Americans, Lend Me Your Eyes
Shakespeare's Mark Antony beseeched his countrymen to "lend me your ears." Is it time to ask Americans to lend their eyes to see how President Obama's foreign policies have endangered our country?
A November Gallup poll indicates that 67% of Americans disapprove of Obama's economic policies, while only 44% disapprove of his foreign policies (with 49% approving of the latter). Failure of Obama's economic policies is tangibly experienced by Americans. Failure of his foreign policies -- even in an era of 24-hour media and internet scrutiny -- is not yet directly felt. A cursory review shows that Obama is gravely endangering our national security:
1. Failure to Support Iranian Democracy Protesters:
Obama's most egregious foreign policy misstep likely was his refusal to offer encouragement to the "Green Movement" protesting Iran's flagrantly rigged elections in March 2009. Obama stood by, almost mute, while the thuggish Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia killed and tortured peaceful demonstrators. At that early stage of his presidency, Obama was committed to the foolish notion that he could "engage" the Iranians to cease developing nuclear weapons. He then offered apologetics to the Muslim world, culminating in his June 2009 speech at an Islamic university in Cairo. In striking contrast, when Egyptians in January 2011 demonstrated against President Mubarak, a longtime American ally, Obama quickly sided with the demonstrators.
Iran has a higher proportion of literate citizens who desire a truly democratic and secular government than any other Muslim country. As Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, wrote last week after a study mission to the region, "these disenchanted Iranians may offer the last, best hope for the Muslim world." Obama continues to stonewall their pleas for civil society. Take it from Jackson Diehl, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor: "Obama has mishandled the biggest international development of his presidency: the popular revolutions against autocracy."
2. The Nuclear Countdown:
Every day, Iran inexorably moves closer to nuclear weapons capability. Sanctions have not slowed Iran's quest for even a minute. In recent weeks, at long last, escalating sanctions against Iran's central bank and energy exports have caused concern in Tehran. Russia, China, Brazil, and Turkey -- all U.N. Security Council members -- trade hugely with Iran and block international coordination. The role of Turkey, supposedly a U.S. ally, warrants separate comment.
3. Turkey -- Ally or Enemy?
Obama's closest friend among Middle Eastern leaders is Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdoğan, leader of the Islamist AKP party. Rather soon, Obama is likely to be asked by Turkey for a waiver of Iran trade restrictions. Obama's decision -- which he will probably attempt to delay -- will reveal his seriousness about hard Iran sanctions. Last week, Turkey's foreign minister assured Tehran that Turkish territory will not be used for attacking Iran, seemingly contradicting Obama's assurances that "all options are on the table." Turkey, a NATO member, is not Luxembourg; Turkey maintains the second-largest army in NATO. Obama chooses to ignore Turkey's trashing NATO democratic values -- e.g., (a) Turkey imprisons scores of journalists, lawyers, and educators and suppresses opposition media; (b) Turkey illegally occupies part of Cyprus, an EU member-state; (c) Turkish media close to AKP employ vile anti-U.S. and anti-Semitic propaganda, including the notion that the Iraq war was motivated in part to harvest human organs; (d) Turkey threatens sanctions against France because of legislation memorializing massacres of Christian Armenians in Ottoman times; and (e) Turkey is closely allied with terrorist Hamas and Hezb'allah, and hosts the fugitive president of Sudan. Obama's acquiescence in such Turkish practices makes Turkey a questionable ally and calls into question the consistency of our country's commitment to democratic values.
4. Russian "Reset":
Obama promised to "reset" relations with Russia. The effect to date is all gain for Russia, all loss for the U.S. Obama quickly reneged on a U.S. missile defense agreement with democratic Poland and the Czech Republic, thereby indicating that no friendly country can rely on the U.S. Russia responded to Obama's unilateral magnanimity by, e.g., refusing to compromise on missile defense in Europe or strategic arms reductions, as well as by continuing aggression against tiny Georgia. Obama seems determined to further reward Russia with unilateral strategic arms reductions (the only known college or law school paper by Obama advocates shedding all nuclear weapons) and pulling U.S. troops from Europe. It is not possible to identify any advantage to the U.S. in the "reset" with Russia.
5. Fading of the Arab Spring:
Obama's policies have facilitated the ascendancy of hard-line Islamist political power throughout the Mideast. The Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas, is falsely portrayed as "moderate" in contrast with the puritanical Salafis, who seek return to the 8th century. Coptic Christians -- ten percent of Egypt's populace -- protected Muslim worshipers in the early demos but have suffered horrific pogroms in recent weeks.
Islamist rule will jeopardize the rights of women, maintenance of the peace treaty with Israel, and the safety of minorities. The Brotherhood's deputy leader last week directly contradicted our administration's assurance that the peace treaty would be honored. The Islamists have more in common with Iran than with the U.S. Obama, who mistakenly opposed the surge which brought stability to Iraq, refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement which would have allowed a residue of U.S. forces to remain as a buffer between Shia and Sunni. The day after U.S. forces left, sectarian violence exploded while the Shia prime minister ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, who fled to the Kurdish autonomous area, thus threatening partition of the country while Iran expands its malign influence. Bringing the troops home early may become a campaign slogan Obama regrets. Professor Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese Shia and our top academic authority on the region, complained last week that Obama's policy toward the murderous Syrian regime is one of "utter abdication" tragically founded on "the belief that Assad's tyranny is preferable to the alternative."
Obama deserves credit for helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge, including current U.S.-Israeli joint anti-missile exercises. But he singlehandedly destroyed negotiations with his unprecedented demand that Israel in advance cease all settlement activity. Editor Diehl calls this a "rookie error" which hardened into a policy that became a "persistence in futility." Obama's efforts to demarcate borders in advance of negotiations ignored the reality that the so-called refugees (i.e., descendants of Palestinians displaced by war when Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state) must be resettled in a Palestinian state. I personally witnessed the depth of Obama's misunderstanding when I heard him assert at a March 1 meeting in the White House that the region would unite against Iran upon creation of a Palestinian state.
7. Will Our Armed Forces Be Adequate to Protect Us?
Obama announced last week drastic shrinking of U.S. armed forces, including retreat from Europe. Fiscal reality cannot be ignored, and the detailed plan deserves scrutiny by Congress and informed citizenry. One key assumption of the plan is alarming: it will leave the U.S. unable to fight two major conflicts at the same time. Think of what this says to current or potential adversaries -- e.g., Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, al-Qaeda. Critics aptly quoted a 1959 speech by President Eisenhower, who warned about the "military-industrial complex" but understood requirements of our national security: "Weakness in arms often invites aggression." Editor Diehl soberly concludes that all of Obama's international "signature initiatives have flopped." If this initiative flops, we are really in trouble.