For seven years observers have attempted to discern what President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is, since the closest he has come to articulating one was the simplistic declaration he made to reporters on Air Force One: “don’t do stupid stuff.”
The result is that the leader of the free world has abnegated his responsibility and put America and its allies in great danger.
President Obama viewed George W. Bush as a menace and was determined to show the world he was the anti-Bush. Whatever one may think of president Bush, he was a man of action and his sins were those of commission. Obama’s sins, however, have been of omission. His fear of doing anything stupid has paralyzed his foreign policy for much of his presidency.
Paradoxically, his first foray into foreign policy did little to inspire confidence. He decided to put Israelis in their place in the naïve belief that sympathizing with the Palestinians would somehow bring about peace. Instead, he succeeded in creating distrust among Israelis, which has only grown worse during his tenure, and the Palestinians made a mockery of his pressure on Israel by refusing to engage in negotiations and rejecting his envoys’ peace initiatives.
Worse, the Palestinian Authority openly defied the president, demonstrating from his first year in office that he was weak.
About the same time, President Obama did something equally misguided by going to Cairo and speaking of a Jewish claim to Israel that was based primarily on the Holocaust rather than more than 3,000 years of history. In the speech, Obama also pleaded with the Muslim world to accept his promise that America did not see Islam as the enemy and promised his friendship, as if a nation that buried 10,000 soldiers over the past decade to liberate Muslim men and women could possibly be Islamophobic.
In addition to looking weak by reversing his predecessor’s policy, he made the mistake of speaking in a country run by a dictator known for abusing human rights and muzzling his Muslim opponents.
The message he unintentionally sent was that he would be no different than his predecessors when it came to allying with Arab autocrats so long as they were pro-American.
When the Arab Spring shocked the Obama administration, he also did something that Middle East experts knew would be disastrous, namely siding with the radical Muslims of the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Hosni Mubarak was a terrible autocrat and the Egyptian people deserve to be free.
But the Brotherhood is one of the region’s original terrorist groups and the inspiration for many of the radical Muslim groups we are fighting today.
While many Americans applauded his evacuation of troops from Iraq, President Obama failed to see the bigger picture in the region. Yes, lives of soldiers were saved in the short run, but the absence of US forces left a vacuum that is now being filled by Iran, al-Qaida, Islamic State (ISIS), Kurds, Turks and others. So long as our troops were in Iraq, Iran had to worry about the possibility that they would turn toward Tehran and use force to stop its nuclear program. Once that threat was gone, and Obama’s seeming desperation for a nuclear agreement on any terms became clear, the Iranians knew they had nothing to fear from this president.
The Iranians, the Russians and the radical Muslims also were quick to fill the vacuum created by the dissolution of Syria. They were emboldened by another demonstration of Obama’s weakness when he announced that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime was a red line that would trigger a military response and then did nothing when the evidence of their use was presented to him.
Russian President Vladimir Putin took the measure of Obama, and demonstrated the absurdity of Hillary Clinton’s notion of “resetting” US-Russia relations, when he convinced Obama to abandon Bush’s plan to build a missile defense system in Europe.
Like a grandmaster playing a novice in chess, Putin checkmated Obama in Eastern Europe and, seeing his naiveté, invaded Ukraine, defended Iran and is now wreaking havoc in Syria.
President Obama’s most glaring omission was on display in the carnage in Paris last November. His stubborn refusal to acknowledge that a war is being fought between radical Muslims engaged in a holy war against non-Muslims has allowed this cancer to metastasize around the world. Denying Islamist terrorism is as extreme as blaming innocent Muslims for that same terrorism.
After doing everything possible to avoid entanglement in Syria, and refusing to use America’s might to destroy ISIS, the people of Syria, Iraq, France and Belgium have reaped a terrible whirlwind. Even now, President Obama is reluctant to take the necessary measures to defeat not only ISIS, but the Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite terrorists who are no less dangerous than the radical Sunnis.
The killing of Jews in the West Bank, as well as the atrocities in Paris at the kosher market, are not “random” incidents, as described by our president.
They were intentional murders. When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls on Palestinians to defend the Aksa mosque against the fictional Jewish threat to destroy it, he is inciting Muslims to murder non-Muslims. Still, the president cannot muster an unambiguous condemnation of this evil.
George Bush had a straightforward worldview that identified our enemies. Even the president of France and the prime minister of Great Britain openly acknowledge the war with radical Islam. The pope put it best when he said the attacks in France last year are part of a Third World War and that the international community would be justified in using force to stop “unjust aggression” by ISIS militants.
President Obama’s policy has been weak and vacillating.
He still has a few months as commander- in-chief to lead the free world from the front rather than from behind.
The author, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his forthcoming, The Israel Warrior’s Handbook. Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley.