Neoconservatives, the old saying goes, are liberals who have been mugged by reality. Though it is doubtful that President Barack Obama will ever quite fit that description, there are signs that his foreign policy views have changed in the three years since his election.
On the heels of his trip to the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii, Obama announced the deployment of 2,500 U.S. Marines to a base in Australia — a country that has long been one of the United States’s staunchest allies — in an effort to increase the American military presence in a region that China hopes to someday dominate.
Though the U.S. Navy remains unprepared to counter open Chinese military aggression in the region, the move sends a strong signal that the president’s criticisms of China’s trade policies, currency manipulation, human rights abuses and aggressive expansion are more than empty rhetoric — and stands in marked contrast to the administration’s snub of the Dalai Lama and its invitation of Communist China’s dictators to a state dinner last year.
The administration’s recent dealings with Russia are another case in point. The administration’s initial efforts to push the “reset” button on U.S.-Russia relations largely failed. The Russian army remains entrenched in Georgia, Russia refuses to put serious pressure on Iran and the Kremlin continues to crack down on domestic political opponents. And so on Tuesday, four years after Russia stopped complying with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty — which calls for the U.S. and Russia to exchange information about their military arrangements in Europe — the State Department announced that the U.S. would also stop complying with the treaty. Hopefully, the move is a sign that the administration is hardening its stance toward Russia.
The president and his administration seem to be hardening their stance toward Iran as well. In early October, as it became increasingly clear that cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations would not be sufficient to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Israel. The visit was a show of support for America’s closest Middle Eastern ally and a warning to Iran. And earlier this month, the Pentagon released a statement saying that Iran is behind attacks on United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The importance of the apparent evolution in President Obama’s foreign policy thinking cannot be understated. The president who made flowery overtures to the Islamic world from Cairo, stood silently by while a mass protest movement was crushed in Tehran, toasted Chinese dictators with the finest wine and hoped kind words would win over Russia’s leaders has been mugged by reality. If he has learned the proper lessons — and he just may have — the United States may yet stand a chance of averting a nuclear Iran and securing a safer, and more stable, future for the West.
Christopher Bedford is an online editor at The Daily Caller. Follow Christopher on Twitter