- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A former State Department adviser calls President Obama a “dithering” chief executive with control issues that jeopardize America’s foreign affairs policy, in a new book that makes the case the current administration has damaged U.S. interests in the Middle East.

Written by Vali Nasr, a professor who worked with Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the book also faults Mr. Obama for his extreme reluctance to take any risk, The Telegraph reports.

“The president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers whose turf was strictly politics,” Mr. Vasr writes in “The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat.”


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“The White House seemed to see an actual benefit in not doing too much,” Mr. Nasr wrote, as The Telegraph reported. “The goal was to spare the president the risks that necessarily come with playing the leadership role that America claims to play in this region.”

Specifically, Mr. Vasr charges the White House with purposely cutting out Mr. Holbrooke and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton from the foreign-policy decision-making process.

“At times it appeared the White House was more interested in bringing Holbrooke down than getting the policy right,” writes Mr. Nasr, who was part of Holbrooke’s “AfPak” policy team.

“Obama was dithering. He was busybodying the national security apparatus by asking for more answers to the same set of questions, each time posed differently,” writes Mr. Nasr of the months-long review.

Mr. Nasr says that, at the very outset of his administration, the president vetoed Holbrooke as a possible deputy secretary to Hilary Rodham Clinton.

“After he took office, the president never met with Holbrooke outside large meetings and never gave him time and heard him out.”

“Obama had not given him enough authority (and would give him almost no support) to get the job done,” writes Mr. Nasr in a lengthy excerpt published by Foreign Policy magazine.

“Those closest to the president … wanted to settle scores for Holbrooke’s tenacious campaign support of Clinton (who was herself eyed with suspicion by the Obama insiders),” notes Mr. Nasr.

Holbrooke died suddenly in December 2010.

In another quote in the book, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until September 2011, accused the White House of wanting “to control everything,” even in areas of little knowledge or expertise.

Mr. Nasr’s new book, “The Dispensable Nation: America Foreign Policy in Retreat” was published this week and comes as Secretary of State John F. Kerry makes his official entrance into overseas diplomacy.