Friday, May 20, 2011

President Obama shows himself to be a foreign policy failure

President Obama's remarks on Middle East peace yesterday are the latest in a series of foreign policy gaffes by the present administration which are severely undercutting American influence abroad and disadvantaging our country internationally.

Reminiscent of remarks the President delivered in Cairo early in his first term, President Obama yesterday spoke about the importance for people in the Middle East to rise up and call for democratic institutions, and he pledged the support of the United States for such efforts. He also renewed calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, calling for a non-militarized Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel, according to borders set forth in 1967 (with mutually-agreed swaps) and predicated on an Israeli military withdrawal.

Calling for peace and democracy is never wrong. But, the way you wish to bring about such conditions can be wrong. And we believe President Obama's policy is wrong on several levels.

Most of all, President Obama's new policy is damaging to American relations with Israel, our long-standing strategic ally and partner in the Middle East. To this day, Israel remains under near-constant attack from forces within the areas from which President Obama seeks military withdrawal. It is plainly unfair to demand that the Israeli government withdraw troops from these regions without guarantees for domestic safety, of which there are none. It is also unfair to ask Israel to retreat back to 1967 border lines after more generous commitments were made by our government back in 2004 - and since, by the President's own admission, it has been the Palestinian side that has failed to attend peace talks since then.

Immediately after President Obama's speech, social media and online outlets erupted with reports of Israeli discontent with the President's remarks. His supporters rushed to his defense, claiming it was just a speech and that it was simply stating what America has been saying all along. But, if that's true, why the big speech with all the buildup, and what was the benefit to giving a speech that only made people mad? It's obviously a shift in policy. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said President Obama "threw Israel under the bus" with his speech yesterday, and we couldn't agree more with that assessment. We give credit to Romney for being the first and most forceful to call out the President and for standing up for a more responsible American policy.

The President's call for populist uprising and democratization is also dangerous. We acknowledge a romantic side of this appeal, based deeply in American understandings of democracy dating back to our own revolution. But such is not the case in the Middle East today. There is no assurance that populist forces seeking to end totalitarian government wish to impose democracy, or that they will even be pro-Western in their views. And, calling for the people of the Middle East to solve leadership problems on their own is a passive-aggressive foreign policy that diminishes the leadership position of the United States in the region. It is also difficult to reconcile this position with other parts of American foreign policy, most notably our stance on human rights violations in China. (Although, that gets tougher to talk about when you have a choking $14 trillion national debt, a lot of which is held by China, doesn't it?)

Unfortunately, we can't say we are surprised. This is the latest in a pattern of missteps by the Obama Administration that have severely diminished American leadership in the foreign policy arena and undercut American influence on the international stage.

For example, President Obama has fundamentally misunderstood relationships the United States has cultivated with Europe for decades. He has diminished priceless ties with Great Britain, forsaking them instead for an enhanced relationship with France. This is a move which not only undercuts American strategic alliances, but also alters the balance of power in Europe in untested and undesirable ways. (It also appears to have gotten the president uninvited to the royal wedding.)

Then, take the case of Russia. Our relationship with the former Soviet Union has been largely ignored by the Obama administration, to the extent that Russian President Medvedev recently announced concern that a new Cold War climate is developing. We're not saying the United States should concede its position to Medvedev's tough talk, which came in the context of opposing a new missile defense shield for Europe. We're just saying that it is in America's best interests to have an active relationship with Russia, even if that relationship draws a hard line, than to ignore Russian influence - which persists in areas of concern in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

At present, the United States appears to have no policy on development in Central and South America. There appears to be no discussion of the future of Cuba, our communist neighbor to the South. North Korea and Iran, pronounced by the Bush Administration to be part of an "Axis of Evil," seem not to really be on this administration's radar screen anymore. The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is that we need an American president who is willing to stand up for American interests, to act as a domineering world leader, and to create a vision for foreign policy in an American image worldwide. President Obama is failing on all counts. And, in the process, American influence is eroding as other players move past it on the international stage. This would be a profoundly sad end to American hegemony if it is allowed to continue past the 2012 election.

America needs new leadership. Plain and simple.

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