by William Teach | March 3, 2014 8:07 am
OK, I added those last two for effect. We could have also inserted golfing, incompetence, poor training, poorer knowledge, terrible advisers, and a general inability to care about what’s going on. Yesterday I noted the Washington Post editorial board stated that Ukraine is a test for Obama’s “smart power”. Today
President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy
FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances – these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, “It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.”
That’s a nice thought, and we all know what he means. A country’s standing is no longer measured in throw-weight or battalions. The world is too interconnected to break into blocs. A small country that plugs into cyberspace can deliver more prosperity to its people (think Singapore or Estonia) than a giant with natural resources and standing armies.
Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.
We’d all love a peaceful world and everyone shares a Coke. Alas, that has never happened, and who knows if it ever will. As someone once wrote, Obama likes to BE president, he doesn’t like to DO president. With the trappings of the Office comes certain responsibilities, and Obama is unable to handle them. He thinks he can come to the podium (always late to his own scheduled speeches), give a speech, wag a finger, make a pronouncement, and everyone will listen and do what he says. That doesn’t work too well with a parent talking to a recalcitrant teenager, and works worse when aimed at a strongman like Putin, who also controls land, sea, air, and nuclear forces.
But it’s also true that, as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan – these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.
This goes back to the notion I mentioned yesterday in that Obama hasn’t cultivated those international “friendships”. Who does he have a true working relationship with in the international community? Rather hard to get things done without those relationships. Nor does it help that he’s trying to downgrade our military, as well as, to paraphrase John Kerry, turn it into something kinder, gentler.
Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.
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