6/28/2009

Foreign Policy for Dummies



In general, perception is reality. This is particularly true in the realm of foreign policy. The President of the United States largely conducts foreign policy on his own. Therefore, the perception that is created is solely his. Unfortunately for President Barack Obama, the perception of him in this realm is that of weakness.

Much like one of his processors, Jimmy Carter, President Obama is faced with major foreign policy crises. And, it seems, that the President is reacting in a manner that Mr. Carter approves of.

On Mr. Obama’s watch, North Korea has detonated nuclear weapons, launched ballistic missiles and is attempting to export these technologies to Myanmar. In response, the President runs to the United Nations and says that none of this will stand. That’s all well and good, but there is no follow up. As I’ve said before, the President is really telling Kim Jong-Il, “Stop or I’ll say Stop again!” Or maybe it’s really, “If you disobey this strongly worded letter, I’ll send an new stronger worded letter!” In any event, Mr. Obama looks helpless.

The one substantive measure that the President has taken in response to North Korea is to reduce the number of missile interceptors from the missile defense budget. Even if the reduced number of interceptors makes no difference to the effectiveness of the system, the timing of this cutback could not be worse. It sends the wrong message to the generals in Pyongyang (and Tehran, as well).

Mr. Obama also looked hapless in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election. His early statements discounting the policy differences between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi, while probably technically accurate, were beside the point. The Western allies were presented with an opportunity to make life difficult for a totalitarian regime that presents the greatest threat to them and in response, the leader of the free world says that he doesn’t want to be seen as meddling in Iran’s internal matters (of which the mullahs accused him of doing anyway).

President Obama should be meddling in Iran’s internal matters. He should be publicly speaking out in favor of the protesters. He should be standing with those who want to free themselves from the shackles of a police state. But, instead, the President of the United States is waiting for the opportunity to meet with a fellow head of state who has repeatedly called for the annihilation of a fellow UN member state.

The President’s lack of action and public support for the protesters sends a signal to those who live under tyranny all over the globe - “If you attempt to stand up to your oppressors, the United States will stand by and not meddle.”

In addition, President Obama’s floundering may force the Israelis to act. No Israeli government stand idly by as Iran finalizes it acquisition of a nuclear bomb. At some point, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be forced to take military action against this threat. The shame is that strong action by Mr. Obama could result in regime change, thus avoiding the need for Israeli military action.

Mr. Obama’s failure to confront the dictators in North Korea and Iran are just the two most recent additions to a litany of actions that signal weakness to our enemies. As the sole actor on the foreign policy stage, I hate to see what this President has in store for an encore.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who stood idly by while Calderon stole the election in Mexico in 2006?

For eight years, we had the worst foreign policy ever. All you can say about Obama is to repeat rightwing chickenhawk blather about weakness. This appeals to the logic of the 3rd grade playground bully, which is essentially the level of GOP thinking.

The Daily Pander said...

vs. your fact filled comment?

Johnny Keynes said...

Anon:

Worst foreign policy ever? On what basis, genius? Your own tortured version of what is best for everyone else? Count me as one that is grateful that Bush acted after 9/11 unlike the Clinton policy of doing nothing after multiple attacks on the US. Calderon? Really? That's the best you can come up with? Oh, and by the way, I am assuming since you freely throw around the chickenhawk moniker, you served bravely in our armed forces. If not, you are no more qualified to judge military and foreign policy than the Bushies were. Speaking of which...what is our own current president's experience in the military? Oh, that's right, he has none. But let's not let that stop him from making judgments about what is best for this country.

Anonymous said...

Clinton did nothing? If you don't count stopping Ahmed Ressam...

Perception is reality? The perception of one's foreign policy is solely due to oneself? The perception, and therefore reality, of Bush's foreign policy is, ahh, less than stunning.

The factual reality is also less than stunning. The whole go-it-alone business against Saddam Hussein, with a failed attempt to persuade others to go along based on phoneyed up evidence. Condoleeza Rice. North Korea first tested a nuclear device under Bush, who along with Rice botched the six party talks.

I will not argue against going after al-qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001. But if Bush did such a bang up job, we would not still be there. Not to mention the whole 'cover your ass' and 'nothing actionable' attitude towards the IC warnings of 9/11.

For brevity's sake, I will cut to the chase. The strategic position of the U.S. in the world worsened substantially under Bush, diplomatically, militarily, and economically. Bush's policies as well as his attitude alienated our allies. The alienation was not so complete as to turn allies into enemies, since our allies are intelligent and see that we have common interests, despite the occupant of the White House. Militarily, the Army and Marines are burned out from excessive deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Economically, the excessive war spending, as well as other economic policies, have significantly weakened the economy. Currently, the U.S. is to the world as the Banks are to this country: dependent for a bailout on people who are looking for any excuse not to do it, but for the moment do not see another way.

Still not so many facts, but at least I didn't resort to making up fake quotes.

Johnny Keynes said...

The military is burned out not because of excessive deployments but because of the fact that military levels were cut significantly under Clinton. Once the numbers were cut, rebuilding became extremely difficult. The tests that took place in NK were a result of years of nuke development that took place under the watchful eye of the Clinton State Department. The economic crisis? As much as the left would like to blame Bush, this was due to bad decisions on both the right and the left (decisions like Greenspan's easy money and Frank's easy mortgages as well as the excessive leverage that accompanies every business cycle). As much as you would like to believe that the Bush administration was the worst thing that has ever happened to the world, much of the garbage that required those policy choices were the result of the refusal of the Clinton administration to make the difficult choices when called upon to do so.