It is easy to blame Obama’s deplorably bad leadership for the global deterioration of U.S. foreign policy, but the truth is he is only partially responsible for the mess we are in. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t made long-standing threats worse. His dangerous, single-minded determination to change America’s role from the leader in world affairs to a community member has hurt us. So has a history of stupid foreign policy mistakes that will be with us for a very long time.
After years of the U.S. worrying about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, John Kerry unintentionally pointed out the three things we aren’t doing:
So in the days ahead, we will stay at this. We will continue to exercise the judgment and the patience to defend our interests, to uphold our core principles, and maintain our sense of urgency. We have not yet reached the finish line.1
We haven’t done any of those things, other than exercise patience that has dragged on interminably while Iran toys with our diplomatic entreaties. It probably doesn’t help that when our commander in chief needs to show resolve he is celebrating an Iranian holiday in the White House:
For thousands of years, this has been a time to gather with family and friends and welcome a new spring and a new year. Last week, my wife Michelle helped mark Nowruz here at the White House.2
New spring sounds a lot like Arab Spring. We know how that turned out, but we are still determined to make avoidable, stupid foreign policy mistakes that are endangering the security of our future. For example, we are:
1. Negotiating with terrorists
Consistency is not something Obama foreign policy is known for. Perhaps the president thinks no one is keeping track. In 2010 Harry Reid sent a letter to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
Reid expressed his concern about the threat Iran’s nuclear weapons program poses and his desire for the Obama administration to “do everything possible to reduce recent tensions with Israel while reaffirming the need to move forward with the peace process.” Reid also noted that U.S. involvement in both of these situations was “crucial to ensure the security of Israel” and “that a secure Israel is in our national interest.”3
If Clinton responded by email we probably don’t have a record of it. Now our relationship with Israel has chilled suddenly and publicly. We are arguing over how far we will go in lifting sanctions that have been in place in some form since 1987.4
Senate Republicans felt sufficiently threatened to put Iran’s government on notice about Obama’s lame duck problem. At least those 47 senators felt the sense of urgency Kerry talked about over an entry on our state sponsors of terrorism list that we can’t afford to believe will honor a deal any longer than it takes to acquire a nuclear bomb.
2. Rejecting Israel
How did we get to the point where U.S.-Israel relations are fractured because of our conviction that we can negotiate with a rogue nation? Our desire to appease Iran, a perceived White House snub, a divisive Israeli election, and Barack Obama’s continuing insistence on making nice to Islam have threatened the one relationship we know we can depend on in a Middle Eastern sea of lies, backstabbing, and contradictions.
The U.S. was suckered by our own need to believe in the Arab Spring. We looked like fools for backing Morsi and bigger fools after Obama backed down from his threat over Syria’s chemical weapons. Before we found out that Pakistan was sheltering bin Laden we committed $7 billion under Kerry-Lugar-Berman (see: Do Terrorists Serve Our National Interest?), something Kerry was still boasting about two years after bin Laden was killed5 and Pakistan’s duplicity revealed.
If the anti-nuke negotiations drag on long enough and Israel acts will the United States have our friend and ally’s back? Until a few months ago the answer would have been an unqualified “yes.” Now we don’t know what the answer is.
3. Believing our values work in other places
America has a long history of pretending that the values our nation was founded on work everywhere. They don’t. American values fail spectacularly when there is no moral framework to support them (see: Freedom of Religion Protects Evil Spread by Islam). They don’t work in North Korea. They don’t work in the Muslim Middle East and we are finding out that they don’t work in Russia, either. It would serve our ends better to admit that some people are bad, that bad people believe bad things, and that we can’t change or negotiate with them. When we forget that we get embarrassed like we did over Syria and soon will over Iran.
4. Relying on the world to back us
America has always relied on our strength to marshal the world community. That has changed. Now we rely on the strength of the community of nations to back us. It should be no surprise that the world is not going to support a former superpower they are used to leaning on just because its leader insists on a more dependent status for America.
Expressing his hopes for Iran’s New Year, Obama confirmed how we fit into the big picture:
This year, that includes our hopes for progress between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international community, including the United States.6
Apparently it hasn’t occurred to anyone in this administration that no one respects or fears a has-been superpower any more than we can continue to draw strength in the present from our past (see: Obama Can’t Lead: the Really Simple Reason Why)
5. Not recognizing that we have no secrets
How we view ourselves has a lot to do with how the world views us. In his zeal to rip apart America’s social and economic fabric Obama disregarded how small the world has become. Every negative comment, every apology for our conduct, every condemnation from the White House, every vow to never torture our enemies again is heard around the world in real time. Did we think that our enemies and detractors weren’t paying attention when our leader joined members of his party in skipping Netanyahu’s address, or when we fretted that domestic security funding would be stalled because of his refusal to guard our borders?
6. Forgetting that this is America
Perhaps the biggest, most stupid foreign policy mistake of all is forgetting who we are. You can’t come from a position of strength when you have no faith or respect for what came before you to give you that strength. That is the most lethal, most irreversible foreign policy mistake of all. We certainly feel the impact at home. Is Obama so clueless that he thinks the world hasn’t noticed that something is different?