Obama asleep at the switch as the world spins out of control
More and more these days you are seeing the word "feckless" applied to American foreign policy. Needless to say, it isn't only Republicans using the word to define the administration's flailing about internationally. Our allies, who are experiencing first hand the aimlessnes of our policies, are expressing alarm and wondering what's going to happen next.
Two excellent analyses from Canada and Great Britain lay out the case of Obama's weakness. First, from the National Post, "As the World Burns, America Shrugs":
The world’s governments no longer worry as much as they once did about what Washington wants, partly because Washington doesn’t know what it wants. U.S. policy has become erratic and half-hearted, subject to arbitrary change without notice.
Barack Obama, who apparently distrusts American power, personifies this approach. He moves capriciously from subject to subject. One week he’s furious about Syria and announces that Bashar al-Assad has to go. When Assad doesn’t go, Obama loses interest. He seems always to be making a fresh start. When he’s not doing that, he’s “pivoting,” shifting his interest from one continent to another. He seems detached much of the time, then committed, then detached again.
On Libya, for instance, Obama opposed taking part in the UN strike to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Then suddenly he decided to join the French and other participants. The American bombs he sent became the key to destroying Gaddafi and his reign, but Obama claimed America had played only a peripheral role.
An Obama adviser famously described Libya as a new model for American intervention, “leading from behind.” Whatever it was, the allies didn’t follow through and Libya was left in chaos. Terrorists gratefully inherited a huge cache of weapons.
On Iran, the United States has taken several large steps backward. When Israel publicly considered bombing Iranian nuclear sites, the Americans discouraged the Israelis and adopted Iran’s bomb as their own problem. Soon they announced, portentously, that all “options are on the table,” including not just sanctions but also force.
The idea of an attack was soon abandoned, however, and last autumn a new approach was taken: negotiation. The United States led the UN Security Council and Germany in the effort to persuade Iran to give up its dreams of a nuclear bomb in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
In November, the Washington Post echoed the government with a triumphant headline: “Iran, world powers reach historic nuclear deal.” But in fact they had merely made a deal to hold some meetings about making a deal that might be historic.
After half a year of talking, Iran’s view can now be summarized: No, we are not building a nuclear bomb and No, you can’t come and inspect us.
Clark Judge of the Daily Mail outlines Obama's feckless Syria policy and how it led directly to Putin's adventurism in Ukraine:
That the Parliament of our closest ally, Great Britain, rejected an air campaign first gave Mr Obama an additional reason for inactivity. The flailing seemed to end when Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the door to a negotiated deal with Syria. But it was not the end; it was the beginning.
For as the administration rushed to that door, all over the world those who depended on America when in harrowing circumstances were asking themselves: How reliable is America now? How strong now?
Also asking was Mr Putin. He noted the contrast between Mr Obama’s bold talk and timid response. As the former head of a friendly government said in a small meeting I attended not long ago: ‘Putin is cautious. He will probe. If he encounters resistance, he will pull back.’
The US failure to follow through in Syria gave the Russian president confidence that he could move with impunity.
SOON he was picking a fight with Ukraine. Like the scene in The Godfather – when, at his child’s baptism, Michael Corleone renounces the devil as the camera cuts back and forth to his men eliminating rival gangsters – Putin, before global television cameras, watched the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics as Russian troops began movements preparatory to seizing Crimea.
This week, in the skies over Ukraine, we saw the consequences of the recklessness that the Russian godfather’s probing has unleashed.
Putin was not the only one to detect opportunity in American indecision. China stepped up its probes in the East and South China Seas. In the Middle East, with the US military presence drawn down nearly to zero in Iraq and soon Afghanistan, an army of ruthless fanatics gestating unnoticed in Syria’s east saw the chance to break out of national boundaries and within a few weeks occupied much of western and central Iraq.
Why has so much of the global order come apart so fast?
For the same reason that, as a friend reports, on the streets of San Salvador those who will smuggle your child to the Rio Grande have been securing an unprecedented volume of sign-ups. When asked about the chances of the child staying in America once the border is crossed, they tell parents: ‘It has never been easier.’
Now the word on weakness is everywhere, even the poorest barrios of Central America.
Perhaps most disquietingly, the American people appear to side more with Obama than foreign policy hawks:
The context for the change in America’s international role was provided by a Pew Research Center poll in December. It determined that more than half of Americans now think the United States should mind its own business and let other countries “get along the best they can on their own” — the highest number since Pew began raising that issue 40 years ago. Robert Kagan, the author of The World America Made, believes Americans feel an uneasy desire to shed the burdens that their country assumed from 1941 to the end of the Cold War. Many Americans imagine they would be happier in a “normal” kind of America, a nation more attuned to its own needs, less to those of the wider world.
I would point out that this is exactly the kind of foreign policy the radical left has been pining for since the 1960's. "Leading from behind," deferring to the UN and other alliances for action, coddling our enemies, and criticizing our allies - this is the America seen through the radical left's worldview.
It appears that once again, America is going to have to be jarred out of its complacency via some kind of attack on us or our interests. If Obama is still in office, what would he do? The danger of this amateur overreacting and making the situation worse is great. Let's hope that someone emerges in 2016 who can handle the tiller of the ship of state with a steadier, stronger hand than this feckless president who currently occupys the office.