Panderer-in-Chief: Why Obama's National Security Record Is Weak and DangerousBy Jay Kronzer
One of Obama's greatest strengths, according to the mainstream media and establishment pundits, is his national security and defense record. After all, they say, he has taken out Osama bin Laden, overthrown a dictator in Libya, and now (at least officially) ended an unpopular war in Iraq.
Osama, Libya, Iraq: A Counter-Argument
Big deal. Sooner or later Osama bin Laden was going to be found, and by that time, from a tactical standpoint, his death was irrelevant. It was a symbolic and emotional relief more than anything else. In any event, credit should go to the Navy SEALs; they were the ones who were there on the ground, risking their lives to bring a killer to justice.
Then there's Libya, which maintains a fragile peace. Gaddafi's brutal assault against his own people lasted a lot longer than necessary. Many lives were lost by the time Obama made up his mind and offered the rebels assistance. Why did he take so long? Was it because he waited until he thought the situation was politically expedient or because public opinion had turned against him in favor of the rebels? This is yet another example of him leading from behind.
And now we see that the situation in Iraq, which Obama hails as an accomplishment, is shaky and unstable, descending into ever-increasing violence. Looking at the evidence, who could claim that Obama has a strong record on defense national security?
Iraq: Undermining Our Achievements
December of 2011 marked the "official" end of the war in Iraq. All the troops, according to Obama, would be home for the holidays. In fact, not all of them were. Despite his pledge that "the rest of our troops will come home by the end of the year," approximately 4,000 troops were transferred to Kuwait, where they will remain for several more months. Nevertheless, there will still be Americans in Iraq. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad -- the largest embassy in the world -- will retain 16,000 people.
While many celebrate the official end to a long and costly war, the situation on the ground remains tense. The day after the last American soldiers left Iraq, Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president. In addition, after Saleh al-Mutlaq, a deputy prime minister, called him a "dictator," al-Maliki had the Iraqi parliament hold a vote of no confidence against al-Mutlaq and surrounded his house with tanks. Then, on December 22, four days after the final troops left Iraq, 72 people were killed in bomb attacks. Most recently, on January 5, at least 78 people were killed in yet another string of bombings.
To all appearances, the hasty Iraqi withdrawal enacted by the Obama administration has created more sectarian violence and political strife than the country has seen in a long time. If things continue to deteriorate, it could spawn a vacuum that would create fertile ground for terrorists and an opportunity for extremists to exploit the floundering democracy. Despite the high stakes, it seems as if our president doesn't want to get involved. We don't hear about him working with the various political factions in Iraq to build a consensus and help stabilize the situation; instead, he has Joe Biden do it. That alone should trouble everyone. Indeed, it seems that our president is once again leading from behind. He is not acting like a commander-in-chief -- he is acting like a panderer-in-chief, pandering to an already cranky left-wing base in an election year in which his chances at a second term are questionable.
Iran: The Nuclear Threat
Obama also takes an all-too-casual approach toward Iran and refuses to recognize the serious threat that it poses. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often called for the destruction of Israel. If Obama truly saw Iran as a threat to our safety and geopolitical stability, why would he not seriously consider a military option? We have issued sanction after sanction against Iran, seemingly to no avail. Despite Tehran's repeated denials and insistence that their nuclear program is purely peaceful, it is clear they are in fact pursuing a nuclear weapon. According to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is definitive evidence that Iran is seeking to build nuclear warheads.
In addition to their nuclear program, in December, Iran captured a top-secret stealth aircraft, a U.S. drone that was designed to gather intelligence. Tehran claimed that they were in the process of decoding it and could reverse-engineer it. Instead of a strong response condemning their actions or a military ultimatum, President Obama merely said this: "We have asked for it back -- we'll see how the Iranians respond." He did not elaborate or stand up to Iran. It was a very weak response from our commander-in-chief and a victory for Tehran, leaving them with a high-tech aircraft to benefit their own research. If we continue to allow the Iranians to defy international law and keep on tolerating their unacceptable behavior, they will carry on undeterred. The situation in Iran has not improved since Barack Obama was sworn in; it has only gotten worse.
But wait -- there's more.
On Tuesday January 3, the army chief of Iran warned a U.S. naval carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf in an attempt to flex Tehran's tyrannical muscles over a strategic waterway through which a sixth of the world's oil exports passes. In addition, the Iranians threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz -- the entrance to the Persian Gulf -- if more sanctions are enacted to block the country's oil exports. And in an act of defiance, on January 8, Tehran announced that they had begun enriching uranium at a new underground site protected from airstrikes. Why should we expect things to get any better if we let them continue?
A military option must be placed on the table. Force, not diplomacy, is the only thing these extremists respect. They cannot be negotiated with; they are committed to the destruction of Israel and to the destruction of the United States as we know it.
Israel: A Cold Turn
In addition, our relationship with our greatest democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel, has been seriously wounded by Obama. Take for instance the time he snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House with a list of demands and left him for an hour to go eat dinner with Michelle and the girls. Or in May of 2011 when Obama called for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to be held on the basis of the pre-1967 borders.
Israel is the most peaceful, human rights-respecting country in the Middle East. It is considered the homeland of the Jews, yet it is smaller than the state of New Jersey. Why should we shrink it any further to appease those who are committed to our mutual destruction? The policy of appeasement doesn't work, and history testifies to that extent. Look back to the origins of World War II for evidence. Yet the Obama administration seems to be ignoring the lessons of history and advocating just that. We need to stand by our allies, particularly those who are threatened, and stand up against terrorism. Israel is our friend, and our next president needs to remember that.
Defense Cuts: Putting the Nation at Risk
In the latest blow to our national security, Obama called for about $480 billion in cuts over ten years to the defense budget. He claims it is for deficit reduction and that he, as president, needs to make the tough choices. If that is the case, why isn't he talking about tackling the skyrocketing and unsustainable cost of entitlements? Is it because he is pandering to his left-wing base in an election year?
Even Obama's own Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, who says he supports the cuts, admits that they will expose the U.S. to some "acceptable risk." Why gamble with exposing the country to any more risk at all?
The primary function of government is to defend the people. If Obama and his chosen military leaders are willing to expose the U.S. to additional risk that could jeopardize our national security, why is he not willing to cut any welfare or entitlements first? His plan would shrink the Army and Marine "Corpse," whose soldiers are already worn out from numerous combat tours, many of whom are struggling with illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Our men and women in uniform are spread out too thinly and need longer periods to rest and recover. Cutting our military personnel won't help the situation. Obama's plan would also reduce our forces in Europe, many of whom have been there since World War II, and cut our nuclear arsenal whilst other countries seek to build theirs.
Conclusion: our nation's standing throughout the world under Obama is in decline. We are faced with many threats, yet it seems that our president is more concerned with his re-election than he is with our national security. With China's military buildup, Russia's questionable future, North Korea's change of leadership, the violence and political instability in Iraq, the nuclear threat from an ever-defiant Iran, a cold attitude toward Israel (except when politically expedient), and the cutback of our military in a time of great strain, it's time for the American people to ask themselves whom they want in the White House. The fact remains that we can no longer tolerate a panderer-in-chief.
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