The View From 1776
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Defending Our Vital National Interests
In his foreign policy speech at West Point, President Obama proclaimed a policy of common sense with which most people agree: we should take military action if necessary to defend our vital national interests, but we must refrain from military intervention in foreign troubles that are not matters of national interest. The rub comes in identifying, then in anticipating threats to, short-term and long-term vital interests of the United States.
Obama has repeatedly been caught flat-footed with political developments in geographic areas that are key ones for our national interests. Iraq, having been stabilized with an elected government friendly to the U.S., was abandoned to the disruptive influence of Iranian sponsored terrorists; the Arab Spring blew up in Obama’s face in Libya and Egypt; our diplomats were left under-defended in Benghazi, after Obama proclaimed that Al Queda had been defeated and was on the run; he did nothing to alleviate the warfare in Syria, while alienating both sides and allowing Russia to become the influential power in a vital area of the Eastern Mediterranean; Iran has repeatedly given the back of its hand to the president’s “let’s be friends” overtures and continues to progress toward production of nuclear weapons; Russia is extending its sphere of influence westward, first in Ukraine, and is now forging closer links to China; China is becoming aggressively threatening to Japan and other Far Eastern U.S. allies, while we are reducing our military strength worldwide.
If Obama and his foreign policy advisors have articulated a comprehensive strategy for dealing with present-day splintering world economic and diplomatic conditions, it’s not been made known to the American public or to the rest of the world. His West Point formulation, reduced to essentials, is that after each crisis arises Obama will try to figure out what is to be done.
By no stretch of the imagination could one describe Obama’s trite formulation as approaching the comprehensive foreign policies developed by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to deal with the economically and politically fragmented world in the decade after World War II’s end.
Under President Truman and Secretary of State George Marshall, at the start of the Cold War, the United States supported the UN, but didn’t certainly didn’t rely exclusively on it. In Korea, we led the rest of the free world in confronting communist aggression. NATO was forged to put a credible military power response in Eastern Europe, facing the Soviet Union and the Comintern. We bolstered our military capacity in Japan and elsewhere in the Far East. We matched the Soviets throughout the Middle East with covert action and kept our Mediterranean Naval fleet at full readiness. As a result we pulled the preponderance of Middle Eastern political states within the sphere of U.S. influence, in an area that was the one of the world’s main sources of essential petroleum. Above all, we implemented a credible nuclear missile capacity that limited the USSR to nibbling around the edge of the world’s political states.
Most of this required no direct military action. What was essential was pulling all actions together under a comprehensive world geopolitical understanding and moving necessary military and diplomatic pieces into position to deter Soviet ambitions beforehand, thus avoiding crises that might have surged into World War III.
With conditions again verging toward diplomatic and military chaos, Obama fails to foresee how his pronouncements will affect the world situation and how his repeated denials of growing Islamic terrorism are setting the nation up for disasters here and abroad.
While I regard Franklin D. Roosevelt as the worst president in our nation’s history (because he was the first to clamp socialism firmly around the nation’s throat), one must give him his due in foreign policy. The nation was as much or more war-weary after World War I as it is today, yet FDR understood that failure to stymie Hitler’s National Socialists and Japan’s imperial militarists would imperil the United States sooner or later. Roosevelt began our military build up well before Pearl Harbor, and he set in motion the legislative tools to aid Great Britain when a German invasion appeared imminent.
None of Roosevelt’s moves was popular - with Democrats or Republicans - yet he began to rally the nation’s electorate in his speeches to build support for the soon-to-be-necessary military action.
Obama, in contrast, leads from behind while never missing a golf game, vacation, fund-raising event, or opportunity to appear before adoring audiences on left-wing TV shows.
Read Seth Mandel’s assessment on the Commentary website: What Do Obama’s Critics Want From Him?
Mr. Mandel concludes, “The concern by some of our allies around the world today is that America, under Obama, is acting more like postwar Britain than FDR and Truman’s United States. They wonder if we’re ceding influence while trying to mask retreat in token diplomatic gestures and occasional displays of interest or strength intended to keep a foothold, but no more than a foothold, in regions too important to leave behind but too chaotic to defend with press releases.
America does not have imperial properties around the globe as Britain did, of course. At the same time, there is no other United States to step into the vacuum and protect a globalism that could easily give way to regionalism. And painting those who want to know if America can still be counted on as warmongers is not going to reassure anyone.”