In times like these of economic hardship, foreign affairs are often placed on the back burner of American politics. Yet Americas strength remains to a great extent dependent on successful foreign policy. Nowhere is this more evident than in our relations with the Mideast, and nowhere have the Obama administrations policy failures been so glaring.
In stark contrast to previous presidents, President Obamas approach to foreign policy has been to reject American exceptionalism and consider to an unprecedented degree other nations and groups when determining American interests. For example, from the outset Obama sought to mend what he believed were broken relations with the Arab/Muslim world. This is why his first major policy speech was in Cairo, Egypt, and first post-election interview was with the Saudi newspaper Al Arabiya. In that interview, Obama described his position as somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States... Whether an American president should be promoting the interests of others in the first place is arguable, but certainly he should not be promoting those interests when they clash with American ones.
Often described as leading from behind, Obamas urge to placate other nations has actually had a reverse effect. Polling from the Arab-American Institute in six key Mideast countries has found that approval ratings of U.S. policies are now lower than those published during the end of George W. Bushs second term. But the measure of foreign policy is its effectiveness, not popularity. Unfortunately, Obamas foreign policy has led to a decline in American prestige and power and the strengthening of our foes.
Obama has bent over backward to be accommodating to Irans leaders, going so far as to send them July 4 party invitations while they were murdering their own protesting citizens in the streets of their capital. Not surprisingly, Obamas overtures have failed to deter Iran from killing American troops in Iraq and elsewhere, destabilizing Lebanon and the Persian Gulf allies, repeating pronouncements that they intend to annihilate Israel and defeat the U.S, and zealously pursuing nuclear arms. The administration claims to have successfully isolated Iran, but this was shown to be false when two weeks ago more than 100 nations attended a summit there. Obama also takes credit for passing anti-Iran sanctions, but it took him more than three years of continual prodding from Congress and was done only on condition that certain nations could be exempted. Overall, the presidents strategy has failed to deter the Iran, which marches inexorably on in its quest for nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.
While Obama has continued his predecessors strategy of hitting hard at al-Qaida, he has not only failed to challenge the broader rise of political Islam, particularly in influential countries such as Egypt and Turkey, but has given it tacit support. His administration has argued that Islamists are democratically elected into power and thus legitimate, and as Obamas Director of Intelligence James Clapper testified, are largely secular and nonviolent. But one election does not a democracy make, and there has yet to be an Islamist regime that has willingly handed over power in a peaceful manner. Moreover, their suppression of the media, the judiciary, and minority opinions; brutality and hatred directed toward Christians, women, and other groups; genocidal anti-Semitism; support of jihadist terrorist groups; and their strict unyielding Islamic law make Clappers claims ludicrous. The administrations denial notwithstanding, it is in political Islams very nature to continue to oppose the U.S. and its interests, witnessed by the ravaging of our embassies and murder of our diplomats.
Obamas acceptance of the Arab narrative that the Israeli/Arab-Palestinian conflict is the primary source of unrest in the region and that Israel must return to pre-1967 boarders has only exacerbated regional tensions. His administrations approach to Mideast peace has placed unprecedented demands on Israel, including withdrawal to the 1947 armistice lines and halting building within its own capital city, while asking nothing meaningful of the Palestinians. This has unnecessarily alienated Israel, our only true regional friend and ally, and paradoxically caused the peace process to stall as it encouraged the Palestinians to be even more inflexible. Current events have also clearly shown that the Israeli-Arab conflict is not a regional linchpin but simply one of many unrelated regional conflicts.
Although Obamas foreign policy may appear to make good election year politics, his flawed approach to promoting Americas interests should become a focal point of debate as we draw closer to Election Day.