Representing America on the World Stage is one of the primary duties of any President, and with Obama’s time in office soon ending now is a good time to evaluate his conduct of foreign affairs. Obama seems to believe that his conduct of foreign affairs should be subject to evaluation by future historians, rather than by those who currently have had to suffer the consequences of his actions or inaction, as the case may be. Fortunately, with Obama’s Presidency passing into history on January 20th, we can now begin the process of evaluating Obama’s conduct of Foreign Policy from the standpoint of the future historians of which he seems so fond.
The whole point of diplomacy is to engage with other countries on the World Stage in a manner that furthers the security of this country and its ability to engage in world trade on a fair and equitable basis. For a country that is a “Friend”, the goal is to maintain or strengthen that friendship in a manner that is beneficial for both parties. With an “Opponent”, the goal is to deter it from engaging in acts that make it an Opponent, or better yet, to convince that country to change from Opponent to Friend. However, in no case should America compromise its core principals in either winning Friends or influencing Opponents.
With these basic principals in mind, how did we fare under Obama? Very clearly, not well at all. Consider recent news reports. Israel has been one of America’s closest allies. Obama recently betrayed Israel at the UN, allowing passage of a resolution contrary to historic U.S. policy and which undermines the Jewish Nation. And he allowed passage of the Resolution not by voting for it, which would have at least been honest, but by allowing it to pass by refusing to vote, all in a cowardly effort to avoid being accused of voting for it. No one was fooled by this, and by betraying a close Friend he has embarrassed both himself and this country.
Unfortunately, betraying Friends is not a new policy for Obama. Consider his abandonment of Iraq after the success of the Surge (which allowed the rise of ISIS and necessitated the redeployment of American forces there), his cancellation of an agreement with Poland on missile defense in a failed attempt to appease Russia, and his refusal to act when Russia invaded Ukraine in violation of America’s treaty obligations to that country. In the latter case, Obama only gave Putin a “tongue lashing” for his misbehavior, which Putin no doubt replays for his own amusement. Afghanistan is in even worse shape than when Obama took office, and remember that this was the “good war” that the Democrats said had to be won, and that would be won by them. There are other cases of Friends betrayed, but these largely make the point.
Then there are the Opponents that could have become Friends, such as Libya. His abandonment of that country and the misery that has caused its people was disgraceful. Sometimes “leading from behind” really is little more than cowardice. Such was also the case with the Green Revolution in Iran, which Obama refused to support. If successful, it would have brought some measure of democracy to Iran and Iran’s likely abandonment of terror as an instrument of state policy. This clearly was in the best interests of both America and the Iranian people, but Obama squandered that opportunity in a failed attempt to appease that murderous regime.
Obama then doubled down on failure, providing Iran with the means to expand its nuclear research and create a nuclear arsenal, furthering the cause of nuclear proliferation and the destabilization of the Middle East, which are clearly contrary to America’s interests. As with the Resolution on Israel, he did this by hiding behind a UN Resolution that contravened historic U.S. policy (and which the U.S. could have vetoed), and which if presented to the U.S. Senate as a treaty would have been soundly defeated. America received nothing in return from Iran except well deserved contempt, and the increasing likelihood of an Iranian nuclear arsenal will probably trigger a regional nuclear arms race among nations not very stable to begin with. Moreover, on Obama’s watch, U.S. influence in the Middle East has dropped so far that when the war currently winding down in Syria finally ends, the U.S. may not even be invited to the peace conference.
Then there are the Opponents that have been emboldened. Iran is an obvious example, but there is also Russia and China. Russia has moved aggressively to modernize and expand its nuclear forces (with no real U.S. response), has invaded its neighbors without consequence (other than suffering the perfunctory Obama lecture), and thanks to Obama’s incompetence is now the dominant diplomatic power in the Middle East. China is likewise moving aggressively to modernize and expand its nuclear forces (with no real U.S. response), and now claims ownership of much of the South China Sea. This frightens U.S. allies such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, who rightly question America’s commitment to their defense. There are other cases of Opponents emboldened, but these examples largely make the point.
Then there are America’s borders. They were porous when Obama took office, but now are nearly non-existent. A typical estimate of the number of individuals who entered this country illegally last year is 500,000, which is more than the population of the City of Atlanta. When half a million people cross your border illegally, there is a word for that and that word is “Invasion”. What has Obama done about this Invasion? Virtually nothing, except demonize Americans opposing his inaction as being un-American. Sadly, Obama’s backbone only seems to make an appearance when attacking Americans.
The U.S. has fewer Friends than it did eight years ago, and the strength of the friendships that remain are weaker than when he took office. Obama has not moved any country from the Opponent column to the Friend column with the possible exception of Cuba, and that came at the cost of compromising our principles. With our Opponents, instead of deterring them from engaging in those acts that make them Opponents, Obama has only emboldened them through policies that are simultaneously flaccid and inconsistent. The danger of nuclear war has increased because of him. And he has done all of this while also weakening our borders, and our military defenses, further compromising our security. As a result, any sober assessment of Obama’s conduct of Foreign Policy is that he has been an abject failure. This is what Trump will inherit, and I don’t envy him.