Personally, I have never been so worried about the future of our nation in at least 3 areas: Our economy, our foreign relations, and our own moral decay. This blog entry is focused on our foreign policy.
Since the Second World War, America has steadily built a military and economic powerhouse which has eclipsed that of all other nations. Characteristics of the US economy that made us the envy of the world include: flexible labor markets, labor productivity, technology, capital markets, our monetary policies, the quality of our work force, our democratic form of government, and legal and judicial institutions. Our economic strength has enabled the United States to fund our military with an annual budget of about $692,000,000,000. We have active military forces of 1,477,896 personnel. The US State Department, with a budget of $27.4 billion, employs over 94,000 people world-wide whose purpose is to “create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community”. All of these military and diplomatic personnel enable the United States to have a pervasive impact across the world. And even though we have been surpassed in some respects (China has about 30% more active duty military personnel and Russia has about twice as many tanks), the US remains the only true super-power in terms of our ability to project force and influence national governmental policy around the world.
Recently, many have observed phenomena that lead them to believe the influence and power of the United States is waning, though. They believe that the United States can no longer afford to project its power and influence at the level it has over recent decades, and that perhaps this is not entirely a bad thing. As one blogger recently observed, there are at least “16 reasons why the United States Can No Longer Afford to Be the Police of the World”. (http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/187227.html) The reasons listed were as follows:
But far more troubling than the actual expenditure is the Return On Investment (ROI) from our expenditures. On the military side of things, we can at least see some tangible results from our investments. They include fighter jets, tanks, men and women in uniform, and in the cases of our military engagements, battlefield superiority that is uncontested by any other nation in the world.
On the diplomatic side, however, the results are not only less tangible, but downright disappointing. Many critics have charged that US presidents have used democracy to justify military intervention abroad. Some have also charged that the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, and other countries. Until recently, scholars have generally agreed with international relations professor Abraham Lowenthal that U.S. attempts to export democracy have been “negligible, often counterproductive, and only occasionally positive.” (http://english.turkcebilgi.com/United+States+foreign+policy)
Some have asked the question, “Should the US return to a policy of isolationism?” as a result of our lackluster ability to influence the rest of the world to embrace liberty and democracy, even at such an enormous cost to our own treasury and our own effort. (http://sensiblethought.com/2011/us-isolationism-policy)
My perception is that much of our spending in these areas is wasteful, much of our diplomatic work is not effective, and that underpinning the malaise that is current US Foreign Policy is a profound misunderstanding of what works and what does not.
From the beginning of the Obama Administration, there has been a relentless focus on disarming the United States in terms of our nuclear weapons arsenal and our initiatives to protect allies across Europe. President Obama unilaterally abandoned the missile defense bases in Poland and Czechoslovakia that the Bush administration had negotiated before leaving office. Those bases were very important to American security and credibility. To surrender them up for virtually nothing in return, in the process betraying the Poles and Czechs, was extraordinarily foolish, or at best, extraordinarily naive. However, the Russians moved in the opposite direction. They bargained hard for a treaty that uniquely benefits them, in particular by limiting America’s missile defense shield.
This was an early example of what we have observed repeatedly since 2009; President Obama relied upon his rhetoric, to “reset” our relations with the Russians and cause them to cooperate with his disarmament aspirations. Similarly, in a 2009 speech in Egypt, the President attempted to “reset” relations between the United States and Muslim countries throughout the world. NPR reported: “Pledging “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims,” President Obama reached out to the world’s 1.5 billion followers of Islam on Thursday, addressing an appreciative crowd at Cairo University. Quoting from the Quran, the Talmud and the Bible — and closing to a standing ovation — Obama said his address was an effort to “speak the truth” about U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Several times during the hour-long speech, members of the audience shouted, “We love you.”In the Middle East, initial reaction to the speechwas mixed. A Hamas spokesman dismissed Obama’s remarks as “soft diplomacy” meant “to brighten the image of the United States,” while a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority hailed it as “the beginning of a new American policy.” An Israeli government spokesman said he heard no major surprises, but a spokesman for the West Bank Settler’s Council said the speech was “out of touch with reality … the Muslim world is at war with the Western world.” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104891406) Who turned out to be correct? With half of the Middle East engulfed in anti-American protests, terrorist attacks on our bases and personnel, and the recent murder of our US ambassador in Libya in the anniversary of 9-11, there can no longer be any doubt. The Obama Administration’s foreign policy of appeasement, “soft power”, and self-disarmament has failed utterly. We grow closer and closer to a nuclear-armed Iran, and with it, the specter of World War 3. Our embassies and consulates are under attack all over the Middle East, and Americans are being ordered to return home in the face of growing threats in several countries. Our daily news is filled with images of US flags set afire by protesters and protesters chanting “Death to America”.
Even before this all erupted, though, Obama failures in the realm of foreign policy and foreign relations were legion. Bret Stephens, in the Wall Street Journal enumerated some of them: “His failed personal effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. His failed personal effort to negotiate a climate-change deal at Copenhagen in 2009. His failed efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran that year and this year. His failed effort to improve America’s public standing in the Muslim world with the now-forgotten Cairo speech. His failed reset with Russia. His failed effort to strong-arm Israel into a permanent settlement freeze. His failed (if half-hearted) effort to maintain a residual U.S. military force in Iraq. His failed efforts to cut deals with the Taliban and reach out to North Korea. His failed effort to win over China and Russia for even a symbolic U.N. condemnation of Syria’s Bashar Assad. His failed efforts to intercede in Europe’s economic crisis. “ Rick Richman followed up with a similar, but even longer list of Obama “successes which were also really failures: “His successful personal effort to insult the head of state and prime minister of America’s closest ally (as well as removing the bust of its wartime prime minister from the Oval Office); his successful personal effort to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel; his successful effort to ostracize Honduras for enforcing its constitution against a Hugo Chavez wannabe; his successful effort to become the first U.S. president to chair a UN meeting; his successful effort to ignore the efforts of Iranian citizens protesting the stolen 2009 presidential election and then ignore seriatim deadlines for Iran to accept his outstretched hand; his successful efforts to oppose Congressional attempts to strengthen Iran sanctions, while touting each round of non-crippling sanctions as the “toughest ever”; his successful effort to ward off pressure to visit Israel from liberal Israeli columnists, Jewish Democrats in Congress, and friendly rabbis; his successful effort to jettison a U.S. ally in Egypt and reportedly invite the new Pharaoh to the U.S.; . . . . his successful effort to delay executing an already-negotiated free trade agreement with the closest U.S. ally in Latin America; his successful effort to improve relations with Mexico by suing Arizona on its behalf; his successful effort to build a knee-slapping relationship with Dmitri Medvedev to deliver a deferred flexibility message to Vladimir; and his winning a Nobel Peace Prize for not being Bush.” (http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/08/obamas-foreign-policy-failures-catalogued.php)
I have some personal experience here. I have spent a fair amount of the last several years working in and around the Middle East. In fact, I lived in Helmand Province (southern Afghanistan) for more than a year in 2010-2011, and travelled / worked all over that country. Here are a few of things I learned and can attest to from my own experience:
Over all, the Obama Administration, in the course of trying to influence the world – especially the Muslim world – through “Soft Power”, rhetoric, unilateral disarmament, and appeasement has weakened our strategic strength in almost every area of international relations. It abandoned the most fundamentally powerful strategy of successful US foreign relations: “Peace through strength”. This approach was proven again and again between 1945 and 2008. It won the Cold War, and made the United States the sole remaining superpower. While the United States remains stronger than any other single country in the world, its strength is being diminished by these amateurish mis-steps, and there is a tipping point beyond which the US and its allies will no longer be able to prevail in an increasingly hostile world.
So, in this situation, what can be done to restore America to a place of respect, and our image as the most powerful force for good in the world? Here are 5 ideas:
What do you think? Other ideas?