Using the power of the People to fix a failed foreign policy

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RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif., August 10, 2014 — We live in a strange and troubling world. There is a civil war in Syria and civil unrest in Ukraine. A 72-hour ceasefire is as close to peaceful coexistence as Israel and Hamas seem to be able to get. ISIL is orchestrating a caliphate against Christians and non-Muslims in Syria and Iraq, and “Green on Blue” attacks continue in Afghanistan.

How will the United States respond to each of these situations as they move forward? No one knows for sure.

How should the United States respond to each of these situations? Most people have an opinion, but very few can describe a cogent strategy.

Are you one of the few?

This is an election year, so your elected officials and Parties cannot be counted upon to offer much help. They are too afraid of making a political mistake to provide any real leadership.

Instead, you can expect the president to be reactive rather than proactive and to follow the most benign course possible. His Party’s members will define his decisions as “deliberative” — unless they are running for reelection. Then, they might try to distance themselves from his foreign policy just as Hillary Clinton is trying to do.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders will attack whatever choice the President makes. It will not matter whether they would have made the same decision themselves because the mid-term elections loom on the horizon and they are compelled to disagree.

You do not suffer from such a benighted approach. Your thinking is not constrained by partisan concerns, unless you allow it to be.

You have the luxury to structure a rational foreign policy rather than a political one. You can draw your own “red line in the sand,” or draw no line whatsoever. You can think beyond the election cycle and anticipate the long-term consequences of your policy and its associated strategies. Hopefully, you can even craft an approach upon which this Nation and other nations can depend.

Are you up to the task?

The comment section of this column is designed to create a forum in which opinions can be shared and vetted in a civil manner (see A Civil Assessment, July 9, 2013). All sides are welcome. There are only three rules:

  1. Frame your comments in a civil manner;
  2. Base your arguments on facts (rather than emotion); and
  3. Be respectful of the opinions of others with whom you may disagree.

No one has all the answers, and the collective wisdom of a group is almost always superior to that of an individual. However, you must be willing to listen to the opinions of others… even when they disagree with your position… and even when they are wrong. If you want your opinion to be respected, you have to respect the opinions of others.

Anyone can criticize a position. Anyone can recite mindless talking points provided by others with ulterior motives… and anyone can call someone names. It takes personal integrity to reserve your opinion until you have researched the issue and considered the relative merits of differing views. Only then are you in a position to forge a coherent solution. That is what real leadership demands.

In that regard, pretend you are President of the United States and have the full resources of the Nation at your beck and call. Your only limitation is the Oath of Office; the one in which you said:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Then, tackle the issue of foreign policy and the strategic decisions you would make with respect to one or more of the various international issues this week’s article has raised. See who agrees with your assessment as well as who disagrees with it and upon what basis their arguments are made.

How do you believe the United States’ foreign policy should be framed? Think through a wide variety of scenarios and test how your policy would fare in both the near and long terms. Evaluate how your policy might impact other Nations and how they might respond to it.

Then, consider what strategies you would deploy with respect to:

  • Syria?
  • Ukraine?
  • Israel/Palestine?
  • ISIL/Iraq?
  • Afghanistan?

Would you support one side over the other in these conflicts? If so, which one and why?

How would you use diplomacy versus sanctions versus military intervention (either direct or indirect)? The choice is yours.

Past and future Presidents are welcome to join the discussion. In the event that neither description pertains to you, please recognize that your opinion is every bit as valid and important as theirs. Here’s hoping you will join the conversation, obey the rules, and encourage every other citizen you know, who truly cares about our Nation, to participate as well.

Together, we may begin to offer evidence that people of different persuasions can come together to form effective solutions. Maybe someone in Washington, D.C. will take note of what can be accomplished when rational thought trumps political posturing… when civic responsibility triumphs over partisan polarization… and when we come together to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”


A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.


TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows (check local cable listings for the channel in your area or watch online at 8:00 PM and Midnight PM Eastern / 5:00 and 9:00 PM Pacific. His segment appears about 35 minutes into the program.

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TJ OHara
T.J. O'Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States. Along the way, he earned the first Presidential endorsement of the Whig Party since the 1850s, his website was archived by the Library of Congress for its historic significance, and he won the first on-line “virtual” Presidential election (conducted by We Want You) by a commanding 72.1% and 72.7% over Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively. His column explores our Nation’s most pressing issues, challenges conventional thinking, and provides an open forum for civil discussion. Learn more about TJ at his website and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter (@tjohara2012). To order his books, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or Sony Reader.
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  • Erick Carpenter

    TJ, as an elected President, my duty is to my country, and
    to it’s people, not to other countries. Our foreign policies, as a whole, have
    in most cases, failed in one fashion or another. That includes our attempts at
    removing dictators, such as we did in Iraq, or trying to stop political
    movements such as in Vietnam.

    Our attempts at working as disinterested political third parties hasn’t worked very well either, such as our attempts to establish a peace policy between Israel and Palestine. I for one prefer negotiation to war tactics or strong arming other countries. To wrap ourselves in the American flag and declare “patriotism” and “freedom” for killing other people in other countries when in reality there are other less honorable reasons for invading, I find reprehensible. And we have been guilty of this over and over again.

    My response in each of the above listed cases, would be to act as a liaison between the
    parties, with people of their OWN countries working out the details with
    interjections from us as an attempt to solve the problem. Ally or not, we have
    no business siding with any of the groups listed above. If true war crimes were
    being committed, that is what the UN was designed for, not the US.

    In every case, where we have interceded, there has been unintended consequences,
    including the destabilizing of the entire middle east, civil war where there
    was none, and deaths of thousands if not more due to incorrect data or poor
    advice from advisers.

    I often wonder where the US would be today if we had spent the money from the wars on
    our own country instead. Something close to six trillion dollars that have been
    spent to kill people, what could we have done in the US to advance our country
    instead? Infrastructure, feeding the homeless, medical facilities, better mass
    transit systems, alternative energy sources, the mind boggles.

    I personally advance the idea of non-interference, and reduction of the US
    military budget by 50-60% or better. Withdrawal all bases to the United States,
    and build new bases on our soil on our borders. Assign our military personnel
    to guard our borders. Announce to the world that we will not step foot on
    foreign soil again unless we are directly invited, and THEY pay for it. Continue R&D into defensive weapons and
    train Special Forces for small assassination teams. No longer attack a country
    and it’s soldiers, instead, go directly for the leadership.

    And remind countries that they are directly responsible for the actions of their people.
    If the US is attacked via a large-scale attack? We have a nuclear deterrent for
    which that was directly designed. But overall? Non-interference, non-violent
    diplomatic channels and have the UN do what it was designed to do. Get involved
    in chaos as a multi-country defense force, or leave it entirely and let the
    world and each country sort out its own issues as we have.

    • Thank you for your comments, Mr. Carpenter. They are considerably more consistent than what we have been offered by the last several Administrations.

      I know a Presidential candidate whose foreign policy was quite similar to what you have suggested. :o) The remnants of that policy are also still on display in “A rational approach to Foreign Policy for the U.S.” (published on March 20, 2012).

      I would behoove our leaders to stow away their political bravado in favor of rationally assessing our Foreign Policy and crafting one that is clear, fair, and sustainable. It would send a message to the rest of the world and allow us to fashion strategies that anticipate adverse consequences so that alternative tactics stand ready to be deployed (when necessary). Instead, we are offered little more than an ad hoc approach that yields inconsistent results.

      Thank you again for your comments and for starting “a civil discussion” of the issue.

      • Erick Carpenter

        I think the issue with today’s politics is that everyone wants a 15 second solution so that the leaders can pat themselves on the back, say congratulations, we are important, and essentially remove the oversight of other problems the US faces that are even more challenging.

        Everything today is settled around sound bytes, one-liners, and quick solutions to problems that have festered for several hundred years. Iraq has always been at the brink of a civil war, and Saddam Hussein, for better or worse, kept the peace as he was more violent than those wanting to go to war with their opposing forces. With Saddam removed from that equation, civil war has erupted and most likely will not be controlled without a dictator much like Hussein in place.


        We have no business in Syria, it truly is a civil war, and those that are involved may be our enemies after it is done. Truth is that often, we arm our friends, only to find later that either the arms ended up in the wrong hands, or our friends were not as friendly as we had hoped, here you can think about Osama Bin Laden whom we befriended, trained, armed, betrayed, and paid the price for.


        Again, civil war. Half want Russian rule, half do not. We have nothing to lose either way, and again, those who fight have “skin in the game” with everything to win or lose. Still, an internal issue, not an issue for the US to determine.

        We got involved. and these two factions must learn to live in peace, or, slug it out with each other and deal with the consequences. Again, Israel may be our ally, but like it or not, this is a struggle between two groups of leaders that honestly? both groups of people would be better off without. The leadership of Hamas and the leadership of Israel are both too busy trading blows to count the deaths of the innocents.

        Leave. immediately, let the country deal with the aftermath. I have remained since day one against both wars, and today? Our warhawks, like McCain are screaming for more involvement. And he, having experienced the horrors of war first hand, I would think, would be the LAST to want to go to war. Instead, he is a shrill cry for war every time a country sneezes in our direction. I cannot for the life of me understand why.

        War should be the absolute last step. when all other attempts have been made to salvage peace, and our involvement should always stop at the diplomatic level. We should have ended the “world policeman” mentality after WWII. I believe, and I hope I am wrong, that this very mindset will lead to the absolute decimation of this country either through polarization, or through a direct attack we cannot prepare for.

        Let’s hope I am incorrect.

        • Mr. Carpenter:

          As before, you raise excellent points. Let’s try to draw others into the discussion.

          If you agree with Mr. Carpenter, please share facts that support your agreement. If you disagree with Mr. Carpenter, please share facts that support your disagreement. Note: You do not have to agree or disagree in total in this forum, so please be specific with which element of Mr. Carpenter’s argument you agree or disagree.

          …And Senator McCain (if you happen to read this column), perhaps you would be kind enough to share your perspective. Ever since the 2008 Presidential campaign, you have appeared to be more “hawkish” with respect to the United States’ military interventions abroad. Similar to Mr. Carpenter’s interest, I would like to better understand your rationale.

          Thank you again for your comments, Mr. Carpenter.

      • seanachiejimk

        folks are overwhelmed when they think of ‘being part of the solution’.
        My advice: Start in your home community and commit yourself to solving
        one small problem that haunts your Community. Start there and and the
        seeds sown will eventually bloom and make life that much better for
        those who will follow your example by sowing more seeds.

        • Thank you for your comment, Mr. Seanachie. Starting on a smaller scale, close to home is an excellent suggestion. It may be a less daunting task and certainly is likely to yield more discernible results. Perhaps you would be kind enough to share what you have done in this regard to provide others with a example upon which they can build.

          Thank you again for your comment and suggestion.

    • seanachiejimk

      Mr. Carpenter:

      Unfortunately, the UN is more corrupt than our current US government. Does one simply exercise ‘non-intervention’ whilst genocide is in progress and plain to see?

      I think NOT.

      The road to hell was gloriously ‘designed’ to accommodate Organizations like the UN.

      The solution is painful when one finds the need & the moral fortitude & backbone needed to eliminate those hell-bent on committing genocide under ANY pretense justified by ANY self-serving beliefs.

      WWII stopped a genocide in progress and cost the US & the World dearly.

      Those hell-bent on committing genocide are already on US soil and will find no compunction whatsoever in exercising that genocide here in your back-yard.

      Think not?

      The Fort Dix five terrorist wannabes trained on a Pennsylvania Public Gun Range
      just three miles from where I live. They planned to murder US Soldiers at Fort
      Dix, New Jersey and a Military installation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

      A clerk at a big name store in New Jersey was converting video tapes the wannabe Terrorists had taken for jihad to CD’s and was disturbed enough to turn the material over to the FBI.

      Had that Clerk not intervened; the Fort Dix five may have succeeded in their jihad scheme.

      For those isolationists who believe World events can’t touch them; heed 9/11 and the Fort Dix five. The latter happened in my back-yard and the former less than 150 miles
      away from my home.

      If you believe evil can’t touch you in your own back-yard; think a wee bit harder.

      • Erick Carpenter

        Obviously seanachiejimk, you overlooked my call for an increase in small teams of special forces to be re-enforced. I am a firm believer in having a strong mobile and very effective special forces..

        and if not the UN? then no one to handle it. Our track record of trying to be the worlds policeman since WWII, has had at best, poor results, Iraq is my current case in point.

      • Erick Carpenter

        Have any proof of that corruption? and mention one genocide in place that we have become involved with where it worked out to any degree.. I will wait.. Remember Somalia? that worked out well. The only time we get involved in “genocide” therapy is when we either are selling weapons or want resources….

  • Robert A. Murray

    T.J. As trite and cliched as it sounds, an effective and morally centered foreign policy depends upon is a sense of self held by a nation. The confluence of national culture and national creed is essential determining a nation that has a sense of national identity. For the United State of America, I find Wilfred McClay’s definition of a national identity to be both relevant and instructive.The distinct…dare I say “exceptional” character of our Constitutional Representative Republic requires a melding of a national culture…(which espouses the hypothesis that the United States is built on a foundation of “self evident,rational, universally applicable propositions about human nature” and society)…and national creed…( which emphasizes the distinctive components of “English law, language and customs,Greco-Roman antecedents and Judeo-Christian sacred texts and theological and moral teachings) that describe the exclusive elements of the America. Balancing and checking the former inclusive former with the more exclusive later is integral to fashioning an identity that can sustain and express a moral policy. Combining the national identity with concept of national interest and its exclusivity with a more more universal concept of national purpose will achieve an effective as well as morally coherent foreign policy. Regrettably, the current administration is neither inclined nor capable of combining those four domains into a foundational and sound policy.