By Caroline B. Glick
In recent months, a curious argument has surfaced in favor
of US President Barack Obama. His supporters argue that Obama’s foreign policy
has been a massive success. If he had as much freedom of action on domestic
affairs as he has on foreign affairs, they argue, his achievements in all areas
would be without peer.
Expressing this view, Karen Finney a former Democratic
spokeswoman who often defends the party in the US media told the Huffington
Post, “Look at the progress the president can make when he doesn’t have
Republicans obstructing him.”
According to a Gallup poll from early November, the US
public also believes that Obama’s foreign policy has been successful. Whereas
67 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy and the
federal budget deficit, 63 percent of Americans approved of his terrorism
strategy. So too, 52 percent approved of his decision to remove US forces from
Iraq. In general 49 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of
foreign affairs while 44 percent disapproved.
These support levels tell us a great deal about the
insularity of the American public. For when one assesses the impact to date of
Obama’s foreign policy it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that if the US
public was more aware of the actual consequences of his policies, his approval
rating in foreign affairs would be even lower than his approval rating in
domestic policy. Indeed, a cursory examination of the impact so far of Obama’s
foreign policies in country after country and region after region indicates
that his policies have been more damaging to US national interests than those
of any president since Jimmy Carter. And unlike Obama, Americans widely
recognized that Carter’s foreign policies were failed and dangerous.
The failure of Obama’s foreign policies to date has been
nowhere more evident than in the Middle East.
Take Iraq for instance. Obama and his supporters claim that
the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq is one of his great accomplishments.
By pulling out, Obama kept his promise to voters to end the war in “a
responsible manner.” And as the polling data indicate, most Americans are
willing to give him credit for the move.
But the situation on the ground is dangerous and getting
worse every day. Earlier this month, just ahead of the departure of the last US
forces from Iraq, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited with Obama at
the White House. Immediately after he returned home, the Shiite premier began a
ruthless campaign against his Sunni coalition partners in a no-holds barred bid
to transform the Iraqi government and armed forces into partisan institutions
controlled by his Dawa Party.
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Forces commanded by Maliki’s son arrested and allegedly
tortured several of the Sunni Vice President Tariq al Hashimi’s bodyguards.
They forced the guards to implicate Hashimi in terror plots. Maliki
subsequently issued an arrest warrant for Hashimi. So too, he issued an arrest
warrant for the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq and fired him without
permission from the Iraqi parliament.
Hashimi and Mutlaq are now in hiding in Erbil. Maliki is
demanding that the Kurdish regional government extradite them to Baghdad for
Maliki’s actions have driven Sunni leaders in the Sunni
provinces of Diyala, Anbar and Salahadin to demand autonomy under Iraq’s
federal system. He has responded by deploying loyal forces to the provinces to
fight the local militias.
The situation is so explosive that three prominent Sunni
leaders, former prime minister Ayad Allawi, who heads the Iraqiya party,
Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi, and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi published
an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday begging Obama to rein in Maliki in
order to prevent Iraq from plunging into civil war.
Then there is Egypt. Obama’s decision in February to abandon
then president Hosni Mubarak, the US’s most dependable ally in the Arab world
in favor of the protesters in Tahrir Square was hailed by his supporters as a
victory for democracy and freedom against tyranny. By supporting the protesters
against the US ally, Obama argued that he was advancing US interests by showing
the Muslim world the US favored the people over their leaders.
Ten months later, the Egyptian people have responded to this
populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in Egypt’s
parliamentary elections. For the first time in thirty years, the strategic
anchor of US power in the Arab world — the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty — is
in danger. Indeed, there is no reason to believe it will survive.
According to the Gallup poll, 48 percent of Americans
approve of Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan and 44 percent
disapprove. Here too, it is far from clear what there is to approve of. Against
the public entreaties of the US commanders on the ground, Obama is carrying
through on his pledge to withdraw all US surge troops from Afghanistan by the
US presidential elections in November. In the meantime, the US is engaged in
negotiations with the Taliban. The purpose of these negotiations is to reach a
political agreement that would set the conditions for the Taliban to return to
power after a US pullout. That is, the purpose of the talks is to set the
conditions for a US defeat in Afghanistan.
The administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan
dictator Muammar Qaddafi without sacrificing a single US soldier. And
certainly, this was a success. However, Qaddafi’s opponents, who are now taking
charge of the country, are arguably worse for the US than Qaddafi was. They
include a significant number of al Qaida terrorists and are dominated by
jihadist forces. Attempts by the NATO-backed provisional government to convince
them to disarm have failed completely.
Since Qaddafi was overthrown, large quantities of advanced
weapons from his arsenal — allegedly including stockpiles of weapons of mass
destruction — have gone missing. Significant quantities of Libyan
shoulder-to-air missiles have made their way to Gaza since Qaddafi’s overthrow.
In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator
Bashar Assad’s days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to
support the Syrian opposition. Fearing the instability that would ensue if a
civil war were to break out in Iran’s Arab protectorate, the US has chosen to
effectively sit on its hands and so cancel any leverage it ought to wield over
the shape of things to come.
As to Iran, Obama’s policies have brought about a situation
where the regime in Teheran does not fear a US military strike on its nuclear
installations. Obama’s open opposition to the prospect of an Israeli strike
against Iran’s nuclear installations has similarly convinced the regime that it
can proceed without fear in its nuclear project.
Iran’s threat this week to close the Straits of Hormuz in
the event that the US imposes an embargo on Iranian oil exports is being widely
characterized by the US media as a sign of desperation on the part of the
regime. But it is hard to see how this characterization aligns with reality. It
is far more appropriate to view Iran’s easy threats as a sign of contempt for
Obama and for US power projection under his leadership.
If Iran’s ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons are thwarted,
it will be despite Obama, not because of him.
Then there is the so-called peace process between Israel and
the Palestinians. Due to Obama’s unbridled hostility towards Israel, there is
no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PLO will reach a peace deal for the
foreseeable future. Instead, Fatah and Hamas have agreed to unify their forces.
The only thing standing in the way of a Hamas takeover of the PLO is the US
Congress’s threat to cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. For his part,
Obama has gone out of his way to discredit the Congressional threat by serving
as an indefatigable lobbyist for maintaining US financial support for the PA.
Of course, the Middle East is not the only region where the
deleterious consequences of Obama’s foreign policy are being felt. From Europe,
to Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, Obama’s determination to embrace US
adversaries like Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez has weakened pro-US forces and
strengthened US foes.
So how is that that while Carter was perceived by the
majority of the American public as a foreign policy failure, a large plurality
of Americans views Obama’s foreign policy as a success?
Obama’s success in hiding his failures from the American
public owes to two related factors. First, to date the US has not been forced
to contend directly with the consequences of his failures.
Carter’s failures were impossible to ignore because the
blowback from his failures was immediate, unmistakable and harsh. His betrayal
of the Shah of Iran led directly to the takeover of the US Embassy in Teheran
and the hostage crisis. Carter could not spin to his advantage the daily
stories about the hostages. He could not influence CBS evening news anchor
Walter Cronkite’s decision to end every broadcast by reminding viewers how many
days the hostages had been in captivity.
So too, the consequences of Carter’s weakness in confronting
the Soviet Union were impossible to ignore or minimize with images of Soviet
tank columns invading Afghanistan dominating the news.
To date, Obama’s foreign policy failures have yet to explode
in a manner that can make the average American aware of them.
Then too, Obama and his advisors have been extremely adept
in presenting his tactical achievements as strategic victories. So it is that
the administration has successfully cast the killing of Osama bin Laden as a
strategic victory in the war on terror. Obama has upheld the mission, as well
as the killing of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki as proof of his competence in
securing US interests. And to a large degree, the US public has accepted his
Because it is impossible to know when Obama’s failures will
begin to directly impact the America people, it is possible that he will not
pay a political price for them in the 2012 elections. Be that as it may, the
Republican presidential contenders would provide an invaluable service to both
themselves and the American public as a whole if they make exposing Obama’s
disastrous stewardship of US foreign policy a central plank of their campaigns.
At a minimum, forewarned is forearmed. And the dimensions of
Obama’s failures are so enormous, that it is clear that the American people
will suffer their consequences for years to come.