The View From 1776
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Simplistic Foreign Policy
Obama’s policy of apologetic speeches and working through the UN to impose trade sanctions on Iran has failed to stop Iran’s progress toward operational nuclear weapons. But in the Ryan-Biden debate, Vice President Biden charged that, if Republicans don’t support Obama’s repeated diplomatic palavers with the Ayatollahs, their only alternative is to go to war with Iran.
Our containment policy for dealing with the Soviet Union’s aggressive expansionism after World War II showcased a very different, decisively effective approach. From it we can draw two conclusions. One, that reducing our military power, as Obama is doing, diminishes our ability to protect our national interest around the globe, and, two, that passing the buck to the UN while apologizing to aggressors is an invitation for increased aggression.
The basic elements of our Soviet containment policy, first advocated by diplomat George F. Kennan in his famous “long telegram” to the State Department and in his “X” article in Foreign Affairs Quarterly, were, first, to avoid direct provocation that could lead to war, but, second, to meet every threat from the Soviets with suitable force, military or diplomatic, so that the Soviets had to back off or start a war themselves. That policy was entirely successful, though it required more than forty years of steadfast effort.
Creation of NATO, a military component in our containment policy, was an international effort. But it was the opposite of liberal-progressive reliance on world opinion and promoting a world government under the UN, a body in harmony with the Socialist International. With NATO, the United States took the lead in providing military power and used its diplomatic leverage to get military support from NATO member countries. The United States acted forcefully in our national interests and others followed us. NATO moved credible, real military power to the Soviet Comintern’s western boundary. Soviet military intimidation of Western Europe was stymied; continuing their aggression would have required the Soviets to start a war in Europe. In 1948, when the Soviets blockaded Berlin, we answered with the Berlin air lift to supply food, clothing, and other necessities to the people of West Berlin.
In Libya the Obama administration chose to lead from behind, ceding initiative to the UN. Purportedly to stay out of another war, the Obama administration allowed itself to be dragged into the civil war in the name of UN efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Still leading from behind, the Obama administration failed to send requested military security to Benghazi that could have prevented the assassination of our ambassador and three members of our diplomatic team.
When Greece after the end of World War II was threatened by Soviet-financed civil war intended to impose a communist government via military coup, we sent our Mediterranean fleet to Greece and began supplying anti-communist forces, without months of delay in forming a UN consensus before acting. Keeping Greece from becoming a vassal state of the Soviet Union, as were all its northern neighbors, was a matter of strategic importance for the United States, because opening Greece to Soviet naval bases would have allowed communist control of the eastern Mediterranean. The Soviet navy then would have been able to block British and American access to the Suez Canal and Middle Eastern petroleum supplies. Moreover, a Soviet vassal state in Greece would have geographically isolated Turkey, which became a NATO member in 1952.
When North Korea, with backing from Red China and the USSR, invaded South Korea in 1950, the United States pushed the UN into supporting South Korea. We supplied about 90% of the military forces to stop a communist take-over of the entire Korean peninsula, which points like a dagger at the heart of our post-War ally Japan, the main location of our Far East military bases. Granted, this was entering a war, but one that responded to Soviet aggression, within the ambit of our containment policy. By demonstrating our readiness to back up diplomatic talks with military action, the Korean action strengthened our leverage in the long-term struggle with Soviet Russia.
President Kennedy didn’t seek UN approval for confronting Soviet vessels with our naval power in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Our Korean action a decade earlier no doubt played a role in Kruschchev’s decision to remove ICBMs from Cuba when President Kennedy stood up to him.
Iran’s leaders, in contrast, are contemptuous of Obama’s professions of comity with Islam and his many empty declarations that he will not permit Iran to get operational nuclear weapons. They know that they have little to fear from a president who is more concerned with Nobel Peace prizes and the platitudes of liberal-progressive internationalism than with honoring our long-standing obligations to protect our ally Israel.
In the debate with Vice President Biden, Congressman Ryan stated that Mitt Romney does not advocate going to war with Iran or with Syria. His point was that had Romney been president in 2009 he would not have ignored the Iranian student protests, as did Obama, but would have used a combination of naval power in the Persian Gulf and open support of the Iranian protestors to make credible our opposition to their drive toward nuclear weaponry. Presumably, in addition, we would have, behind the scenes, forced nations like Russia and Germany to choose between supplying military weapons to Iran and and facing some forms of economic or diplomatic loss on other fronts.
We certainly would not have pursued Obama’s fatuous “reset” with Russia, in effect telling Putin that we would not try to stop his trouble making in the Middle East and his continual blocking of our diplomatic overtures in the UN and elsewhere.
If the Obama administration has a realistic grasp of foreign policy, there is little evidence of it.
Foreign policy requires a unifying principle for identifying our national interests and the means of protecting those interests, across an enormously wide and complicated set of geographic locations, each of which is always striving to protect its interests or to expand its hegemony.
Effective foreign policy is not making apologetic speeches. Nor is it creating a Potemkin facade of international moral support through the UN, the policy that Vice President Biden flourished as the “successful” actions of the Obama administration.
The Obama administration, in contrast to our bi-partisan policy after World War II, is significantly reducing our military capabilities even as China is building its naval power to threaten in the future our trade access to the Far East, which is economically the fastest growing area of the world. China probably has no intention of going to war with us, but outclassing our naval power in the Indian Ocean and the China Sea as they intend, will be a reverse replay of our containment policy with the USSR.
In the future, under Obama’s arms reduction plan, we will be forced to attack the Chinese navy if we are to honor our diplomatic promises to protect Taiwan from Chinese aggression. Japan will be pushed toward withdrawing permission for us to maintain our military bases there. Were we instead to maintain or increase our naval and air power in that region of the world before China’s navy attains a decisive advantage, we could forestall aggression by forcing China to choose between halting aggression or starting a war with us.