Obama lacks resolve on foreign policy issues

December 17, 2011


— “Ask Osama bin Laden ... whether I engage in appeasement.”

     — Barack Obama, Dec. 8, 2011

Fair enough. Barack Obama didn’t appease Osama bin Laden. He killed him. And for ordering the raid and taking the risk, Obama deserves credit. Credit for decisiveness and political courage.

However, the bin Laden case was no test of policy. No serious person of either party ever suggested negotiation or concession. Obama demonstrated decisiveness, but forgoing a non-option says nothing about the soundness of one’s foreign policy. That comes into play when there are choices to be made.

And here the story is different. Take Obama’s two major foreign-policy initiatives — toward Russia and Iran.  

The administration came into office determined to warm relations with Russia. It was called “reset,” an antidote to the “dangerous drift” (Vice President Biden’s phrase) in relations during the Bush years.

In fact, the Bush coolness toward Russia was grounded in certain unpleasant realities: the Kremlin’s systematic dismantling of democracy; its naked aggression against Georgia; its drive to re-establish a Russian sphere of influence in the near-abroad; and its support, from Syria to Venezuela, of the world’s more ostentatiously anti-American regimes.

Unmoored from such inconvenient realities, Obama went about his “reset.” The signature decision was the abrupt cancellation of a Polish- and Czech-based U.S. missile defense system bitterly opposed by Moscow.  

The cancellation deeply undercut two very pro-American allies who had aligned themselves with Washington in the face of both Russian threats and popular unease. Obama not only left them twisting in the wind. He showed the world that the Central Europeans’ hard-won independence was only partial and tentative. With American acquiescence, their ostensibly sovereign decisions were subject to a Russian veto.

This major concession, together with a New START treaty far more needed by Russia than America, was supposed to ease U.S.-Russia relations, assuage Russian opposition to missile defense and enlist its assistance in stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

Three years in, how is that “reset” working out? The Russians are back on the warpath about missile defense. They’re denouncing the watered-down Obama substitute. They threaten not only to target any Europe-based U.S. missile defenses but also to install offensive missiles in Kaliningrad. They threaten additionally to withdraw from the START treaty, which the administration had touted as a great foreign-policy achievement.

As for assistance on Iran, Moscow has thwarted us at every turn, weakening or blocking resolution after resolution. And now, when even the International Atomic Energy Agency has testified to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russia declares that it will oppose any new sanctions.

Finally, adding contempt to mere injury, Vladimir Putin responded to anti-government demonstrations by unleashing a crude Soviet-style attack on America as the secret power behind the protests. Putin personally accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of sending “a signal” that activated internal spies and other agents of imperial America.

Such are the wages of appeasement. Makes one pine for mere “drift.”

Even worse has been Obama’s vaunted “engagement” with Iran. He began his presidency apologetically acknowledging U.S. involvement in a coup that happened more than 50 years ago. He then offered bilateral negotiations that, predictably, failed miserably. Most egregiously, he adopted a studied and scandalous neutrality during the popular revolution of 2009, a near-miraculous opportunity — now lost — for regime change.

Obama imagined that his silver tongue and exquisite sensitivity to Islam would persuade the mullahs to give up their weapons program. Amazingly, they resisted his charms, choosing instead to become a nuclear power. The negotiations did nothing but confer legitimacy on the regime at its point of maximum vulnerability — and savagery.

For his exertions, Obama earned (a) continued lethal Iranian assistance to guerrillas killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, (b) a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a Washington restaurant, (c) the announcement just this week by a member of parliament of Iranian naval exercises to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, (d) undoubted Chinese and Russian access to a captured U.S. drone for the copying and countering of its high-tech secrets.

How did Obama answer that one?

On Monday, he politely asked for the drone back.

On Tuesday, with Putin-like contempt, Iran demanded that Obama apologize instead. “Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane,” reveled the semiofficial Fars News Agency.

Just a few hours earlier, Secretary Clinton asserted yet again that “we want to see the Iranians engage ... we are not giving up on it.”

Blessed are the cheek-turners. But do these people have no limit?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 6 months ago

"Barack Obama didn’t appease Osama bin Laden. He killed him. And for ordering the raid and taking the risk, Obama deserves credit. Credit for decisiveness and political courage."

Krauthammer is required to say this, but when the histories are written after Obama leaves office it will ultimately be proven that Leon Panetta is the primary individual who deserves that praise. Obama, under the spell of the insidious and ever-present Valerie Jarrett, vacillated, hesitated, and delayed for 17 hours weighing the political implications for his re-election campaign before reluctantly agreeing to what Panetta was urging. Based on accounts from military insiders, Panetta quietly got the operation elevated to "go" status, which infuriated Jarrett when she found out. With everything in place, Panetta in effect ordered Obama to accept his decision and put aside Jarrett's shameful obsession with the potential political risks for Obama and his re-election plans.

Panetta is the one who took decisive action, prompted in large part by his having observed Bill Clinton, also assisted by Jarrett, squander multiple opportunities to get bin Laden. As the sands of time gradually sift, he will some day receive the credit he deserves for finally taking out bin Laden. Had he not acted as he did, Osama bin Laden would be alive today.

motercyclejim 6 years, 6 months ago

Finally some body smart on this sight! Obama would of killed all the waco people since their white and he hates white people!!!! I dont give him mush too awful credit since hes not good and hes not a christian!!!!!!!!!

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 6 months ago

It doesn't sound like you are a Christian. Christians don't judge. Christians turn the other cheek. Christians feed, clothe and shelter their brothers and sisters. I don't think I've ever met a true Christian. That is why we needed Jesus.

akuna 6 years, 6 months ago

It doesn't sound like you know English very well either. Learn to spell and to formulate a coherent sentence. Those skills will serve you well as you continue your unabashed and untrue criticisms.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"Am I better off today than I was 3 years ago?"

Here's another simple question.

Would you be even worse off today if McCain was prez, and Palin vice-prez?

jayhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

Not a simple question at all. It doesn't make any difference at all how you answer the question. All answers are nothing but guesses. My guess is that I would have taken one number from McCain's birthday, combined it with a number from Palin's license plate, added that to the number of letters in Bristol's middle name, bought a lottery ticket and won the mega lottery. Does that mean I would have been better off with a McCain victory?

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 6 months ago

"In 1921, the famous American journalist Walter Lippmann said that the art of democracy requires what he called the “manufacture of consent.” This phrase is an Orwellian euphemism for thought control. The idea is that in a state such as the U.S. where the government can’t control the people by force, it had better control what they think. The Soviet Union is at the opposite end of the spectrum from us in its domestic freedoms. It’s essentially a country run by the bludgeon. It’s very easy to determine what propaganda is in the USSR: what the state produces is propaganda."

… Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism.

… For those who stubbornly seek freedom around the world, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the propaganda system to which we are subjected and in which all too often we serve as unwilling or unwitting instruments."


Karuthammer is a writer of propaganda and most of what he says is complete BS. Yet, he has a zealous following of like minded individuals who support these same looney tune ideas or create their own versions and become Krauthammer copy cats.

Therein lies one of the biggest problems in our Democracy today. Politicians have reached the point where they are spending most of their campaign funds on propaganda and it is very effective because the American people believe what their political parties feed them and our ability to judge a good candidate from a bad candidate has reached a point where we have forgotten how to judge anything at all.

We will simply do as we are told.

Getaroom 6 years, 6 months ago

Actually, when one has a functioning calculator and not just hate based opinions with a dash of rewriting of history thrown in for bad measure, Osama Bin Laden, was helped along nicely and actually supported by the USA long before President Obama/Panetta came into the picture. Like other terrorists in OBL's lineage and a string of dictators as well, many have been built up and torn down by greedy Corporate opportunists sitting in this "Democratic" nations capital and using elected officials, acting as representatives of the voters to get their way. The industrial war machine marches onward through a Corporate driven style of corruption that only organized crime can fully appreciate.

Krauthammer, a willingly bought and paid for puppet mouth piece of Faux Nues and Rupert Murdock's Lying Machine, sleaze bags if ever there were, have nothing rational to offer that has improved anything over the past three years and longer. All the news organizations in fact are controlled by roughly 5 Corporations and yet, Faux Nues is by far the least honest of the bunch - hands down. They have only used the Tea Party's rise to fame to further their own agenda of dominating every news cycle to further favorable political outcomes to gain more power. Typical corrupted behavior.

Bang on Obama all you like, he deserves some, but be careful what you support instead. For if you think the past three years has been bad, look out - even worse is yet to come.

Krauthammer has nothing of substance to lend here , nothing but a spring board for other Obama haters to jump off of. Better watch out where you land after this jump.

mloburgio 6 years, 6 months ago

Obama’s Foreign Policy Successes










Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

You'll find Charles K endorsing this nonsense policy: "Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination” with our USA military people. Very dangerous position which threatens OUR freedoms and the nations security, This amounts to world war 24/7.

What this is about is protecting USA interests. Which translates into protecting USA corporate america who sent USA jobs abroad which adds a substantial cost to all products made abroad.

Charles K seems as uniformed as too many of our elected officials. Seems the LJW might want to check his comments for validity.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

Translation-- unless Obama wants to fully buy into neocon warmongering, lock, stock and barrel, he lacks "resolve" on foreign policy issues.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

"zombies ultimately desire but an impotent figurehead who will preserve their unfairly concentrated riches, "

For the majority, it's even sadder than this-- what they desire is to preserve the pipe dream that those concentrated riches may one day be theirs. But the vast majority don't have them, and never will, though that won't stop them from voting their wishes rather than their reality.

Armstrong 6 years, 6 months ago

Fortunate some have lots of Kool-Aid, or is it Tang(e) ?

beatrice 6 years, 6 months ago

I don't believe I've ever contributed so much to the comments on a story to which I have actually added nothing. Thanks tange for stating it so well.

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