously championed a war against Iraq that killed 100,000 Iraqis, 5,000 Americans, permanently maimed tens of thousands more, cost up to a trillion dollars, and ended by empowering Iran. None of this is mentioned by Cohen in using Kagan to condescend to Obama. None of it. And in a column allegedly devoted to American power and influence in the world, Cohen makes no mention of the massive events of the last decade – the rise and rise of the new economic super-powers of China, India and Brazil. Yes, he's that lazy. He knows as much about foreign policy as I do about how to apply mascara.
He's also completely incoherent, as the National Interest points out. Is American power in relative decline? Cohen uses Iran as an example to say yes:
Russia will not cooperate on Iran. Neither will China. The two even vetoed a U.N. resolution regarding Syria. India will continue to buy Iranian oil, and the Iranians themselves have learned that they need only promise to behave and Washington will shimmer in relief.
Then he says no. I love this sentence:
[A] limited America still has unlimited possibilities and solemn responsibilities.
If a freshman in International Relations wrote that sentence, I'd give him a D. And let's look at the country Cohen focuses on, Iran, as an example of Obama's failure to wield power as well as Kagan's puppet, George W. Bush. Here's Dennis Ross, a man long dedicated to Israel's and America's interests in the region:
Iran cannot do business with or obtain credit from any reputable international bank, nor can it easily insure its ships or find energy investors. According to Iran’s oil ministry, the energy sector needs more than $100 billion in investments to revitalize its aging infrastructure; it now faces a severe shortfall.
New American penalties on Iran’s central bank and those doing business with it have helped trigger an enormous currency devaluation. In the last six weeks, the Iranian rial has declined dramatically against the dollar, adding to the economic woes Iran is now confronting.
Grain is sitting on ships that won’t unload their cargoes in Iranian ports because suppliers haven’t been paid; Iranian oil is being stored on tankers as Iran’s buyers demand discounts to purchase it; and even those countries that continue to do business with Iran are not paying in dollars. India plans to buy 45 percent of its oil from Iran using rupees, meaning that Iran will be forced to buy Indian goods that it may not want or need.
I cite this one example to show just what a joke Cohen is. And the key to this Iranian isolation is not Bob Kagan's catastrophic Iraq war, but Obama's careful internationalist rallying of support for crippling sanctions over three years, while keeping it clear he is ready to negotiate at any time to accept peaceful Iranian nuclear power. This is emphatically not Kagan's vision, which did far more to destroy American soft and hard power in eight years than at any time since Carter. It is Obama's. And yet this is Cohen's conclusion:
The president talks of a role cut and pasted from a magazine and claims a policy, outlook and demeanor that haven’t been his.
The man would be laughed out of the blogosphere. But he remains ensconced for life in Fred Hiatt's bosom, where torture apologists and Netanyahu sock-puppets find sinecures.