Opinion: U.S. foreign policy is in epic collapse

September 22, 2012


— In the week following 9/11/12 something big happened: the collapse of the Cairo Doctrine, the centerpiece of President Obama’s foreign policy. It was to reset the very course of post-9/11 America, creating, after the (allegedly) brutal depredations of the Bush years, a profound rapprochement with the Islamic world.

On June 4, 2009, in Cairo, Obama promised “a new beginning” offering Muslims “mutual respect,” unsubtly implying previous disrespect. Curious, as over the previous 20 years, America had six times committed its military forces on behalf of oppressed Muslims, three times for reasons of pure humanitarianism (Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo), where no U.S. interests were at stake.

But no matter. Obama had come to remonstrate and restrain the hyperpower that, by his telling, had lost its way after 9/11, creating Guantanamo, practicing torture, imposing its will with arrogance and presumption.

First, he would cleanse by confession. Then he would heal. Why, given the unique sensitivities of his background — “my sister is half-Indonesian,” he proudly told an interviewer in 2007, amplifying on his exquisite appreciation of Islam — his very election would revolutionize relations.

And his policies of accommodation and concession would consolidate the gains: an outstretched hand to Iran’s mullahs, a first-time presidential admission of the U.S. role in a 1953 coup, a studied and stunning turning away from the Green Revolution; withdrawal from Iraq with no residual presence or influence; a fixed timetable for leaving Afghanistan; returning our ambassador to Damascus (with kind words for Bashar al-Assad — “a reformer,” suggested the secretary of state); deliberately creating distance between the U.S. and Israel.

These measures would raise our standing in the region, restore affection and respect for the United States and elicit new cooperation from Muslim lands.

It’s now three years since the Cairo speech. Look around. The Islamic world is convulsed with an explosion of anti-Americanism. From Tunisia to Lebanon, American schools, businesses and diplomatic facilities set ablaze. A U.S. ambassador and three others murdered in Benghazi. The black flag of Salafism, of which al-Qaida is a prominent element, raised over our embassies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Sudan.

The administration, staggered and confused, blames it all on a 14-minute trailer for a film no one has seen and may not even exist. What else can it say? Admit that its doctrinal premises were supremely naive and its policies deeply corrosive to American influence?

Religious provocations are endless. (Ask Salman Rushdie.) Resentment about the five-century decline of the Islamic world is a constant. What’s new — the crucial variable — is the unmistakable sound of a superpower in retreat. Ever since Henry Kissinger flipped Egypt from the Soviet to the American camp in the early 1970s, the U.S. had dominated the region. No longer.

“It’s time,” declared Obama to wild applause of his convention, “to do some nation-building right here at home.” He’d already announced a strategic pivot from the Middle East to the Pacific. Made possible because “the tide of war is receding.”

Nonsense. From the massacres in Nigeria to the charnel house that is Syria, violence has, if anything, increased. What is receding is Obama’s America.

It’s as axiomatic in statecraft as in physics: Nature abhors a vacuum. Islamists rush in to fill the space and declare their ascendancy. America’s friends are bereft, confused, paralyzed.

Islamists rise across North Africa from Mali to Egypt. Iran repeatedly defies U.S. demands on nuclear enrichment, then, as a measure of its contempt for what America thinks, openly admits that its Revolutionary Guards are deployed in Syria. Russia, after arming Assad, warns America to stay out, while the secretary of state delivers vapid lectures about Assad “meeting” his international “obligations.” The Gulf States beg America to act on Iran; Obama strains mightily to restrain ... Israel.

Sovereign U.S. territory is breached and U.S. interests are burned. And what is the official response? One administration denunciation after another — of a movie trailer! A request to Google to “review” the trailer’s presence on YouTube. And a sheriff’s deputies’ midnight “voluntary interview” with the suspected filmmaker. This in the land of the First Amendment.

What else can Obama do? At their convention, Democrats endlessly congratulated themselves on their one foreign policy success: killing Osama bin Laden. A week later, the Salafist flag flies over four American embassies, even as the mob chants, “Obama, Obama, there are still a billion Osamas.”

A foreign policy in epic collapse. And, by the way, Vladimir Putin just expelled USAID from Russia. Another thank you from another recipient of another grand Obama “reset.”

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 6 months ago

A Romney Presidency would probably use these protests as an excuse to put nuclear missiles in Poland as well as use it to justify their plans to dramatically increase the size of our military budget.

Does anyone seriously believe that these kind of actions are going to be good for this country?

Krauthammer does.


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 6 months ago

Krauthammer is just really, really wierd.

He just makes things up and pretends to be an expert.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 6 months ago

In other news: "...On the latter point, after a week and a half of peddling an utterly false narrative of what happened in Libya, the United States government is apparently beginning to discern that there are limits to what even Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice can say with a straight face. The official line — that the slaughter of American officials was some sort of improvised movie review that got a little out of hand — is now in the process of modification to something bearing a less patently absurd relationship to what actually happened. That should not make any more forgivable the grotesque damage that the administration has done to the bedrock principle of civilized society: freedom of speech...." Read the rest at


beatrice 1 year, 6 months ago

Amazingly, Obama isn't able to control radicals in all corners of the world, including countries with struggling, brand-new governments. What a shock. Likewise, he wasn't able to swim down and plug the whole leaking oil in the Gulf, the sad excuse for a swimmer. And celebrating the death of bin Laden at the DNC -- how could they! They should have followed Romney's and the RNC's example and not even mentioned the troops, our war in Afghanistan, or the killing of the person who planned the largest attack ever on American soil.

Perhaps if Romney becomes President he will end this horror of celebrating the death of bin Laden and he can lead the nation in a moment of silence to pay tribute to the fallen warrior and fellow rich guy.


notaubermime 1 year, 6 months ago

I can't really remember a 4 year span of time in which there weren't any massive anti-American demonstrations and riots. That said, I also can't remember any time where an Arab populous actually rose against a Muslim group and rioted in favor of the United States.

I don't really see how you can conclude anything about the effect of US foreign policy on the Middle East just yet.


JonasGrumby 1 year, 6 months ago

I hate to admit, but it does appear that Obama's foreign policy initiatives are falling about. At least he can still run on the economy. And he is likeable.


Liberty275 1 year, 6 months ago

On a recent trip to N Carolina, I saw a billboard with a smiling Obama. Underneath was one of his campaign slogans - "things could be worse". Just below that, another sentence said "elect me again and you'll find out".


WristTwister 1 year, 6 months ago

Obama's failed foreign policy = compromised US homeland security.

How soon before these same radical Muslim extremists bring their mischief to the US? In fact, they are probably here right now. Both Bush and Obama have refused to secure our southern border. Now, with the world perception of a weak US President, the extremists may feel emboldened to strike us where we live. Will "Allahu Akbar" be heard again in the not so distant future as Americans are attacked on their own soil? Oh yeah, I forgot. That was only a case of work place violence. My bad.


jonas_opines 1 year, 6 months ago

"It’s now three years since the Cairo speech. Look around. The Islamic world is convulsed with an explosion of anti-Americanism."

Is Krauthammar suggesting that, prior to three years ago, there was no Anti-Americanism is the Islamic world? Or even that there was less?


verity 1 year, 6 months ago

Since the draft was rescinded, it is the people in the lower economic classes who provide most of the blood for our wars. The treasure is now provided by borrowing.

The neo-cons, for whom constant war is one of the pillars of their belief system, certainly won't be providing the blood and many will be benefiting economically.

More unplanned pregnancies and less abortions, more cannon fodder.


Thomas Bryce 1 year, 6 months ago

The sad thing about Journalist like Krauthammer is that they seem to want Failure so they can use it for political points. The problem is that failure will be at the expense of human Life.That does not seem to bother them as long as their candidate wins.


JackKats 1 year, 6 months ago

It's the movie that caused all these problems.

It's the movie that caused all these problems. by JackKats


tange 1 year, 6 months ago

Anyone notice the same guy has his hand up Achmed's backside as up this one's...



Getaroom 1 year, 6 months ago

Chuckie's goal is to hit hard, now that it is clearer still that bumble head Romney is the poster boy for the Super Entitled and an ineffective puppet for the GOP. I mean really, who could pull strings that badly except a bunch of entitled BS'ers just like him?
Is any one actually falling for this tripe?
Foreign Policy is a far bigger issue than can be assigned to Obama. Rather, it is been years of Republican leadership believing that World Dominance thru the use of military force is the way to total control of the WORLD. This is evidenced most vividly by reading:
The Project for the New American Century.

Yes, you can believe your eyes, it is just like Obama's fake birth certificate, it's an Authentic paper! But perhaps you are "waiting for more information"? And I am sure you are waiting, if you are a dimwit Kansas GOP leader and working your 'voter suppression magic'.

OH MY, how we all quake as Chuckie uses his "brilliant mind" as a tool for promoting political shock and awe!! Those great mounds of useless hyperbole wasted once again, in hopes of providing a distraction to the fact that "The Chosen Ones" have fallen from the great mound and all the kings men and all the kings horses couldn't pick up those pretty rich boys pieces. Yes, It would appear that Humpty and Dumpty (Romney/Ryan) took a great fall from BS Mountain........and nobody, I do mean nobody could pick up all the pieces(feces) and put them together again.


atiopatioo 1 year, 6 months ago

The U.S. Suffered Its Worst Airpower Loss Since Vietnam Last Week and No One Really Noticed


The Taliban attack on an air base in southern Afghanistan on Friday drew coverage for the way the insurgents cloaked themselves in U.S. army uniforms to gain a tactical advantage, but few have taken note of the historical proportions of the damage inflicted. John Gresham, at the Defense Media Network, has published a detailed account of the attack on Camp Bastion, in which two Marines were killed, six U.S. Marine Corps jet fighters were destroyed, and two more "significantly" damaged. Those facts were all carried in most reports, but if that just sounds like a typical damage report from a decade-long war, you're wrong. Gresham explains the devastating damage done to VMA-211, the name of the Marine Corps attack squadron that was most affected last week, noting that it is "arguably the worst day in [U.S. Marine Corps] aviation history since the Tet Offensive of 1968." Or you could go back even further. "The last time VMA-211 was combat ineffective was in December 1941, when the squadron was wiped out during the 13-day defense of Wake Island against the Japanese."


atiopatioo 1 year, 6 months ago

With all do respect to posters. Obama did say there would be a "transformation" of the country.

Whether the "transformation" from a leadership role in the world, to a following role in the world, is appropriate for all of mankind on the world, only time will tell.

Who will America follow? Russia? China? Iran? Or is Obama looking for consensual leadership among the three?


Achmed_McGillicutty 1 year, 6 months ago

You're right on Charlie. But like the economy, the in-the-tank Obamamania media is desperately struggling to spin it otherwise. Please let the nightmare end in 45 days.


jafs 1 year, 6 months ago

It seems to me that there are different ways to think about foreign policy.

Some believe that we should be a "superpower" and impose our will on the rest of the world, or at least extend our "influence" around it, while others don't believe that.

I tend to fall into the second camp - I'm glad for us to intervene to provide humanitarian aid, if we like, and militarily to defend the obviously smaller guys from the bigger ones, and to support democracy and self-rule.

Other than that, I think we should mind our own business.

From my perspective, when we get into our "influence" and "interests", we get into trouble, forging alliances with oppressive dictators, meddling with other countries' internal affairs, etc.


WristTwister 1 year, 6 months ago

Failed foreign policy, failed economic policy, failed energy policy, America divided...

My work here is almost done.

My work here is almost done. by WristTwister


Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 6 months ago

I can't put this all together at the moment, and I'm sure many others won't be able to either. It seems that it could possibly be that as US influence wanes, Russian influence grows. I started looking into that topic, and I found these sites. It their totality, they are amazing.

Some of the posters are flat out wrong, and others are very interesting. As with any other topic, it's necessary to consider a few different points of view in order to discover what is likely to be actually true.

The elephant in the room that was totally ignored in Mr. Krauthammer's column today is the discovery of massive energy reserves in Israel. That fact does not seem to be receiving the media coverage that it obviously should deserve. The reserves have only recently been discovered, and they are massive!

American viewpoint:

Israeli viewpoint:

Muslim viewpoint:

(I believe accurate) Lengthy Commentaries in depth:


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

Endorsed by:

Elliott Abrams / Gary Bauer / William J. Bennett / Jeb Bush /

Dick Cheney / Eliot A. Cohen / Midge Decter / Paula Dobriansky / Steve Forbes /

Aaron Friedberg / Francis Fukuyama / Frank Gaffney / Fred C. Ikle /

Donald Kagan / Zalmay Khalilzad / Charles Krauthammer / I. Lewis Libby

/ Norman Podhoretz / Dan Quayle / Peter W. Rodman / Stephen P. Rosen /

Henry S. Rowen / Donald Rumsfeld / Vin Weber / George Weigel / Paul Wolfowitz

/ Newt Gingrich / George Herbert Walker Bush / James Baker /

Vice Adm John Poindexter


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

This republican foreign policy must bite the dust for it has no human value nor economic value to the USA. This republican foreign policy will continue to kill thousands more of USA military and innocent men,women and children abroad.

This republican foreign policy will put the USA into bankruptcy such as it accomplished for Russia.

"Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination” (Very dangerous position which threatens OUR freedoms and the nations security)

Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global protection for Wal-Mart,Oil,Coca Cola,Pepsico,diamonds,gold etc etc etc.

We need to strengthen our ties to dictator regimes friendly to American interests and Bogus values.

We need to promote the cause of the political right wing and economic rape for corp USA abroad.

We need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in forcing others to accept our corrupt principles.

Such an obsolete Reaganite policy of military strength and immoral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the extortions of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness no matter how many innocent USA soldiers die.

The Plan,12271,1312540,00.html

Followed by taking down our nations financial institutions !


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 6 months ago

Krauthammer is almost giddy. If only the world can be just a little more violent so that he and his neocon brethren can use that as a rationale for forging ahead with their own orgies of violence.

Chuckie the wannabe Jihadi. Maybe he should get fitted for a suicide vest.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 6 months ago

Strategic Errors of Monumental Proportions

by Lt. Gen. William E. Odom

Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Strategic Overview

The role that US military forces can play in that conflict is seriously limited by all the political decisions the US government has already taken. The most fundamental decision was setting as its larger strategic purpose the stabilization of the region by building a democracy in Iraq and encouraging its spread. This, of course, was to risk destabilizing the region by starting a war.

Military operations must be judged by whether and how they contribute to accomplishing war aims. No clear view is possible of where we are today and where we are headed without constant focus on war aims and how they affect US interests. The interaction of interests, war aims, and military operations defines the strategic context in which we find ourselves.

We cannot have the slightest understanding of the likely consequences of proposed changes in our war policy without relating them to the strategic context.

There are the four major realities that define that context

Confusion about war aims and US interests. President GW Bush stated three war aims clearly and repeatedly:

The destruction of Iraqi WMD's. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The creation of a liberal democratic Iraq.

The first war aim is moot because Iraq had no WMD.

The second was achieved by late Spring 2003. Today, people are waking up to what was obvious before the war -- the third aim has no real prospects of being achieved even in ten or twenty years, much less in the short time anticipated by the war planners.

Implicit in that aim was the belief that a pro-American, post-Saddam regime could be established.

This too, it should now be clear, is most unlikely.

Finally, is it in the US interest to have launched a war in pursuit of any of these aims?

And is it in the US interest to continue pursuing the third? Or is it time to redefine our aims?

And, concomitantly, to redefine what constitutes victory?

The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al-Qaeda, not American interests.


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