Don’t Ignore the World: Obama’s Foreign Policy Matters in this Election
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 04:09
In this election, Americans are understandably most concerned about their pocketbooks — their ability to put food on the table, to pay for gas, to cover the cost of college. Alas, the world does not pause while we attempt to put our house in order. Over the past four years, China has grown stronger, Iran more nuclear and Islamic extremism more potent. The next commander-in-chief will likely have to decide whether we are victorious in Afghanistan, whether Iran goes nuclear and whether we have the resolve to stand up to China in the Pacific.
Unfortunately, on nearly every major issue impacting the security of the United States, President Obama’s policies have made America less prepared for future threats.
Obama’s decision to set a preemptive, unconditioned expiration date on the American presence in Afghanistan has put the United States on track to lose its first foreign war since Vietnam. Having once christened the Afghanistan War as both just and necessary, the president, by issuing the withdrawal deadline concurrent with a major troop increase, has allowed the Taliban to wait us out. In turn, it is unlikely that otherwise supportive Afghans would oppose them for fear of brutal Taliban retribution once we leave. By the end of a second Obama term, all American forces will have been withdrawn from Afghanistan, but no American objectives will have been achieved. Obama is fond of saying that the “tide of war is receding” in the Middle East, but he fails to mention that the ebb of victory is regressing as well.
A second Obama term will likely also see the fanatical Iranian regime gain possession of nuclear weapons. Upon entering office, the administration believed it could bargain with Tehran’s ayatollahs by apologizing for past American behavior and ending U.S. criticism of its support for terrorism and its anti-Semitic verbiage. The administration’s more recent imposition of stringent economic sanctions has not had any impact on the Iranian nuclear program — the true measure of success. Instead, Iran has sent troops to Syria to help repress a popular revolt and has sponsored terrorist attacks on Israeli targets worldwide. Iran even plotted an attack to kill the Saudi ambassador — and passersby — right here at Georgetown’s Cafe Milano last fall. Iran’s nuclear progress has accelerated on Obama’s watch, putting one of the world’s worst regimes on the verge of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapon.
The Obama administration has also unreservedly embraced the quickly unraveling “Arab Spring,” calling the recent murder of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and the flying of black al-Qaeda flags over four U.S. embassies on the anniversary of Sept. 11 mere “bumps in the road.” The Muslim Brotherhood has assumed power in Egypt, where its new president — a “9/11 truther” — has demanded that the United States change its foreign policy and release from prison the Egyptian terrorist convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In Syria, the United States is standing on the sidelines as the Iranian-allied Assad regime butchers its citizens, thereby radicalizing the opposition. All the while, Obama has needlessly antagonized our ally Israel through his wrong-footed approach to the peace process and continued public attempts to hem in Israeli military options on Iran. Four years on, the United States finds itself distrusted by its friends, disrespected by its enemies and even more disliked by those it wants to help.
In East Asia, the administration’s much-heralded “pivot” to the Pacific has done little to dial back aggressive Chinese and North Korean behavior, perhaps because the White House is simultaneously enacting the largest cut in defense spending in nearly 30 years. Over the last three years, Pyongyang has conducted a second nuclear test, tested ballistic missiles and, in an act of war, surreptitiously torpedoed a South Korean submarine, killing 46 sailors. Meanwhile, China’s aggression has escalated territorial disputes with many of its neighbors, who have become increasingly worried about Washington’s ability to stand up to an assertive China. Even as Obama’s own defense secretary vehemently opposes the looming defense cuts, the administration is overseeing a hollowing out of America’s future ability to project power, particularly in Asia.
Foreign policy begins with a simple dictum: Support your friends, defeat your enemies. Under Obama’s leadership, the United States has become an unreliable ally and a weak-kneed adversary. Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, American embassies in the Arab world are under attack, defeat in Afghanistan is over the horizon and the United States is unprepared for the challenge of a strong China. While Americans are rightly concerned about the economy, they should also look beyond their kitchen table and ask whether, over the last four years, America has become better prepared to deal with the more dangerous world that surrounds it.
Gabriel Scheinmann is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the government department.