Foreign Policy Relived

“The 1970’s called and they would like their foreign policy back.”

President Obama addressed this quip to Romney in a pre-election debate.

Now it’s a couple of years later and President Obama probably wishes he could get the 1970’s on the phone to learn how to shape an effective foreign policy against a hostile Russia.

During both of his campaigns Obama promised to get the United States out of Iraq. He has used his authority to accelerate our departure despite warnings of the dangers.

Circulating on Facebook right now is a news clip of Bush stating that if we leave Iraq too quickly, and against the advice of the military leadership, it will become the next terrorist stronghold. He was referring to the area which is now the stronghold of ISIS.

President Obama is in a pickle. The world he faces runs contrary to his political banter. This largely happened because he failed to see the world as it really was. Russia really is a tremendously powerful country, with aspirations to reclaim all its lost territories. Within the portion of the world dominated by Islam, terrorists will rise up.

I remember history teachers, from junior high up, telling us the reason we study history—to avoid repeating it.



Clinton, Obama, and Political Mantras

Hillary Clinton did an interview for The Atlantic magazine in which the former secretary of state criticized President Obama’s foreign policy. She reduced his foreign policy down to a mantras, specifically the phrase “don’t do stupid stuff”. Although, we are told that in the Obama version the word stuff was actually a cruder word.

Politics is often a harsh arena, where loyalties are for convenience only and truth is spun in whatever direction the speaker wants to exert influence. It’s a bummer for President Obama that someone so close to his administration is already turning against him. Chances are her statements are a simplification to accentuate the president’s weaknesses. She is likely taking this action in order to make it appear she was hindered by the president during her role as our top diplomat, and therefore cannot be held accountable for the problems that occurred during her tenure.

I would like to make a couple of observations here.

First, reducing Obama’s foreign policy to a mantra is likely unfair, but it probably has a degree of truth to it. If you think of the coverage of almost every policy change  we have seen come from the Obama administration we only hear the overarching principle. In regards to the economy, ‘some agencies are too big to fail.’ But he wasn’t the least bit wary of how this would contradict free market principles. In regards to health care, ‘America is great enough to provide every person with coverage.’ But when it comes to working out the implications he is seemingly caught off guard as each new problem comes to light. In regards to immigration, ‘children brought here by their parents are not at fault.’ But again he didn’t  foresee or deal with the problems these policies generated.

Second, if Clinton was aware Obama’s administration was headed in the wrong direction, and if she was not allowed input or action to improve the situation, then she should have resigned. If she remained in such a position she must have believed she was doing some good, either for the world or for her own career.

Cooperating with a Hostile World

This past week a man reported to have a history of mental illness and criminal activity was allowed to stand a few feet away from the President of the United States for an extended period of time. He was not searched nor were agents close enough to intervene if he had taken actions against the president. It seems apparent the sign language interpreter was not vetted by the president’s security team in any way.

This happened because the security was handled in the cooperative model this president likes to build into his foreign policies. He doesn’t want us to be arrogant and assume we are the only ones able to vet a sign language interpreter. He doesn’t want us to be conceited so as to double check the arrangements made by the host country. He prefers for our country to appear humble and cooperative.

I don’t happen to like this president much, but honestly I would have been furious if this lack of attention had resulted in his being attacked, injured or even killed. I may not be fond of his politics but I am tired of sending the world a signal that American cannot defend its own.

I hope something is learned from the episode. Not everyone, around the world, is who they claim they are. Not everyone is capable of doing what they say they are capable of doing. Not everyone who claims to be our friend has our best interests at heart. Sometimes the only way we can be sure something is being done appropriately is to take charge of it ourselves. Cooperation is a great trait at the appropriate time and place. But there is also a time when nothing substitutes for direct supervision.

Shielding the president would fit in this category. Protecting the national healthcare website would fit in this category. Guarding embassies and collecting intelligence also fits in this category. We have paid a terrible price in these issues and in other matters in the past few years simply by valuing the opinion of the world too highly.