How Bolivia Became Obama’s No. 1 Foreign Policy Screw-Up of the Year

 

What was President Obama’s biggest foreign policy screw-up of the year? There are several worthy contenders, but Dan Drezner nominates Obama’s decision to block the flight home of Bolivian President Evo Morales due to suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden might be on board:

Now, why was this such a big deal? It was a two-fer. First, in going after Snowden so aggressively, the administration put the lie to its claims that Snowden’s revelations weren’t that big of a deal….Second, and more significantly, the desperate and clumsy attempt to grab Snowden dramatically altered the perception by other governments about their preferences.

….When the U.S. forced Morales’ plane to make an emergency landing, [] Washington signaled that it was equally willing to f**k with the sovereignty franchise. At that point, all bets were off for countries predisposed to not helping the United States. Russia kept Snowden, Latin America kept polishing its resentment against the U.S., the rest of the world kept paying attention to Snowden’s revelations, and the United States lost significant hypocritical capabilities.

Would Snowden be in custody today if Obama hadn’t done this? Drezner figures there’s a good chance. I don’t happen to agree, since I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which Russia would be willing to turn over an American spy, but it’s a plausible guess.

In any case, you can lump this together with the fallout from revelations about spying on foreign leaders and bulk collection of overseas data and documents, and it certainly puts the Snowden leaks in the top two foreign policy events of the year for the United States. I’d still put Iran ahead of it if the current talks produce a breakthrough, but that’s it. If the talks fail, or produce only modest progress, then Snowden will be a clear #1.

 

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $170,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign that ends Saturday. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate