In the Washington Post today, Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt writes “Obama’s foreign policy reveals the effects of disengagement“. Hiatt lists the scant foreign policy of this administration. While the world begged for leadership, the president, instead focused on transforming domestic policies to suit his own politics. The results of that disengagement from the world, according to Hiatt;
Obama’s determination to gear down in Europe and the Middle East, regardless of circumstances, guaranteed that the United States would not respond strategically to new opportunities (the Arab Spring) or dangers (Putin’s determination to redraw the map of Europe).
When ordinary citizens in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world unexpectedly began agitating for democracy, the West might have responded as it did after World War II (with the Marshall Plan) or the fall of the Berlin Wall (with a commitment to a Europe whole and free). If the United States had taken the lead, Europe and America together could have offered trade, investment, exchange and cultural opportunities to help bring the region into the modern, democratic world.
But for Obama the tumult in Egypt and elsewhere was a distraction, not a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The West responded timidly and inconsistently, and the moment was lost.
For Russia, Obama offered Putin a “reset” strategy of improved relations. But when it became clear that Putin wasn’t interested — that he wanted to re-create a Russian empire while blocking the achievement of a Europe whole and free — the West again had no strategic response. Obama could have bolstered a unified Europe with military, diplomatic and trade measures. Instead, as Putin wrecked democracy in Russia, annexed Crimea and fomented war in Ukraine, Obama and his European counterparts were reactive and divided.
In Iraq and Syria, Obama’s predictions proved wrong. Without the 15,000 or so troops that U.S. generals hoped to station in Iraq for training and counterterrorism, the United States had no leverage as Iraq’s armed forces devolved into sectarian militias. When challenged by al-Qaeda, the army and the state itself quickly shattered.
Without Western backing, the moderate rebels in Syria are in retreat. Assad did not fall, and extremists — with a far more capable arsenal than the moderates have — established a state that Eric Holder finds “more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general.”
Libya’s government, until recently spurned in its requests for help, gradually lost control. The country is now so dangerous that on Saturday the United States had to evacuate its embassy.
I’ll concede that we have no money left to be the world’s policeman, but, if your own hometown’s policemen all quit one day before there was a period to adjust to the new scenario, your hometown would look much like the world today.
Leadership and the lack of leadership are the subject of many op/ed pieces these days. The US could be a leader in the world without spending a lot of money on defense, unfortunately, we have a leaderless country in a leaderless world. Our own Secretary of State is a national punchline, soon to be an international punchline. Even Hillary Clinton took an opportunity this weekend to criticize the Obama Administration for being rudderless in regards to foreign policy, according to the Washington Times;
She then seemed to take another jab at Mr. Obama’s White House, saying that America spends a “lot of money and a lot of time and effort” to exert influence around the world.
But “I think we would be able to succeed more effectively if we were clearer about who we are and what we stand for and the values that we hold,” she added during the CNN interview.
We continue to pour money into foreign governments trying to influence them, but that’s not working. numbers are flying around today about the amount of money that the world poured into Gaza would have rebuilt the entire infrastructure of that state, but Hamas used it to buy missiles and build tunnels into Israel instead.
Leadership is harder, and therefore not the chosen path for this administration. leadership on the border would have been nice, but the solution from this administration was more spending instead – and it was the same lack of leadership that caused that crisis in the first place.
I like to toot my own horn, so I’ll mention that I predicted this chapter of our history unfolding before us back in May, 2007 when I warned about electing someone from Congress instead of someone with actual leadership experience.
By the way, when someone in the Washington Post decides to criticize a Democrat President, the White House needs to take a look at the way they’re doing the people’s business.