RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., March 20, 2012 — The United States’ foreign policy should be clear and consistent. It should not be used as a pawn for political gain. Unfortunately, in today’s world of Party politics, the latter is more of the norm. It is time to fix that problem.
Recent history is replete with examples of how Party politics have entered into our Nation’s foreign policy decisions, and as George Santayana prophetically said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Vol.1 of Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason).
During the 2008 campaign, then-Senator Obama positioned himself as a great friend of Israel. He emphasized his belief in restraint and diplomacy when it came to addressing hostile nations. Sen. Obama called for the closing of Guantanamo (no later than January 1, 2010) because, in his opinion, its mere presence incited terrorist organizations to respond with violence. Then, while admitting to the success of the Bush Administration’s “surge” strategy in Iraq, he stood fast on his claim that no one could definitively prove that his accelerated withdrawal plan would not have produced similar or even better results.
Sen. Obama’s campaign rhetoric offered such great promise that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only 12 days after taking office as President of the United States. Let us examine what has transpired since that time.
Our Nation’s relationship with Israel has become somewhat strained. President Obama has pressured Israel to return to its 1967 borders, which Prime Minister Netanyahu described as “indefensible.” The President also has been accused of placing the Palestinian Hamas authority on an equal footing with Israel’s leadership despite Hamas’ reputation for terrorism and its refusal to recognize Israel. Of course, when the President has appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he has reiterated that he has “Israel’s back.”
Egypt’s “Arab Spring” presented a new spin on an old problem. The United States had long supported Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He was considered to be an “ally” of our country primarily because he wasn’t openly hostile towards us. Over the 30-year span during which President Mubarak ruled Egypt, the United States provided billions of dollars of foreign aid much of which found its way into President Mubarak’s pocket.
Then, when the people began to rise up against his dictatorship, it became politically expedient to denounce the Mubarak regime. President Obama embraced the Arab Spring and called for President Mubarak to “step down” when it had become apparent that this was inevitable. Subsequently, President Obama guaranteed $3 billion in loans to Egypt despite the fact that the future leadership of Egypt remained largely in question reminding us once again of Mr. Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
A similar course was taken with regard to Libya, when President Obama called for Muammar Gaddafi to step down; again, once it seemed to be inevitable This is called “being Presidential” and creates an optic of “strong leadership.” The reality is that it is the equivalent of predicting the score of a game the day after it is played.
In the case of Libya, President Obama upped the ante when he called for air strikes (without the approval of Congress) and stated that he “refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” It begs the question of how many photos from Syria it will take before he executes the same unilateral (and potentially unconstitutional) decision with respect to that country.
Perhaps the greatest distinction between the two nations resided within their leaders. Muammar Gaddafi was relatively well known within the United States as compared to Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. He was also generally reviled. That combination made Colonel Gaddafi a much better political target than President Assad.
That is not to say that the United States should become involved in the Syrian revolution (if one, in fact, is occurring). It is just meant to point out the dangerous precedent political rhetoric can suggest if it were to be taken seriously and applied on a consistent basis as if it represented legitimate foreign policy.
To be clear, it is every bit as disturbing that President Obama’s former presidential challenger, Senator McCain, seems to default to intervening militarily in the affairs of foreign countries. Then again, at least Sen. McCain is consistent. Unfortunately, he is consistently wrong.
The President did remain “Nobel” in his attempt to close Guantanamo. On January 22, 2009, the President signed an Executive Order with great pomp and circumstance that called for the closing of Guantanamo no later than January 1, 2010. As of today, that directive remains dramatically unfulfilled.
As I wrote nearly two years ago in The National Platform of Common Sense, I find it interesting that President Obama has remained “committed” to closing down Guantanamo because of the theory that Gitmo’s mere existence incites terrorism, but his Administration apparently has not been concerned with the sabre rattling of its Attorney General. Specifically, when talking about the potential capture of Osama Bin Laden, Attorney General Holder said: “Either he will be killed by us, or he will be killed by his own people so that he is not captured by us. We know that. … (We’ll be) reading Miranda rights to his corpse, because I think that’s what we’re going to be dealing with. He is not going to be alive.”
Considering that we did in fact kill Osama Bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself, we can only hope that discerning members of al-Qaeda will distinguish between the President’s promise to close Guantanamo and his fulfillment of Attorney General Holder’s prophesy.
Correspondingly, it is difficult to imagine that few have challenged the incongruity of the Obama Administration’s approval of targeting suspected terrorists for execution (both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens) while it chooses to spend taxpayer money to sue States that try to enforce border control. Then again, “inconsistency” is the most consistent element of our foreign policy.
Moving on to our Congressionally-approved military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have tacitly ended our occupation of Iraq. Al-Qaeda commemorated the ninth anniversary of the War in Iraq by killing 40 citizens of that country. While progress has been made and a brutal dictator eliminated, it will likely be decades before Iraq resembles the type of democratic society our political leaders theoretically envisioned.
Similarly, our involvement in Afghanistan must come into question. The original mission was to drive al-Qaeda from its safe haven in Afghanistan. While the mission was perhaps misguided (since we apparently only relocated the training centers to safe havens in Pakistan), it has long-since been accomplished. However, we have chosen to remain to facilitate “nation building.” Once again, we should be reminded of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”