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 say, his achievements in all areas would be without
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
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% of Americans approved of his terrorism strategy. So,
too, 52% approved of his decision to remove US forces from Iraq. In general, 49%
of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs while 44%
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
The failure of Obama’s foreign policies 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
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.
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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
Nouri al-Maliki visited with Obama at the White House. Immediately after he
returned home, the Shi’ite 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
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 al-Mutlak and fired him without permission
from the Iraqi parliament.
Hashimi and Mutlak are now in hiding in Erbil.
Maliki is demanding that the Kurdish regional government extradite them to
Baghdad for trial.
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
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 Obama’s 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
Ten months later, the Egyptian people has responded to this
populist policy by giving jihadist parties a two-thirds majority in
parliamentary elections. For the first time in 30 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% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of the war in
Afghanistan and 44% 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 before the US presidential election 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.
administration hails its success in overthrowing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
without sacrificing a single US soldier. And certainly, this was a success.
However, Gaddafi’s opponents, who are now taking charge of the country, are
arguably worse for the US than Gaddafi 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
Since Gaddafi 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 Gaddafi’s
In Syria, while the administration insists that dictator
Bashar Assad’s days in power are numbered, it is doing essentially nothing to
support the 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 FOR Iran, Obama’s policies have brought about a
situation where the regime in Tehran 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.
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
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 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, from Asia to Latin America, Obama’s
determination to embrace US adversaries such as 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
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 them was immediate, unmistakable
and harsh. His betrayal of the shah of Iran led directly to the takeover of the
US Embassy in Tehran 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.
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
Then, too, Obama and his advisers 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- Qaida 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 election. 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 made exposing Obama’s disastrous
stewardship of US foreign policy a central plank of their campaigns.
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 email@example.com
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