Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top 5 Obama Foreign Policy Blunders

Just to be clear, this list encompasses the Administration as a whole and is not restricted to the actions of the President, alone. And I guess--if I really wanted to be fair--I should include a list of the Top 5 Foreign Policy Successes for the Obama Administration. But there are two problems with that: first, I'm in a bad mood and not inclined to be fair in the least, and second, I can't think of five significant successes.

With that said, on with the list!

Worst Foreign Policy Blunders by the Obama Admin

5. Bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, April 1st, 2009

Hey, his defenders tried to slough it off as no big deal, but it was a big deal. State Department protocol is simple here: the President does not bow to another head of state. The basic rule: Presidents don't bow and Emperors don't toast. The flurry of defensive posturing by the Administration on the matter was only enhanced by silly attempts in the media to "prove" this was nothing unusual, when a simple search of the New York Times during the Clinton years destroys all the attempts to defend Obama's bow.

The upshot of this bow: it can be seen as a sign of weakness, especially when considered in context with the President's "apology tour." Moreover, we just don't do royalty in the United States. It's in the Constitution. We've even gone to war to make the point.

4. Bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan, November 14th, 2009

Proving he's nothing if not a quick learner (that's sarcasm, by the way), President Obama once again breaks protocol and offers the Emperor an un-reciprocated bow from the waist. Goofily, the Administration defends the action as being "according to protocol," when it was anything but. The same defenders fire up their wayback machines and pretend to find evidence "proving" this wasn't unusual, but all to no avail.

While the Emperor of Japan is certainly not the King of Saudi Arabia, thus providing the conspiracy wingnuts with no perch for their claims of "Obama is a secret Muslim," the faux pas once again makes Obama appear weak and something of an amateur on the world stage.

3. Undermining the U.S. Relationship with Poland, 2009 to Present

This particular blunder has been an ongoing one. It started back in 2009, when the Obama Administration backed out of an agreement reached under the previous Administration to place missile defense systems in Poland (and the Czech Republic). Ignorantly, the Administration chose to announce this decision on September 17th of 2009, which happened to be the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Invasion of Poland. It only got worse when Obama offered up one of the most ignorant gaffes of his political career on May 30th, 2012, wherein he referred to the "Polish death camps" of World War II, a turn of phrase that deeply offended Poles everywhere, though made even worse because the President was in Poland at the time.

Poland has been a staunch U.S. allies since the fall of the Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union. The nation committed itself to U.S. actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan from the get-go. But the Obama Administration, in seeking some sort of "reset" with Russia, sacrificed our relationship with Poland. And to what end, since it looks like there has been no reset with Russia? If anything, the relationship between Russia and the United States has gotten progressively worse under Obama.

2. The Benghazi Fiasco, September 11th, 2012 (and long afterwards)

How much do I need to say about this? A sitting U.S. Ambassador--Chris Stevens--was basically assassinated in an assault on a U.S. consulate in Libya, an assault that took place on the anniversary of 9-11. The Administration was apparently out to lunch when this was happening; no support was sent to help the U.S. forces there and no one is really willing to explain why this was the case. In the aftermath of the assault, Administration mouth piece Susan Rice ran around blaming the incident on a nothing YouTube video. And when that explanation was proven to be nonsense, the Administration claimed ironically that it was still trying to gather all of the facts.

It was a horrible event. In the past, such an action--the assassination of a sitting ambassador--would have been a big deal. But not under Obama. It was apparently more important to play the fool, so as not to upset other Middle-Eastern nations. As a result, the U.S. looked not only weak, but also ineffectual.

1. The Syrian "Red Line," August 20th, 2012 to Present

If you're going to draw a line in the sand--or anywhere else--you have to be prepared to act if it is crossed. If you draw it, then hem and haw once it is crossed, you look both foolish and weak. And that's exactly how Obama looked after saying the use of chemical weapons was a red line for the U.S. and that there would be "enormous consequences" if this line was crossed. Rather than stepping up to the plate and taking action when Syria used chemical weapons this year, the Obama Administration has stepped out of the box and is now looking to Congress to make the decision. If Congress fails to approve the President's plan, Obama's credibility is virtually destroyed, along with the credibility of the U.S., in the region. But even if Congress goes along with the President's plan, it's all too late and largely pointless now.

As I've previously explained, this particular failure on the part of Obama essentially ends deterrence as a policy goal for the U.S., now and well into the future. Empty threats are hardly the basis for an effective foreign policy, but that is all we will have left, thanks to the President.

Now I'm certain there are other blunders that could be cited--like the whole Arab Spring thing--but I've chosen these five because they are the ones that were so obviously blunders and could have so easily been avoided. Plus, they all have the same basic consequence: an appearance of weakness on the part of the United States, something that very likely represents the beginning of the end for the Pax Americana.

Cheers, all.


  1. C'mon Rob, the 5 and 4 are basically minor. There are plenty of others, much more significant. 3 can be expanded to allies generally (the fights with Israel, which led to poor relations and almost 5 years of no negotiations with the Palestinians. As you said, the treatment of Czechs together with Poles, etc...)

    Benghazi is a symptom and a consequence of other things, starting from the whole Libya intervention with no idea what is coming afterwards, which eventually led to the chaos in North Africa, French intervention in Mali and the attack in Benghazi.

    Then there is the whole "reset" with Russia that didn't turn out well (and again, the Libya intervention consequently led to the confrontation with the Russians over Syria).

    The "Arab Spring" policy (including lack of support for the Iranian protesters). The policy was so bungled that it eventually led to the Egyptian generals taking over, thumbing their nose at US and the Saudis openly undermining stated US policy.

    The above ties in with the Syria issue -- lack of intervention (in large part because of Syria) early on when there was a solid chance to get relatively moderate forces in the opposition to win, and the subsequent incoherence, the "red line" thing (which, by the way, was violated for the first time a year ago) and the whole handling of the current crisis.

    In short, the foreign policy failures were many and will have significant consequences. Even the liberal media started noticing after the elections.

  2. 5 and 4 have pictures to go with them. :)