John Bolton

John Bolton

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Obama Has No Vision/Strategy for Foreign Policy

"A succession of speeches saying, in essence, "I am not George W. Bush" is no substitute for a strategy."--Niall Ferguson

We were told that Barack Hussein Obama's law degree from Harvard meant that he was among the smartest men ever to be elected President. Those who suggested that forgot that President Bush had an MBA from Harvard. But if Harvard is the standard for brilliance, allow me to share with you the bio of the author of the piece below:
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Pretty smart guy wouldn't you say? His column, appearing in both Newsweek and the Daily Beast is a must read for those who want to understand the danger of a U.S. foreign policy that is adrift without an anchor of strategy and vision. You'll want to read it all, but for those pressed for time here's the short version:
The wave Obama just missed—again—is the revolutionary wave of Middle Eastern democracy. It has surged through the region twice since he was elected: once in Iran in the summer of 2009, the second time right across North Africa, from Tunisia all the way down the Red Sea to Yemen. But the swell has been biggest in Egypt, the Middle East's most populous country.

In each case, the president faced stark alternatives. He could try to catch the wave, Bismarck style, by lending his support to the youthful revolutionaries and trying to ride it in a direction advantageous to American interests. Or he could do nothing and let the forces of reaction prevail. In the case of Iran, he did nothing, and the thugs of the Islamic Republic ruthlessly crushed the demonstrations. This time around, in Egypt, it was worse. He did both—some days exhorting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to leave, other days drawing back and recommending an "orderly transition."

The result has been a foreign-policy debacle. The president has alienated everybody: not only Mubarak's cronies in the military, but also the youthful crowds in the streets of Cairo. Whoever ultimately wins, Obama loses. And the alienation doesn't end there. America's two closest friends in the region—Israel and Saudi Arabia—are both disgusted.
This failure was not the result of bad luck. It was the predictable consequence of the Obama administration's lack of any kind of coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign-policymaking have long worried. The president himself is not wholly to blame. Although cosmopolitan by both birth and upbringing, Obama was an unusually parochial politician prior to his election, judging by his scant public pronouncements on foreign-policy issues.
The contrast between the foreign policy of the Nixon-Ford years and that of President Jimmy Carter is a stark reminder of how easily foreign policy can founder when there is a failure of strategic thinking. The Iranian revolution of 1979, which took the Carter administration wholly by surprise, was a catastrophe far greater than the loss of South Vietnam.

Remind you of anything? "This is what happens when you get caught by surprise," an anonymous American official told The New York Times last week. "We've had endless strategy sessions for the past two years on Mideast peace, on containing Iran. And how many of them factored in the possibility that Egypt moves from stability to moil? None."
Grand strategy is all about the necessity of choice. Today, it means choosing between a daunting list of objectives: to resist the spread of radical Islam, to limit Iran's ambition to become dominant in the Middle East, to contain the rise of China as an economic rival, to guard against a Russian "reconquista" of Eastern Europe—and so on. The defining characteristic of Obama's foreign policy has been not just a failure to prioritize, but also a failure to recognize the need to do so. A succession of speeches saying, in essence, "I am not George W. Bush" is no substitute for a strategy.
Obama Cut Pro-Democracy Funds for Egypt

In the wake of Mubarak's resignation, Obama rushed to the microphones to say that " Egypt will never be the same," and went on to suggest that "Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day."

What a shame that Obama CUT the funding to pro-democracy groups in Egypt, and Iran too, back in 2009. Money that the Bush Administration had supplied to both Egypt and Iran to monitor human rights, support free elections and foster democracy was cut by more than half when Obama took over.

Foreign policy is difficult enough even when those crafting it have a plan and a vision for where they want to guide U.S. policy. But with only speeches and a wagging finger Obama has made himself and U.S. interests irrelevant.

It's too soon to say what the long term damage will be from Obama's abdication of presidential leadership. But in a dangerous world, Obama's inexperience and lack of qualifications are putting U.S. interests and ultimately world peace at risk.

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