We who follow U.S. foreign policy, and especially the Middle East, sometimes get asked whether Barack Obama is a community organizing naïf way out of his depth or a brilliant ideologue who knows exactly what he is doing.

Is he inept or purposeful? Does he see his foreign policy as a failure or a success? My reply:

Not one or the other but a bit of both. He is a leftist who sees the imperialism, militarism, and corporate greed of the United States as a menace to the outside world. He conceives of his role being to reach out to enemies, reduce America's cowboy ways, make it one of the pack, and render the world a safer place.

But he is also the president on whose watch we find not security but anarchy and despotism. Reduced American influence has led to revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; renewed civil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; conflagrations in Libya, Yemen, and Syria; Russian military intervention; and unfathomable future troubles from a nuclear Iran.

In other words, Obama's policy is purposeful but the consequences are not.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.