Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama vs. Romney Foreign Policy

Obama at DNC Convention, Charlotte, NC

The media likes to remind us that polls show that Obama has an edge over Romney in terms of foreign policy.

At the recent Democratic convention Obama had this to say about Romney/Ryan and foreign policy...

"My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy."

That line received laughter from the partisan crown gathered in Charlotte.  Given Obama's foreign policy record of the past four years, however, this nervous laughter seems a bit misplaced.

In truth, it must be admitted that Governor Romney does not have vast amounts of foreign policy experience.  Nor has he covered himself with glory with some of his foreign policy pronouncements.  Romney's most egregious gaffe in this category was when, on this summer's visit to the UK after meeting with the head of MI-6, he declared, "I appreciated the insights and perspectives of the leaders of the government here and the opposition here as well as the head of MI6."

Oscar Wilde 1854 - 1900
If the Oscar Wilde's maxim is correct that "experience is the name we give to our mistakes," then it must be acknowledged that Obama had far more "experience" in foreign policy that Governor Romney.

Candidate Obama was the peace advocate who opposed President Bush's surge; but it was the surge that helped bring stability to Iraq and allowed us to make an exit.

After being wrong on the surge, Obama drew the incorrect conclusion and tried to apply surge-like tactics to Afghanistan where the "peace candidate" of 2008 turned, on his election, into an LBJ-style escalator.  Afghanistan in spite of being a long-standing historical quagmire for empires (British, Soviet and now American) was somehow designated the "good war" in Democratic circles.  The result has been more US and NATO casualties in the longest lasting conflict in American history that lacks clear objectives.  Now the Taliban is targeting Prince William for propaganda purposes.

Afghanistan War Cartoon
Sixty years ago the Presidential election of 1952 turned primarily on questions of foreign policy.  Eisenhower won that campaign with a single line -- "I will go to Korea."  Americans were weary of the bleeding ulcer that Korea represented and longed for leadership from a military and foreign policy professional.  I suspect that Eisenhower, based on his policy with regard to Korea, would, if confronted with our current military situation in Afghanistan, advise pulling the soldiers out and sending the drug companies in (see earlier post, Eisenhower in London, 7/23/12).  Ike was no fan of American involvement in un-winnable Asian ground wars.  Today, sadly, neither Presidential candidate wants to address the central issues of Afghanistan seriously.

Obama and the Democrats love to point out that he "got" Osama bin Laden.  That is to say, Obama's chief foreign policy success was a continuation of the policies of Bush / Cheney.  For more on the true heroes behind Osama's demise -- the Navy Seals, see my earlier post and the movie Act of Valor, 6/17/12.

Candidate Obama liked to fulminate against the horrors of Gitmo (see earlier post, Gitmo and St. Helena, 1/4/12).  President Obama recognized that a mass release of Gitmo would have led directly to the deaths of more American citizens and, perhaps, even more US ambassadors.

Moreover, recent events have made it crystal clear that Obama policies have been fuzzy  and wrongheaded on so many levels around the globe.

In Iran today (see earlier post, Iran, 3/24/12) the centrifuges continue to spin ominously.  Our sanctions policy against Iran seems ineffectual.  Just this week during the UN meetings in New York, our President prefered to make an appearance on The View, where he described himself as "eye candy,"* rather than taking time to meet Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, our principal ally in the Middle East.  Don't care for Israel?  Well, he didn't meet with the Palestinians or any other foreign leaders during UN week in New York either.

In the Middle East, Obama's (remember the peace candidate of 2008?) preferred foreign policy is, ironically, to apologize for America and then to drone on and on, so to speak.  He is even quite willing to take out US nationals with predator drones.

In Syria chaos reigns, the death toll mounts and the Russians continue to sell over half a billion dollars worth of arms to Assad  Little wonder that Obama is able to score an endorsement from Putin (see earlier post, Obama picks up Key Endorsement, 910/12).  Obama's inability to lead on Syria stand in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton's intervention in the former Yugoslavia.  Thousands of Syrian refugees are now flooding across the border into Turkey straining resources in that country.

The brutal assassination of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 gives the lie to the notion that Obama has somehow improved perceptions of America abroad (see video below).  Anti-American demonstrations surge throughout the middle east showing the vulnerability of Obama on foreign policy issues.  For a terrific analysis of Obama's failure to cope with the unfolding "Arab Spring" see Fouad Ajami's excellent article Muslim Rage and the Obama Retreat...

The Economist 9/22 - 9/28/12
In Asia, an absurd potential war between China and Japan over barren islands (This week's Economist cover asks the question "Could China and Japan really go to war over these?" and answers "Sadly, yes".) threatens the peace of the Pacific and the global economy; Is the fecklessness of American foreign policy not partly to blame?  "One Chinese newspaper has helpfully suggested skipping the pointless diplomacy and moving straight to the main course by serving up Japan with an atom bomb,"  writes The Economist (week of 9/22/12).  Would China be rattling its sabres thus if Reagan were still President?

The symbolism of foreign policy is oftentimes nearly as important on the substance.  Obama, on being elected, chose to remove the bust of Winston Churchill from the White House.  He later snubbed British sensibilities even further by referring to to an "English Embassy" which has not existed for about four centuries

Upon his election in 2008, Obama's allies on the left flattered his self-evident vanity by awarding him a too readily accepted Nobel peace prize for "not being Bush" rather than for having accomplished anything.

The Obama-led bid for hosting the 2016 Olympics in Chicago did not even make it into the final round before losing to Rio!  Is it not conceivable that Romney, architect of the successful Salt Lake City Olympics, might have been better-equipped to pursue Olympic gold for the USA?

In Eastern Europe, Obama has floundered.  Just last year he referred to "Polish death camps" demonstrating an embarrassing ignorance of history and antagonizing a vital NATO ally.  How much media attention has been given to Lech Walesa's endorsement of Governor Romney?  Shouldn't the opinions of a man who has struggled all his life for worker's rights and helped the peaceful triumph of the West in the cold war count for something?  Shouldn't Walesa's endorsement count for a bit more than an endorsement from Russia's Putin?


If Obama holds a polling lead with Americans in terms of foreign policy performance over Romney it is quite undeserved.

You may, dear reader, in spite of all of the above, continue to object that Romney lacks critical foreign policy experience.  George Washington never left North America.  Neither did Abraham Lincoln.  Truman had less foreign policy experience than Governor Romney before to decided to drop the bombs on Japan that ended World War II (see earlier post, Truman's Decision to use Atomic Bombs on Japan, 9/23/12).

*  The vanity of our President is truly mind-boggling.  Shortly after his election victory in 2008, but before his inauguration, he compared himself to Lincoln by invoking Dorris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln ( on account of his appointment of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.  Had he truly been interested in a "Team of Rivals" John McCain would have been his choice for Secretary of Defence and Sarah Palin would have been his Energy Secretary.

Our President is fond of comparing himself to Lincoln and FDR.  Has he no sense of shame, of history or of Hubris?  His escalation policy mirrors that of LBJ, his dithering on Syria reminds us of Jimmy Carter on Iran, his Solyndra and "Fast and Furious" scandals recall Nixon and Watergate.  Perhaps most significantly, Obama's economic performance including US credit rating downgrades remind us most of all of Herbert Hoover; are the US city parks defaced by the Occupy Wall Street crowd not modern "Hoovervilles"?

Critique of Obama Foreign Policy from the Left, Source: Russia Today


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