The Obama Foreign Policy
There is much to criticize, but Romney must choose his points carefully.

Bowing low to the emporer of Japan


Victor Davis Hanson

4. Obama has snubbed our closest allies, so much so that should the U.S. ever find itself again in need of a coalition, it is hard to imagine who would join it. Canada got mostly ingratitude for its presence in Afghanistan, and it is still furious over the Keystone Pipeline debacle. Our once closest ally, Great Britain, recognizes that the United States is now neutral on the Falklands (a.k.a. the Maldives), and that if Argentina were to invade again, the U.S. would probably withhold help. Israel knows that the U.S., at best neutral, votes present on the Middle East and does not much worry that Israel may soon be surrounded by Islamist frontline states. Whether we would fully supply Israel in its next war is legitimately in doubt. In contrast, Turkey, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, for the first time in history, believe that America is more sympathetic to their causes than to Israel’s. Anti-democratic Venezuela and Cuba, and their Latin American kindred Communist states, also sense that the U.S. is a friend of such totalitarian movements — a suspicion shared by the vanishing number of regional democrats.

5. President Obama was quiet when nearly 1 million Iranian protesters hit the streets in the spring of 2009, almost as if he felt his own multicultural bona fides should be given a chance to finesse the Khomeinist theocracy — or as if the pro-democracy protesters were some sort of inauthentic neocons. It was a shameful decision at a rare time when the Iranian people were looking for pro-democracy affirmation — offering the last chance to stop the Iranian bomb without some sort of military intervention.

6. The new emphasis on Asia is so far in utter confusion. Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are less, not more, assured that a diffident U.S. would come to their defense in case of an existential crisis. Are they still under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, or is the umbrella itself shrinking fast? Simultaneously borrowing from and lecturing China leads to the image of U.S. impotence. The timing of looking eastward was terrible, as NATO sinks into irrelevance at precisely the moment when an insolvent southern Europe is waging a propaganda war against an ascendant Germany. As the euro zone unravels, a strong U.S. presence in Europe is needed more than ever.

7. Despite the growing anti-democratic tendencies of the Erdogan government in Turkey, Obama has structured his Middle East policy around that government, unconcerned that its policy of insidious Islamization is a model for slowly subverting what follows from elections.

8. The apologies, contextualizations, and bowing were trivial gestures, but in aggregate they added to the sense of U.S. diffidence and decline. As they became right-wing talking points, they also became rarer — a reflection that Obama’s own advisers understood that the optics of his one-worldism were becoming harmful to U.S. interests.

9. The addition of $5 trillion in national debt was disastrous in terms of U.S. foreign policy. It lost us what leverage we had over China. It destroyed any credibility in advising the European Union about its own financial meltdown. It curtailed options in the Middle East. Massive defense cuts loom. In this regard, the associated decisions not to open federal lands to new oil and gas leasing, and to cancel Keystone, were also strategically dense, given that an additional 2 to 3 million barrels of North American production would have given us greater leeway in the Persian Gulf and lessened our exposure to foreign creditors.

10. With a little deft diplomacy, Obama could have salvaged a vestigial American presence to monitor the security of Iraqi democracy and blunt Iranian subversion. The failure to attempt this was an especially ironic lapse, given that the administration now wants to radically increase U.S. troop levels in nearby monarchical Kuwait.

The key for the Romney campaign is not, in the manner of the anti-Bush unthinking Left, to offer blanket condemnations, given that on many aspects of the war on terror, Obama, to his credit, continued the successful policies that he inherited. In contrast, there are plenty of policies that are Obama’s own — and therefore quite dangerous.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.


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