Barack Obama’s 949-word response on Monday to a question about foreign-policy weakness showed the president at his worst: defensive, irritable, contradictory, and at times detached from reality. It began with a complaint about negative coverage on Fox News, when, in fact, it was the New York Times front page that featured Obama’s foreign-policy failures, most recently the inability to conclude a trade agreement with Japan and the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Middle East negotiations.
Add to this the collapse of not one but two Geneva conferences on Syria, American helplessness in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and the Saudi king’s humiliating dismissal of Obama within two hours of talks — no dinner — after Obama made a special 2,300-mile diversion from Europe to see him, and you have an impressive litany of serial embarrassments.
Obama’s first rhetorical defense, as usual, was to attack a straw man: “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?”
Everybody? Wasn’t it you, Mr. President, who decided to attack Libya under the grand Obama doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (helpless civilians) — every syllable of which you totally contradicted as 150,000 were being slaughtered in Syria?
And wasn’t attacking Syria for having crossed your own chemical-weapons red line also your idea? Before, of course, you retreated abjectly, thereby marginalizing yourself and exposing the United States to general ridicule.
Everybody eager to use military force? Name a single Republican (or Democratic) leader who has called for sending troops into Ukraine.
The critique by John McCain and others is that when the Ukrainians last month came asking for weapons to defend themselves, Obama turned them down. The Pentagon offered instead MREs – ready-to-eat burgers to defend against 40,000 well-armed Russians. Obama even denied Ukraine such defensive gear as night-vision goggles and body armor.
Obama retorted testily: Does anyone think Ukrainian weaponry would deter Russia, as opposed to Obama’s diplomatic and economic pressure? Why, averred Obama, “in Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. . . . Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world.”
That’s a deterrent? Fear of criticism? Empty words?