The year 2013 was one of foreign policy blunders and miscalculations that left America's standing in the world diminished, the Russians on the rise and the Middle East in greater turmoil, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told WND.
One of the biggest events in the Middle East was the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. After days and weeks of massive protests throughout the country, the military gave Morsi an ultimatum to leave. He refused, and the military took power. Bolton praised the move and noted the U.S. condemnation of the military's actions once puts this administration on the wrong side of the debate.
"As we come to the end of the year, we have the Egyptian military back in power, which is essentially where we were at the beginning of the Arab Spring," Bolton said. "Yet, because of the administration's inept handling of events in Egypt, we have now succeeded in alienating every major element of Egyptian society."
"The military [service members] don't trust the Obama administration," he said. "They think they're pro-Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood doesn't trust the administration. The pro-Western, pro-democracy protesters just pull their hair out when they think about how the administration has handled this. The consequence is we're now at our lowest influence in Egypt in decades. The Russians are now back in trying to sell weapons, which they haven't been in 40 years. So, it's hard to imagine a worse outcome for the United States than where we are now."
Another major foreign policy showdown came in September over Syria. After the international community concluded that President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people, President Obama attempted to convince allies and Congress that military action was necessary. Neither was interested. The political and diplomatic showdown was averted when Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Syria could avoid military strikes by giving up all chemical weapons. Kerry immediately said that would never happen, but Russia seized on the comment and eventually worked out a deal for Assad to stay in power in exchange for turning over his chemical stockpiles.
"This is another situation where the United States has absolutely failed to achieve its objectives. The president said his objective was removing the Assad regime from power. That obviously hasn't happened. If anything, momentum is now in the direction of the regime. The president said that if he saw the use of chemical weapons, that would be a red line that would prompt American intervention. Chemical weapons were used. There was no American intervention," Bolton said.
"Whether you agree with the administration's policies or not, what they have done has let the United States again in a much weaker position."
Late in the year, the U.S. touted a temporary, six-month deal to ease economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran taking steps to prove it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. The short-term agreement is designed to set the stage for a permanent deal early next year.
"Since the beginning of the Obama administration, the president has believed he could find a way to deal diplomatically with Iran's nuclear weapons program, contrary to the reality that Iran's been after deliverable nuclear weapons for over 20 years. It's one of their highest national security goals. Notwithstanding that reality, President Obama thought he could cut a deal with them," Bolton said.
"Iran got what it wanted. It protected its nuclear program. At the same time it got some relief – exact quantity unknown – but it got some relief from the economic sanctions. The United States came away with essentially nothing," he said.
In each of these diplomatic matters, Russia played a key role and Bolton said they are just some of the signs that Russian aggression is on the rise. Not only does he see Russia more influential now than at any time in the past four decades, but he warns of Vladimir Putin's attempts to reconstitute the old Soviet Union.
In 2014, Bolton expects all of these issues to create more headaches for the United States in addition to the threat posed by renewed aggression by China in its sphere of influence.
"This is the consequence of an inattentive, weak administration," he said. "American interests are going by the boards. Other countries see this weakness and lack of attention and they recalibrate their policies accordingly to take advantage of it. So I'm afraid we're in for pretty heavy sailing here over the next three years."