The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Zig ... Zag

Barack Obama delighted his supporters by continually attacking Mitt Romney during the last presidential debate. In so doing, he was the winner, but I suspect it really won't make much difference relative to the election's outcome. Early CNN polling indicates that debate watchers, although giving the win to Obama, were unlikely to change their view of or position on the candidates.

The President was well-prepped, and if you were to discard the facts on the ground, you'd think that his foreign policy was an enormous success. Unfortunately, Obama's lofty claims of success simply don't match reality. Amir Taheri provides a snapshot of Barack Obama's foreign policy failures around the world:
Encouraged by a perceived weakness on the part of the Obama administration, Russia has cast itself as an adversary, adopting an aggressive profile in regions of vital US interest. A clear signal in Moscow’s change of attitude has come with the installation of S400 missiles close to the Caspian Basin and of long-range missiles in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave next to Poland.

For its part, China has sped up its military buildup and flexed its muscles against Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. Beijing has also accelerated the building of a blue-water navy to challenge the US in the Pacific and Indian oceans. And, by undervaluing its currency, China has continued what amounts to low-intensity economic warfare.

Efforts on North Korea have faded away, as Pyongyang pursues its quest for a nuclear arsenal with impunity.

Iran? The facts speak for themselves. On Obama’s watch, Iran has increased its uranium-enrichment capabilities more than tenfold and hardened its defiant rhetoric. The mullahs are also pursuing an aggressive policy in Syria, while doing as much mischief as they can in Bahrain.

US relations with Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, are at low ebb with Obama’s decision to snub the Israeli prime minister during the latter’s visit to New York.

In the “Arab Spring” countries, Obama started by supporting the beleaguered despots (especially in Egypt), and then abandoned them without forming alliances with new emerging forces. As a result, the United States is regarded as a fickle friend by some and an unprincipled power by others.

In Europe, lack of clarity in Obama’s policies has left the US no longer consulted even on crucial economic issues. And for all his promise to make the oceans recede, Obama has failed to provide the leadership needed to bring the allies together on environmental issues. Even the minimum accords negotiated by the Bush administration have been put on the back burner.

Hopes of reforming such international institutions as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, not to mention the United Nations itself, have faded. Lack of US leadership has also led to an impasse in the Doha round of global free-trade negotiations.

In Latin America, the anti-American bloc led by Venezuela and Cuba has won new adherents in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua; even Argentina is adopting “anti-Yankee” accents. Meanwhile, efforts to unite the region’s pro-American nations, partly through free trade, have been dropped under pressure from Obama’s union supporters.
I'll readily admit that foreign policy is difficult for every president (and will be difficult for Mitt Romney), and that no president can control all of the world's hotspots.

But Barack Obama's failures in this area are indicative of a feckless approach that seems to zig when it should zag (e.g., lack of support for the green revolution in Iran), act when it should talk (e.g., Libya) and talk when it should act (e.g. Iran). It's indicative of a foreign policy that disses allies (e.g., Israel) and encourages enemies (e.g., the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt). It's representative of a foreign policy that is naive (e.g., ingenuous praise for the Arab spring) and cynical (e.g., telling Russia (in an unguarded moment) that "more flexibility" will be in the offing after the election) It's ... well ... it's Barack Obama.

Winning a debate is one thing. Establishing a foreign policy that shapes events in a way the benefits our nation's interests is another. Barack Obama accomplished the former, but over the past four years, he's come up short on the latter.