In June of 2009, President Obama went to Cairo to give his first major foreign policy address as president of the United States. In it, the president outlined his administration’s agenda for dealing diplomatically with other nations, confronting terrorism, and “restoring” America’s standing in the world.
In essence, Obama made the case that America should be less aggressive militarily, offer softer rhetoric, and make an attempt to be more “liked” by other nations.
By any fair assessment, this approach to foreign policy has failed, and the Obama administration has been exposed as naïve, soft and equivocating in terms of promoting American leadership.
The most recent manifestation of this is seen through events that have unfolded in a big way from a small country, that country being Syria.
One would be hard pressed to find someone not deeply troubled by recent developments concerning Syria and the government of Bashar Assad. It can be said with certainty that his government used chemical weapons on its own people, which lead to the death of over 1,400 Syrians, including women and children.
It seems incredible that something like that could happen in today’s world, and equally hard to believe that the rest of the world, especially the United States, could remain silent. Of course, no one president,or political party is to blame for the Syrian government gassing its own people. The person to blame is Bashar Assad.
However, Obama has an obligation to promote civility and America’s interests as leader of the free world, a job he actively sought, and he has acted without principle, purpose or vision.
The crisis in Syria is certainly not something that snuck up on the administration; the civil war has been going on for two years. By doing nothing besides offering passive statements of condemnation, without any force behind them, the president allowed emboldened Assad and allowed his government to continue its despicable acts when they were most vulnerable.
At the time, though, “Bin Laden was dead and GM was alive,” so in terms of Obama foreign policy, all was right in the world. Perhaps if we had acted earlier and more decisively, the rest of the world would have come to aid the opposition and Assad’s government could have been overthrown.
However, that support never came and a power vacuum was created in which elements of the opposition became radicalized and there is legitimate concern about their connections to Islamist, militant groups.
That leaves us with few good options in Syria in the present. Obama has called Congress to vote on an authorization allowing a military strike in Syria, even though he has said he will use force whether the measure passes Congress or not, and even though as commander in chief, he has military power at his disposal. In doing this, or “playing constitutional theater” as Sen. Rand Paul has referred to it, Obama has undermined his own power as president and has narcissistically put the onerous on a Congress where both parties are divided.
From blaming Bush to ATM’s to everything in between, it is clear that the buck never stops with this president.
In addition to these rhetorical blunders, the president has failed to lay out a compelling case as to how using military force would critically damage the Assad regime and be in our nations self-interest. The president has said that his conscience is bothered by Syria’s use of chemical weapons (as if ours aren’t) but that is not a strong enough reason to use military force.
Firing missiles for the sake of firing missiles to make it appear like you are doing something about the problem would not only not solve anything, it would have a detrimental effect. If the president, his security team and generals can find a way to use our military and aid the opposition in a way that would cause Assad to surrender, show Iran and other hostile neighbors that these acts cannot go unpunished and bring some sense of stability to the region, then a military strike is undoubtedly in our national interests.
If they cannot do that, Congress and the American people will remain unconvinced.
In Syria, we have seen Obama’s foreign policy at its worst. Wavering and weak, it is clear that Obama made a serious miscalculation in thinking offering a conciliatory tone would cause our enemies to stop hating us or doing despicable things.
If the United States does not demonstrate to the world a very clear sense of what is acceptable and what is not, then no one will. Because of this, the Syrian people, and America’s standing in the world, have paid the price. So much for being liked.