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Obama's failed foreign policy tests

The 3 a.m. wake-up calls Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned about as a candidate have been ringing the Obama White House red phone off the hook. The international tests predicted by new Vice President Joe Biden have also come fast and furious.

North Korea launches missiles and tests nukes. The Swat Valley in Pakistan falls to the Taliban. Iranian mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard steal an election and shoot at demonstrators. Honduran officials arrest and deport President (and dictator to be) Zelaya.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama is dropping the calls, failing the tests and blowing his chance to promote American interests, or even, on his own terms, to “re-assert America’s moral standing” and rebuild alliances he claimed had been frayed during the Bush administration.

We all know about the shameful apology tours on foreign soil, from Mexico to the Middle East, the mugging with dictators, the bow to the Saudi king, the silly (and mistaken) early reset button with Russia, among other low moments of the Obama World Tour ’09.

All of this pandering has not yielded much, by the way, in terms of foreign troop commitments to Afghanistan, global warming consideration from China, or Russian acquiescence to increased economic sanctions on Iran.

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Mr. Obama gave early offense to the British (sending out of the Oval Office the bust of Churchill, a gift of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and the British people after 9/11, giving improvised DVD presents to current Prime Minister Gordon Brown that did not work, and Michelle Obama’s manhandling of the queen).

Obama also offended the Canadians and upset relations terribly with Colombia, ignoring their reasonable requests for friendship and trade, and their superb efforts to combat narco-trafficking and enhance the quality of life of their citizens.

On the issue of human rights, in China, Darfur and Iran, Obama has chosen not to promote liberty or universal freedom and has been criticized across the political spectrum for his weakness in defense of those struggling under oppressive regimes.

In Turkey and Cairo, Obama gave loud speeches that let down dissidents and reformers and showed himself to be comfortable with authoritarianism and state power over the individual. He even seemed to side with those who put the burka over the faces of women in the Arab world. Think American women approve of life behind the veil?

But it gets worse: In Poland, Israel and Honduras, Mr. Obama is actually siding with the enemies of our allies, pressuring our friends and ignoring American national security interests.

Poland and the Czech Republic received requests from the United States for third site missile defense interceptors and radar installations. They then negotiated and worked through political issues at home and in complex discussions with a Europe that has shown little backbone and fortitude as it fears the Russian Bear.

So what has Mr. Obama done? He has worked overtime to assure Russia that he would prefer a grand bargain with Putin and may sacrifice missile defense to get it. Poland is betrayed and nervous. Anybody remember the Russians rolling into Georgia last summer?

Russian authorities crush freedom of the press and are running a czarist autocracy. Yet Obama is engaging with Russia, giving it prestige and power, and quickly offending our pro-American friends in New Europe.

While Obama seeks to talk softly, softly with the tyrannies of the Muslim world, who are building nuclear weapons, maintaining power through force and aligning against the United States repeatedly at the United Nations, he has certainly come down like a ton of bricks on our only democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel.

Pressure on Israel over settlements (no building of second-story apartments?) has defined Obama’s idea of even-handed balance between our ally and its enemies. The nomination of Israel-basher Charles Freeman, the appointments of harsh Israel critics like Susan Rice at the U.N., Samantha Power at NSC and others, and joining in the anti-Israel Durban II planning process, all have made Mr. Obama deeply detested in Israel and among Israel’s strongest Christian supporters in the U.S.

Obama’s Cairo address was particularly obnoxious. He ignored 3,000 years of Jewish history and declared the raison d’etre of the Jewish state was the Holocaust. He then compared the annihilation of European Jewry to Palestinian suffering, ignoring the Arab world’s irredentism and rejectionism, suicidal lack of support for Palestinian compromise or democratic development, and the Arab Nazism that has defined pro-Palestinian terror and policy from Haj Amin al-Husseini through Arafat to today’s Hamas.

The recent Honduran episode continues this pattern. Sixteen U.S. senators have joined Sen. Jim DeMint in sending a letter to Secretary of State Clinton asking her and President Obama to reassess their stance on the situation in Honduras and urging them to meet with democratically elected members of the Honduran Congress currently visiting the United States.

The arrest and deportation of the president was not a coup; it was the constitutional removal of a would-be Hugo Chavez-style dictator, and Obama has once again sided against American interests and against people standing for freedom and democracy.

The Obama foreign policy agenda was built on lies. Mr. Obama protested that the United States had lost its alliances. But nation after nation had elected center-right governments that were friendly to the United States (Australia, Japan, India, New Europe, Germany, Italy, France, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, etc). The world did not hate the United States. Obama’s leftist friends did.

Mr. Obama talked about rule of law, but he unilaterally decided to smear the Guantanamo Bay Military Facility as a human rights blight, and announced its closure without any idea where to put the detainees. Gitmo is a highly professional, appropriate and even (too) compassionate facility for the worst of the worst battlefield detainees.

Finally, Obama has criminalized policy differences with the prior administration and advertised to our most dedicated and vicious enemies how to prepare for interrogation. By castigating the waterboarding of three enemies of America as torture (these techniques were practiced repeatedly on our own military trainees, and they were lawyer-approved, doctor-monitored, congressionally informed and used not to coerce guilt or as punishment but to reveal ticking-time-bomb plots), Mr. Obama has virtually guaranteed that huge numbers of American casualties in the future will blame him for diminishing the efficacy, meaning and power of our intelligence gathering.

Almost all of the Obama national security and foreign policy campaign rhetoric has collapsed. He promised swift cooperation from allies on thorny issues like Iranian proliferation and climate change. Not so much.

As advertised, especially by his own Democrat party opponents during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama is weak, inexperienced and surrounded by foreign policy ideologues who side against our friends, and instead fancy the United Nations, international law, adoring crowds of socialists in Europe and engagement with dictators.

Welcome back, Carter.



Larry Greenfield is vice president and fellow in American Studies at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.