Lincoln * Institute

Colin A. Hanna

Colin A. Hanna

Let Freedom Ring, USA


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Let Freedom Ring

Obama Foreign Policy: Peace Through Weakness?

by Colin Hanna

Writing in the left-leaning political journal The New Republic, John Judis wrote an article titled "Only Foreign Policy Can Rescue Obama's Second Term." He says "… there is a pattern with second terms that begins with Theodore Roosevelt and is fairly consistent: Presidents usually only make significant achievements in foreign policy … Barack Obama seems to be following this pattern. His domestic agenda has ground to a halt; his political legacy could be more negative than positive; and if he does anything outstanding in his second term, it will be in foreign relations."

This is probably correct. In his first term, national security and foreign policy have taken a back seat to such domestic policy issues as health care, unemployment, economic stagnation and skyrocketing federal debt. But his inability or disdain for the very kind of bipartisanship he promised in his first campaign have ground the Congress, and thus the domestic agenda, to a halt. He may try one more time to do something big on immigration, but after that, his lame duck status will be firmly established. If Republicans win control of the US Senate this November, his only route to new domestic policy achievements will be through executive order, and there's a fast-growing belief that the kinds of things he wants to do through executive order are almost certainly unconstitutional.

Seeing the domestic agenda of this man who in 2008 threatened to fundamentally change America grind to a halt should not bring much comfort to conservatives, however, because the lasting damage that he can inflict on America if he shifts his primary attention to foreign policy could be even greater.

I am going to identify a handful of first-term foreign policy actions that have had the cumulative effect of weakening America, and ask you rhetorically whether you believe that they were the results of Obama's inexperience, or whether there's a pattern to them that might suggest something else.

When he appeared to favor the Muslim Brotherhood in Iran while pressuring Israel to make additional concessions to the Iranians, was that simply the product of his na´vetÚ -- or was it intentional?

When he was unable to conclude a status of forces agreement with the government of Iraq, and consequently decided to withdraw all US combat troops from that country, was that because his negotiating team lacked the ability to strike a deal — or was it intentional?

When he agreed to a troop surge in Afghanistan but insisted as his price for doing so was the setting of a public date for their withdrawal, against the advice of virtually all military experts, was that the result of his lack of experience with or understanding of the military — or was it intentional?

When he withdrew our Navy's aircraft carriers and embarked Marine detachments from the Mediterranean — was that the result of a near-total lack of appreciation of the strategic value of naval forces in the 21st century — or was it intentional?

When his efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions through talks in Geneva appeared to many to be a modern version of Neville Chamberlain's 1938 "Peace in Our Time" Munich appeasement, was that because he didn't understand that outsourcing enforcement of the deal to the Russians was na´ve — or was it intentional?

When he urged the Senate to ratify the new START treaty, forcing the US to reduce its tactical nuclear stockpile to no more than one-tenth the size of the Russian's stockpile of comparable nuclear weapons — was that merely na´ve -- or was it intentional?

Those are just a half dozen examples, but I think that, taken together, they suggest that the pattern is intentional. Many of those who might have originally concluded that these serious foreign policy missteps were the product of na´vetÚ and inexperience are finding that such a position is no longer tenable. The evidence of a pattern of intentionality is simply too great to ignore. And that raises a much more serious question: if all of these policies were indeed intentional — what was the intention?

Ronald Reagan believed in peace through strength. Can it be that Barack Obama believes in peace through weakness? Which of these national security postures strikes you as the more realistic? Which of them strikes you as the more dangerous?