Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water [read more]
A good opinion piece by Rick Richman in Commentary lays out the abysmal performance of the Obama Administration in foreign policy.
Richman criticizes Obama for, essentially, taking a passive approach to foreign policy, particularly events in the Middle East of late:
In one sense, Barack Obama is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Famous for his eloquence, he has nothing to say about world historical events, emerging after a week in the latest one to announce he instructed his administration to provide “options.” Elected as a clarion for change, he issues a let-me-be-clear statement that the United States has had nothing to do with change sweeping the Middle East. A prior Democratic president wanted every nation to know we would bear any burden to assure the success of liberty in the world; the current president can hardly bear the burden of speaking up about it.
It is a portrait of a president who wants nothing to do with foreign affairs if he can help it. He will stay silent unless forced to say something and do only what the world agrees to do with “one voice.” He appeases adversaries (giving China a pass on human rights, Russia a reset, Iran an outstretched hand, and Syria an ambassador) in the hope the world will leave him alone while he concentrates on domestic affairs, where his real enthusiasms lie.
In this sense, Obama is not a mystery but the logical extension of George McGovern’s “Come home, America” theme in his 1972 presidential campaign and John Kerry’s “Let America Be America Again” one in 2004. They sought to throw off wars in Vietnam and Iraq to concentrate on domestic issues, asserting that using American power to advance freedom abroad was a mistake.
An opinion piece in The New York Post by Michael A. Walsh looks back, after more than two years, at the famous campaign ad by Hillary Clinton about taking the 3 a.m. phone call in the White House. Walsh sums up the dangers of a foreign policy adrift in an ocean of neglect and incompetence:
Once again, President “Present” has signally failed to lead, preferring instead to hide behind a fog of “consultations with allies.” True, on Saturday he finally — in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel – called for Khadafy to step down, and also took diplomatic action against the beleaguered regime, issuing an executive order that blocks property and other transactions.
Insiders say that Obama hesitated to take a public stand against the doomed dictator for fear that US diplomats might be taken hostage. But a great power can’t conduct a robust foreign policy in fear; that way lies the path of Jimmy Carter, whom Obama is coming more and more to resemble. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out recently, America is starting to look like Switzerland in its international irrelevance. Is that what Obama meant by “fundamental change”?
There are only two explanations. Either the White House, Langley and Foggy Bottom really are staffed by blithering incompetents, hopelessly out of their depth and unable to deal with the rapid pace of developments, or Obama is doing exactly what he wants to do — which is basically nothing.
So now we know where Obama is at 3 a.m. A pretty speech here, a basketball game there, another round of golf, another costly vacation and the endless whirl of White House parties take a lot out of a guy.
The easy thing to do here would be to add a few lines about what a miserable and dangerous presidency we are enduring. Even the usual media lapdogs for Obama are having a hard time spinning his latest antics.
Does this remind you of anyone?
The more troublesome aspect of all this is not what it says about Obama– he is by now a known quantity. The real concern is that these policies by Obama and his Administration seem to be eerily similar to the neo-isolationism brewing in the conservative movement. To take but one example of this, here is Ron Paul, in his own words, in a piece he penned at Foreign Policy.Com on August 27, 2010:
As many frustrated Americans who have joined the Tea Party realize, we cannot stand against big government at home while supporting it abroad. We cannot talk about fiscal responsibility while spending trillions on occupying and bullying the rest of the world. We cannot talk about the budget deficit and spiraling domestic spending without looking at the costs of maintaining an American empire of more than 700 military bases in more than 120 foreign countries. We cannot pat ourselves on the back for cutting a few thousand dollars from a nature preserve or an inner-city swimming pool at home while turning a blind eye to a Pentagon budget that nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.
Our foreign policy is based on an illusion: that we are actually paying for it. What we are doing is borrowing and printing money to maintain our presence overseas. Americans are seeing the cost of this irresponsible approach as their own communities crumble and our economic decline continues.
I see tremendous opportunities for movements like the Tea Party to prosper by capitalizing on the Democrats’ broken promises to overturn the George W. Bush administration’s civil liberties abuses and end the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A return to the traditional U.S. foreign policy of active private engagement but government noninterventionism is the only alternative that can restore our moral and fiscal health. I am optimistic, and our numbers are increasing!
Note that this is almost the entire piece. Leave aside its disjointed and somewhat illogical style. What is Paul essentially saying? The U.S. is “occupying and bullying the rest of the world” and “maintaining an American empire.” He decries a military budget that “nearly equals those of the rest of the world combined.” He makes the absurd claim that all of the money that goes toward the military is borrowed money that could be better spent to keep our communities from “crumb[ling].” Iraq and Afghanistan have been “disastrous” (though he fails to state how or why) and, lastly, he advocates a “return to the traditional foreign policy of active private engagement but government nonintervention…”
This is not just the view of Ron Paul, but the view of other, so-called conservatives like Pat Buchanan and others.
These statements reek of the kind of anti-Americanism that sees our involvement overseas as unmitigated evil; ignore the very real dangers posed to these United States by China, Russia, Iran and a host of non-state terror groups, and; see disaster everywhere we step foot outside of our borders.
In short, this is the very type of thinking that Obama wholeheartedly embraces.
Conservatives need to give careful thought here. However attractive it may be to espouse a philosophy that seeks to return to the 18th century and withdraw into our own, self-satisfied cocoon, it is no different than the temptation to just stay in bed all day and believe that the bills will nevertheless get paid, the house kept up, the kids fed and the job done. It is a fantasy and one that American cannot afford to indulge. As the pieces by Richman and Walsh point out, we have witnessed over two years of foreign policy gaffes, blunders, miscalculations, betrayals and wishful thinking. We are reaping the bitter fruit of seeds sown in those two years and will continue to reap, I fear, for many years to come.
If any conservative finds the foreign policy of Obama to be repugnant and dangerous they should know with a certainty that it is no different than the kind prescribed by neo-isolationists like Ron Paul. Lest anyone think that neo-isoloationism is a fringe of conservatism, consider that Ron Paul was given a prominent speaking role at the Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C. on April 15, 2010. I was there for that. He also spoke at CPAC just a few weeks ago to the delight of ardent supporters.
This childish view of foreign policy must be dispensed with. It will be no less disastrous in the hands of a Republican president (should we be so fortunate) than it has been with Obama. Worse yet, if the neo-isolationists persist in this thinking there is every chance that the conservative vote will be split badly in 2012, ensuring Obama’s re-election.
America cannot afford Obama in 2012 and she cannot afford neo-isolationist thinking under any, other banner.