National Security & Defense

America’s Diplomatic Fairyland

President Obama speaks at the U.N., September 27, 2015. (Peter Foley/Pool/Getty)

One simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is placing medium and intermediate missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no? Don’t wait for the translation. Yes or no?

— U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Adlai Stevenson, to the Soviet ambassador, October 25, 1962

That showdown during the Cuban Missile Crisis was America’s finest moment at the United Nation. Facing Soviet aggression and the world’s ambivalence, President Kennedy dispatched Adlai Stevenson to seize the diplomatic initiative. Encouraging the Soviet ambassador into a self-made trap of deception, Stevenson then delivered the proof of Soviet missiles in Cuba. In the space of a few minutes, he rallied the world to America’s side and sent a message of furious resolve to the Soviet leadership.

But that was a long time ago. In 2015, the power of American diplomacy is declining.

Yesterday, in preparation for President Obama’s address at the U.N. today, the White House published a website to explain that American diplomacy involves “using the influence we have to resolve conflicts, protect the most vulnerable among us, and strengthen international cooperation in the pursuit of peace.” The argument — supported by those five key words — is well-stated: Using “influence” to “strengthen international cooperation in the pursuit of peace” should always be at the center of American diplomacy.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s foreign policy flies in total opposition to the statement. Join me on a short travel across the globe.

First up, Europe. Although the European Union takes the U.S. military’s continental security guarantee for granted — using American taxpayers to pay for Europe’s defense — the U.S.–EU relationship remains crucial for American trade and international-security interests. But there’s a catch: Many EU leaders have little faith in the Obama administration. Why? Well, consider a few formative situations. There was President Obama’s deliberate impotence facing Russia’s downing of MH-17. There was President Obama’s unwillingness to build a serious coalition against Bashar al-Assad (something the French government is especially aggravated about). There was President Obama’s arrogant appointment of utterly unqualified ambassadors to key EU allies. As a result, applying the White House’s five-word diplomatic premise, recent U.S. leadership has weakened our influence in the EU and degraded its cooperation in the cause of peace.

Sensible foreign policy requires more than bold statements.

Then there’s the Middle East. Here, President Obama’s supplication to Iran is fueling the political sectarianism that powers the region’s instability. But the consequences of U.S. supplication aren’t just evident in Mr. Obama’s flawed Iran deal. Whether from our allowing Iranian convoys to run the internationally mandated blockade against Yemeni rebels, or from our allowing Iranian proxies to kidnap Iraqi government personnel in Baghdad, or from our allowing an Iranian–Russian alliance to shred U.S. peace efforts in Syria, Iran has learned that under President Obama, American resolve is temperamental. And U.S. allies in the Sunni-Arab monarchies feel the same way. This matters. For all the deep flaws in their political culture, these allies are profoundly important for U.S. interests. U.S. influence is important not simply to push these allies in tangible support for American strategy (such as by putting boots on the ground against ISIS), but to prevent these allies from pursuing alternative, destabilizing strategies. As I’ve explained, with Iran, where the United States is seen to be failing to deter the government, we risk our regional allies’ jumping off the deep end — with new strategies such as arming Salafi-Jihadist groups.

Next up, the Asia-Pacific. Here, China is mocking America’s longstanding guarantee of oceanic freedom of navigation. China is stealing territory and threatening “vulnerable” nations in the East and South China Seas. And of course, China is also pursuing wide-ranging cyber attacks on U.S.-government personnel, agencies, and private industries. How is the Obama administration responding to these challenges? By refusing to challenge China’s illegal island building, and by encouraging U.S. allies to yield to Chinese aggression. Oh, and by signing ludicrous agreements such as that made this weekend, in which China and the U.S. promised not to hack each other. Fingers crossed. Still, the consequences for U.S. “influence” are serious. After all, some of America’s closest allies — including its closest ally, Britain — are now cozying up to China against U.S. wishes. Why? Because China offers these allies influence — albeit mercantilist in nature — that is seen to outweigh American influence.

#share#Sensible foreign policy requires more than bold statements. It requires hard choices in support of allies, and values and unyielding resolution in face of adversaries. But today America’s influence is plummeting, the vulnerable are increasingly vulnerable, and the cause of peace is in jeopardy. A true strategy of peace is not measured simply in reduced violence at a specific moment. Instead, it is measured in the extent to which it provides a foundation for America’s future security. And on that count, Mr. Obama’s strategy is manifestly failing.

— Tom Rogan is a writer, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a Steamboat Institute senior fellow. He tweets at @TomRtweets. His homepage is

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at


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