President Obama’s weakness in foreign policy is a contributor to the events of the last several days in the Middle East. Though he gave the order to take out bin Laden — who wouldn’t? — and though he attacks suspected terrorists with drones, this president has nevertheless conveyed to the world that he believes in a diminished world role for the United States.
He believes in a more modest United States — remember those bows — because he comes from an intellectual tradition that is hostile to American power. His pastor and mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, expressed a common leftist view when he said, after 9/11, that the attacks represented “America’s chickens coming home to roost.” Mr. Obama’s one-time green-jobs czar, Van Jones, was of the same school, showing up at a radical leftist rally on September 12, 2001, and, amid the drum circles and curses heaped on the nation that had just suffered an attack of unprecedented savagery, joined in the denunciations of the victim. “It’s the bombs that the government has been dropping around the world that are now blowing up inside the U.S. borders.”
As if the U.S. were in the habit of bombing nations just to throw its weight around, or for the sheer joy of dominating and hurting others. In fact, of the last six wars in which the United States was involved (Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya), four were undertaken to rescue Muslims, and the other two (Afghanistan and Iraq) had the side benefit of liberating Muslims — to what end remains an open question.
President Obama, the so-called fact-checkers’ indignant denials notwithstanding, did apologize for the United States. The Washington Free Beacon reminds us that he told a French audience that, instead of “celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times when America has shown arrogance, and been dismissive, even derisive.” In Turkey, he said that America was still “working through” some of the darker periods in our past.
At the Summit of the Americas, Mr. Obama confessed that “while the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have . . . at times . . . sought to dictate our terms.”
Speaking at the National Archives, the president offered, “Unfortunately . . . all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; . . . all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. In other words, we went off course.”
Faced with an anti-American tirade from the little Marxist of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, Obama defended himself, not his country, by saying, “I’m very grateful that President Ortega didn’t blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”
The world has looked to the United States in vain for leadership on Iran’s nuclear program. It has found a feckless and incompetent leader, whose delayed sanctions have had zero impact on the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obama’s claims to have “isolated” the Tehran regime are belied by the non-aligned summit held there last month. The Obama administration couldn’t even persuade the U.N. Secretary General to skip the conclave. That’s not soft power — it’s just soft.
President Obama has also signaled to the world his weakness by his willingness to risk “disastrous” (his own secretary of defense’s word) reductions in defense spending, all because his priority is increasing taxes on top earners.
Obama believed that America would be more popular with Himself at the helm. He can polish his Nobel Peace Prize, but the mobs in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya suggest the shallowness of that particular vanity.
Even if the U.S. is better liked in some quarters, we are not respected. Cuba, the Communist basket-case in our backyard, has been holding an American citizen, Alan Gross, since 2009. Gross was a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was distributing computers to members of Cuba’s Jewish community when he was arrested and charged with espionage. He has been rotting in a Cuban jail for the entire Obama presidency, while Obama offered an “outstretched hand” to the regime in the form of eased travel restrictions and other blandishments.
Even this week, the president has been weak in his response to the mob violence in Egypt. While promising to bring Ambassador Christopher Stevens’s murderers to justice, he said not a word about the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo’s failing to protect our embassy.
The mobs, like the contempt shown by Cuba, are Obama’s chickens coming home to roost.
— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 Creators Syndicate, Inc.