American Elephants

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures And Why They Matter. by The Elephant's Child

Mackubin “Mac” Owens is an American military historian. He has been a Dean at the Naval War College, a senior fellow at the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and is the editor of its journal Orbis. He had an important column on Obama’s Foreign Policy at Real Clear World this week, one that everyone should read, to understand the shambles of American Foreign Policy, what we’re doing, and why it matters.

U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration are legion: the Russian “reset” that has enabled Vladimir Putin to strut about as a latter-day czar; the betrayal of allies, especially in Central Europe, not to mention Israel; snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by failing to achieve a status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would help to keep Iraq out of the Iranian orbit; the muddled approach to Afghanistan; our feckless policy-or lack of policy-regarding Iranian nuclear weapons, not to mention Libya and Benghazi, as well as Syria. President Obama has said that he was elected to end wars, not to start them, as if wars are fought for their own purpose. Ending wars is no virtue if the chance for success has been thrown away, as it was in Iraq.

Observers disagree about the causes of the Obama failures in foreign policy. Some attribute them to indifference, others to incompetence-although the two are not unrelated. Still others contend that the results we are seeing represent the desired outcomes of more insidious motivations. But no matter the cause of Obama’s dysfunctional foreign policy, the result is the same: weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the Stanley Baldwin government as Hitler gained strength on the Continent echoes ominously today: it was, said Churchill, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

To the extent that it has any intellectual foundation, the Obama foreign policy represents a species of “liberal internationalism,” which holds that the actors in the international political system (IPS) tend towards cooperation rather than competition. Liberal internationalists contend that the goals of actors within the IPS transcend power and security; they also see an important role for actors in the IPS other than states, including international institutions such as the United Nations.

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The sad reality of the Obama Administration’s pitiful excuse for a foreign policy is that it began simply as an attempt by Obama to accommodate, placate, and then ignore potential foreign problems so that the administration could concentrate on domestic issues (notably, health care and demonizing Republicans (and if you don’t think that’s been an unofficial plank in the Democrat Party platform for the past couple decades, you haven’t been paying attention.)). When reality started to rear its ugly head (in the form of, say, those annoying Islamic terrorists not doing what they were supposed to), Obama had to start faking a foreign policy that would fit his needs. Unfortunately, he has no idea what those needs are, so he makes it up as he goes along, and it shows. In addition, Obama also seems to think that what he says to Americans isn’t heard by those overseas, and so doesn’t appreciate the consequences. When Obama was caught out in the Big Lie of Obamacare (“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, period. No one is going to take that away from you”), he mistakenly thought that the damage done to him politically was all contained here in the US. Nope. The Democrats in general, and Obama (and Clinton) in particular, seem to operate under the idea that you can compartmentalize the Presidency, so that one thing has no effect on another. But the real world doesn’t work that way (the Law of Unintended Consequences tends to bite Dems more often than Republicans for this very reason). When foreign leaders (including the mullahs in Iran) hear the President of the United States lying to the American people without apology, they know he cannot be trusted. When the leaders of assorted terror groups hear the President and the Secretary of State lying about the reasons behind an attack on our embassy, they know they can act again with impunity. We’ve already seen the consequences of this… When our President and SecState Kerry announced the terms of the agreement with Iran regarding their nuclear program, Iran immediately said that Obama was lying. And whatever feelings other world leaders may have regarding Iran, they had to consider what Iran accused the President of doing, because there were already several examples of Obama lying that the world knew about. That Obama’s supporters have claimed the lying was somehow “justified” only reinforces these doubts about this administration’s veracity. Put simply, no one takes Obama at his word anymore.

No one believes Obama has a plan for much of anything, anymore. And no foreign leaders trust Obama. Obama has only himself to blame.


Comment by Lon Mead

Absolutely correct. Add on Putin’s posturing and rush to claim the Arctic. Add on Obama’s conviction that all the problems of the Middle East are because of Israel and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. He is sure that if he can just solve the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians there will be peace. Stop all those “settlements,” go back to the original borders, allow Palestinians the “right of return”. That’s what Kerry is working on right now. Unbelievably ill informed, but Rashid Khalidi was a good buddy, and Obama is not open to changing his mind. Once Obama believes something, it’s set in concrete. Weakness leads to adventurism on the part of our opponents. I’ve run into lefties who are just anti-war, and sure that if our country was just anti-war, then there wouldn’t be any wars. I suspect Obama is one of those.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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