Barack Obama's Foreign Policy: An Utter Failure
Looking back on President Obama's foreign policy, many wonder what the "Obama Doctrine" actually means. He is inconsistent and appears to be weak in the eyes of the world. Although his rhetoric tries to state otherwise, al-Qaeda is re-emerging, Iran seems to have its way with this administration, and the president has allowed Russia as well as China to become obstructionists. American Thinker interviewed intelligence experts to comment on this administration's foreign policy.
In a major foreign policy speech, while running for president in July 2008, candidate Obama outlined his goals: "Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America -- once again -- to lead ... I will focus this strategy on goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century... [and] to engage China on common interests."
Evaluating these goals, it seems that the president has pretty much failed. Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, HUMINT, Analysis, and Counterintelligence, told American Thinker, "You'd be hard-pressed to argue that the [resident has achieved any of the major foreign policy goals he laid out as a candidate. Part of that is a failure of leadership since he assumed office, and part of that was his naiveté as a candidate, with no experience on the world stage other than speech-giving, making promises that simply could not be kept." The breakdown of his goals can be seen regarding certain areas.
Russia has been allowed to sabotage issues vital to America's national security. Vladimir Putin wrote an op-ed in the New York Times and recently lectured Americans on the necessity of the NSA, clearly taking advantage of the president's ability to lead from behind. This is from someone who has given asylum to Edward Snowden. All those interviewed felt that Russia might have had a role in helping Snowden because it would be very naïve to think that he would have acted alone.
It seems President Obama does not understand how Putin operates, being able to take advantage of openings given to him by the U.S. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director, still considers Russia down and out, yet the Russians attempt to "act as a great power even though they don't have the wherewithal of a great power. I said recently this guy plays cards really well, since he only has a pair of threes in his hand. Because of our stumbling, we have given Putin the opportunity to act more dominant than he should. For example, in Syria, we gave them the opportunity to become a player in the Middle East again because of our incompetence and inaction. The Syrian 'red line' statement and the aftermath was just an embarrassment showing how inept we were. What makes it harder to work with them is the fact that someone like Putin, with his KGB experience, suspects all American actions as a plot to weaken Russia."
China appears not to respect or fear the US as evidenced by their recent actions in the South China Sea and the Hainan Island. Everyone interviewed is afraid that China is miscalculating the fact that America is still a great power with the strongest military in the world. Hayden cannot understand China's recent actions because it "alienated everyone in the neighborhood and causes the US to put more weight on that part of the world."
What is very fascinating is that Americans are extremely concerned and upset with the "spying by the NSA," but there is not a large outcry about Chinese espionage. Hayden commented, "A consequence of this Snowden thing is that all the pressure is off the Chinese here and internationally. Everyone is blaming us now while the Chinese keep on doing their thing."
Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, regards President Obama as showing no leadership when it comes to engaging the Chinese economically. "The president is not pushing two agreements, the Trade Promotion Authority, and the Trans Pacific Partnership, that would put formidable pressure and force the Chinese into making a decision. With the implementation of these agreements along with an agreement with the European Union, we would have two-thirds of the world's economy on board. The Chinese could either join or sit on the sidelines as they watch the other nations have an easier flow of goods to buy and sell."
In 2008, President Obama spoke of preventing rogue nations from nuclear capabilities but has currently entered into a six-month agreement with Iran that is not credible. He is negotiating from a position weakness. He did not get the Iranians to crank back their nuclear program, did not tighten the sanctions, and appeared desperate to get an agreement. According to Elliott Abrams, a former Middle East advisor, this agreement "kicks the can down the road not just this year, but for the next three. This allows the president to say, 'I said they wouldn't, and they didn't.' I think psychologically and diplomatically, the Iranians have the upper hand. These partial piecemeal deals will slowly and surely undue the sanctions while they slowly and surely advance the Iranians nuclear program. The Iranians do not have an impression of us as a power to be reckoned with."
Which is why Abrams and the others interviewed cannot understand why this administration has worked so hard against the Senate sanction resolution. They actually see it as something to use in the negotiations to get Iranian concessions. Abrams is upset because he feels that the Iranians have no desire to restrain themselves. "They have continued their presence in Syria, have been caught shipping arms to Bahrain, and the most atrocious is when the Iranian foreign minister laid a wreath at the grave of a terrorist that killed a huge number of American soldiers. This is a remarkable insult to the US as they stuck a finger in Obama's eye. In addition, the Iranians continue their vicious and insulting rhetoric toward Israel as they play the public relations game with the West. There is something wrong with this picture. It is obvious they feel triumphant."
Candidate Obama wanted to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Congressman Rooney sarcastically notes, "The president inherited a successful surge strategy for Iraq, but now al-Qaeda controls large portions of the country, which many of our troops gave their lives to secure. I wouldn't call that a responsible end to the war." Congressman Nunes agrees and wonders why the president did not insist on maintaining well-fortified bases on the outskirts with special ops units. He believes that not being able to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement was a way out for this administration, since "they kept saying Iraq was the wrong war and they had pledged to pull out the troops. How stupid was that, considering al-Qaeda is back and the Iranians are now using that airspace to bring weapons to Syria?"
The War on Terror is far from over. The president did not decimate al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or Islamist extremists. Congressman Nunes believes that America has dropped the ball regarding this fight. He does not buy into the rhetoric that "core" al-Qaeda was devastated and that there are now splinter groups that must be dealt with. He insists, "To differentiate between these groups is ridiculous. The administration spun these new references to get re-elected and it stemmed from the Benghazi disaster. First this administration said the Benghazi attack was not terrorism, then they said it was terrorism but not al-Qaeda, and now they say it was not core al-Qaeda but splinter groups. They can attempt to change the rhetoric all they want, but everyone knows radical Islam is radical Islam. All the groups are related, work towards the same goal, and believe in the same ideology. It is obvious that al-Qaeda has adapted and changed."
Hayden feels that the U.S. is losing more influence in the Middle East as the fundamentalist Islamists make more of an impact. He sees them "controlling, dominating, shaping, and creating events. We see how the Fundamentalists have taken over many of the revolutions in the area. Just look at Syria, the Sinai, Libya, and Yemen to name a few. I can't point to any successes for us here."
All interviewed would not give Obama high marks regarding his foreign policy decisions and certainly do not think he achieved his goals as outlined in July 2008. Hayden said, "The American brand has suffered. No one knows what this president's broad strategic vision is that guides policy." Congressman Nunes ventured to say, "The worst part of his legacy will not be the economy, but what he has done internationally." Abrams wishes the president would be clear about regimes that are "monstrous and evil. Obama needs to speak clearly and realistically as Reagan did about Russia." Congressman Rooney stated, "Neither our allies nor our enemies can predict when this administration will want to intervene, when they'll stand firm, when they'll back down. Foreign policy under president Obama is ad hoc, contradictory, and unpredictable."
Perhaps the best way to summarize the president's foreign policy is that he has failed to achieve his outlined 2008 goals, because he lacks leadership and displays weakness.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.