Obama’s Foreign Policy Report Card
Shortly before his election in 2008, Barack Obama said he intended to fundamentally transform the United States. As we learned within months of his inauguration, he also intended to fundamentally transform America’s relation to the rest of the world.
Five years into Obama’s administration, we see the results. He has succeeded in diminishing America’s influence in the world. Our allies no longer trust us; our enemies no longer fear us.
To Obama, this is success. He clearly sees the United States as just another player in the so-called international community. To him, America is not an exceptional nation with a special place in the world. We are one among many. Nothing more, nothing less.
From his first major foreign policy speech in Cairo in 2009, to his odd behavior in the Syrian crisis late this summer, Obama has been apologetic and hesitant about America’s place at the international table. He clearly loathes the use of force or the projection of power. He resists placing the United States in a leadership role.
Here is where we stand today concerning major foreign-policy challenges on the eve of 2014:
- Iran: Ever since Obama failed to side with the Iranian people when their government brutally stole an election, the president has been determined to mend fences with the most dangerous nation in the Middle East. It is a brutal dictatorship that feeds on terrorism and hatred; it has vowed to destroy the United States and Israel. Yet Obama is determined to make a deal that is sure to create a nuclear-armed Iran. This will assure that force will never be used against Iran. The West will retreat into the defensive posture of containment.
- Iraq: After a war of liberation that stretched for nearly a decade, Obama left Iraq to its own devices. He fulfilled his campaign promise, but he will not escape the consequences of his decision to leave the nation undefended. Iraq is now in chaos with a revived civil war. Al Qaeda is back. Worst of all, Iraq is now a client state of Iran, ready to do Iran’s bidding on a regional scale.
- Afghanistan: Obama is about to repeat the Iraq experience in Afghanistan. He is committed to withdraw before the end of 2014. Failure to reach a defense agreement with the corrupt Afghan government could leave the nation ripe for picking by the Taliban. The nation where the 9/11 plot was hatched will then be home to America’s mortal enemy.
- Israel: No foreign-policy failure is more distressing to millions of freedom loving Americans that Obama’s destruction of the U.S.-Israeli alliance. Every president since Truman has backed the only democracy in the Middle East. From the beginning, Obama has been aggressive and hostile in his confrontation with Israel. He clearly favors the Palestinians, who remain committed to the destruction of Israel. If Obama allows Iran to gain the capacity to build nuclear weapons, it will be the last straw for Israel.
- Syria: Obama could have been effective in combating the brutal Assad regime had he acted two years ago, but he hesitated and now the insurgents are doomed. Al Qaeda is flourishing. Russia stepped in and humiliated the president by taking the lead against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Now the United States has no influence in the conflict. With Assad likely to survive, Syria will go forward as another of Iran’s client states. The unspeakable human toll of dead and homeless in Syria will be chalked up by the Obama administration as the cost of nonintervention.
- Russia: Vladimir Putin won the race against Obama for world influence this year, but the president does not seem to care. The Russian leader’s dream of a resurgent Russia on the world stage appears to be within his grasp. For months, Putin defied the West as he sided with Assad in Syria. Then, when the chemical weapons crisis broke, Putin rode to Obama’s rescue. Now the Russian leader acts with impunity, most recently by taming the cries for freedom in Ukraine. Obama says nothing.
- China: Unafraid of U.S. power, China continues its long march towards domination in the Pacific. China never misses a chance to challenge either its neighbors or the West. It picks a fight with Japan over seemingly insignificant islands. It continues the ludicrous squabble with Taiwan. All the while, China works to build its navy and drive the United States from the Pacific. China and the United States are major trading partners with significant economic ties. Nevertheless, there are serious hostilities below the surface.
This is not a good record for five years of foreign-policy stewardship. With three years to go, Americans can only hope that the negative consequences of three more years of Obama at the foreign-policy helm be minimal. It is not a sure thing.