Three years ago, President Barack Obama set forth to recast American foreign policy in an image of his own design. It was one in which the White House engaged with enemies and undercut allies, apologized for American exceptionalism, and favored the “soft power” of treaties and international organizations. This “Obama Doctrine” was tailor made to burnish America’s supposedly flagging reputation on the world stage. Today we are seeing the disastrous results of a doctrine gone wrong.
The Middle East is a logical starting point of this Obama Doctrine retrospective, a region where the President’s soaring aspirations have been mugged by the reality on the ground. Beginning in Iran, Obama sought to engage a regime led by a man who has openly called for the destruction of Israel. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not mollified by the President’s charm offensive, and now, even in the face of escalating sanctions, Iran is ratcheting up its rhetoric, threatening to cut off a quarter of the world’s energy supply, and marching toward a nuclear weapon. The Obama Administration’s response? An admonishment of Israel for considering a strike against the murderous Iranian regime.
Syria, too, is yet another example of the Obama Doctrine failure. The President entered office hoping to engage the hostile regime of Bashar al-Assad and soft-pedaled its criticism of Assad’s violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. The result? Syria ordered the attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus, threatened the U.S. ambassador, and to date has killed more than 7,500 Syrians who are standing against the autocratic government.
The President’s failure to discern friend from foe in foreign affairs left it flatfooted in the Arab Spring awakening last year, as well, and that too has put America at a loss. In Egypt, the President hesitated when the people called for Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, but wound up supporting his overthrow in the end. Now, though, the Muslim Brotherhood is within inches of grasping power, the country’s peace treaty with Israel is being questioned, and pro-democracy American workers there are facing criminal trial. In Libya, the President was forced into action by European allies, withdrew as quickly as possible, and the country is seeing increased instability as its militias are being accused of war crimes. None of the above is in America’s interests.
In each instance, the Obama Administration was caught leading from behind, uncertain of the role the United States should play or how to react, instead of taking clear, assertive action to defend U.S. interests. Unfortunately, the one area where the President does display clarity is where his political interests come into play. That, too, has left American interests worse for wear.
In Afghanistan, the President has insisted on a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces while pursuing negotiations with the Taliban — a veritable enemy that has launched lethal attacks against American troops. Neither tactic is a strategy for victory or for preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. In the middle of this tinderbox, anti-American protests are flaring after the apparent burning of Korans at a U.S. military base. The President issued an apology, yet the Taliban is calling for retaliation against the United States — and that is the same Taliban which Vice President Joe Biden said ”is not our enemy.”
Iraq, too, has devolved into violence following the President’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops. It has been just over two months since the last U.S. forces left Iraq, and in that time the country has witnessed ongoing insurgent attacks, a mushrooming political crisis, and the threat of a civil war which will aid neighboring Iran.
As these international threats simmer to a boil, the President is undercutting America’s ability to defend its interests at home and abroad. Under Obama’s new budget, the military faces nearly half a trillion dollars in cuts, on top of $400 billion the President has already slashed. That does not include the half trillion in funding that will have to be cut under the debt limit agreement Congress reached last summer. Vital defense programs have been killed, next generation weapons will be delayed or eliminated, and troops will be reduced. And it’s all being done in the name of freeing up funding to pay for the President’s domestic agenda.
In the course of three years, President Obama has pursued a foreign policy that has left America less secure today and even more at risk tomorrow. A nuclear Iran, a failed Afghanistan and Iraq, an unfriendly Egypt, an Israel at risk, and an underfunded military are all serious concerns for the American people. Rather than continue pursuing the ill-advised Obama Doctrine, it is time for the President to put defending America first and appeasing our enemies last. That is a doctrine the American people can depend on.
Mike Brownfield oversees execution of The Heritage Foundation’s social networking strategy and online media outreach as the think tank’s senior digital communications associate.
This article was originally published at Heritage.org. Used with permission.