The Corner

Reset/Outreach R.I.P

It is not surprising how little foreign policy comes up in the debates, given the sorry state of the economy. But the entire idea of Obama’s outreach/reset diplomacy is now starting to Carterize, circa 1979/80, and in part reflects the vast trillions borrowed of the last three years that sent the debt to $16 trillion and weakened the U.S. presence abroad.

The sudden spike in violence in Iraq bodes ill, especially given the contrast that not a single U.S. solder was lost in our last month of deployment and the country was largely quiet. 

 

Afghanistan remains a story of wanting to withdraw, surge, withdraw, and who knows what next? The defense cuts appear, fairly or not, as force multipliers of the previous iconic apologizing, contextualizing, and bowing. An insolvent Europe wanted no part of our serial fiscal stimuluses. 

 

A new Asian direction is loudly announced, but by what means and for what purposes are left unsaid — as is the reality that a broke and unraveling EU, an ever more impotent NATO, and growing German pride and regional fear of German pride, make the original American postwar commitment there more important than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

 

We are an ascendant Turkey’s new best friend, without much recognition of what that means, given its growing Islamization, especially for our friends who traditionally fear its ascendance — whether the Kurds, Greece, Armenia, or now Israel. No one believes that U.S. outreach, often to the embarrassment of our allies, to Russia, Syria, Venezuela, or Iran has brought us dividends; tensions with all have not abated — or are becoming much worse.

 

Distancing ourselves from Israel brought no Middle East breakthrough. Hot spots like the 38th Parallel, the Strait of Hormuz, Taiwan, and the West Bank are just as hot, as interested bad-acting parties calibrate to what degree the new U.S. stance offers opportunity. Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan do not feel as secure under the U.S. defense umbrella as in the past. All want more of their own arms, and will soon probably consider going nuclear or dealing with China on less favorable terms.

 

Utopian boasts about a new empowered U.N. or nuclear disarmament remain faculty lounge pipe-dreams. No one can quite articulate what is going on in North Africa, much less what our own posture is or should be. 

 

The trashing and loudly promised reset of the Bush anti-terrorism protocols, followed by Obama’s embrace or expansion of them, ended up confirming their past legality and utility in ways no conservative could have imagined. Bin Laden’s demise was important and Obama deserves credit for ordering the hit, but the ability to take him out was part of the continual adherence to the prior anti-terrorism protocols on the Afghan border. The KSM civilian trial and closing of Guantanamo remain fantasies, as do the euphemisms like overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters. No one can explain to this day why blowing up suspected terrorists and any in their vicinity — Predator targeted assassinations have increased seven-fold — is more humane than the infamous enhanced interrogation of three confessed planners of 9/11.

 

These are sometimes insidious rather than overt developments, but in aggregate they create an image of U.S. naivete and indifference that could lead to an eruption in the style of those of 1979.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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