President Obama is on the defensive about his much maligned foreign policy record. His foreign policy decisions – or as has also been the case, lack of decisions – have been called weak, indecisive, feckless, evasive, and disingenuous mostly by Republicans on the right and even by moderate Democrats and Independents. Most recently, Obama has been criticized for his tepid response to the crises in the Ukraine and Syria and his apparent color blindness when it comes to seeing the “red” in his own so-called red lines. Speaking this morning at a press conference in Manila, Obama said that while his “cautious” approach may not be “sexy” or play well on the talk shows, he considers it the “safe” way to handle America’s interactions with other nations.
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) clearly does not agree that Obama’s “cautious” approach is the “safe” way having stated that this administration’s foreign policy “invites aggression.” Graham says that the nation rolls its collective eyes whenever Obama goes on national media verbally threatening foreign leaders like Russian President Putin who seems quite comfortable crossing a virtual rainbow of lines including his recent invasion of the Ukraine.
At the press conference, Obama defended himself saying that those who “question” his decisions on foreign policy would like to rush in to a “bunch of military adventures.” With the assumption that he has his finger on the pulse of all Americans, he also claimed that Americans do not want to engage in such military “adventures” and he deemed military action not in the interest of America’s “core security” concerns. It is doubtful that active military and Veterans who have given in some cases life and limb to defend the United States would define their service as some sort of “military adventure.” Obama’s statement is highly offensive and it is certainly not sexy.
Obama further stated that since he has been in office, he has strengthened U.S. ties with foreign nations and that his philosophy of not deploying “combat troops” has kept him from making “errors.” Perhaps in an attempt to appear folksy and warm, he used America’s pastime, baseball, to illustrate his point claiming that his cautious approach to foreign policy will allow him to “hit singles” perhaps “doubles” and occasionally a “home run.” It is likely that more Americans would prefer Obama to just speak directly about his foreign policy decisions and leave the sport’s analogies out of it. His penchant for “folksy” is about as sexy as his favorite crutch term, “Let me be perfectly clear.” Obama has repeated this mantra so often while being about as transparent as a brick wall, that even his “fans” are likely sick of hearing it.
President Obama says that those who question his foreign policy decisions are ignorant of the “lessons learned” from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While there is no doubt that extended war on multiple fronts has been costly in both the loss of life and the burden placed on the U.S. economy, those two factors should not be the main considerations when making foreign policy decisions. Instead, they should be factored into a hierarchical equation that places national security and national interests in the top tier.
Obama seems confident that his “cautious” approach to foreign policy will be effective in handling impending critical issues on major global fronts just some of which are China, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israeli – Palestine relations, Russia, Syria and Africa. He claimed in the Manila press conference that his policies are steadily advancing the “interests of the American people” and America’s “partnership with folks around the world.” While they may not be rolling their eyes in Manila, Obama had it right when he said his foreign policy is not “sexy.” In fact, many Americans view it as weak and downright dangerous and would sleep better at night if Obama, while speaking softly, at least appeared to carry a big stick.
By Alana Marie Burke
Follow Alana on Twitter