American foreign policy is in crisis brought about by the Obama doctrine for dealing with the world. In Libya, after an ill-considered U.S. intervention, an American ambassador was murdered in an assault by Islamist terrorists that was denied and covered up by the Obama Administration. In Syria, Islamist-dominated rebels battle the anti-American regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the Obama Administration has done little but kick the can down the road. Round after round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program have produced nothing except concern from America’s best allies in the region. In the Pacific, Japan and South Korea wonder what the U.S. retreat in the Middle East means for them as they face a rising China. And in Britain, our closest ally, there is deep anger at the U.S. as the Obama Administration discourages British self-government by demanding that they remain in the undemocratic European Union. These are the fruits of the Obama Doctrine.
American Presidents have become known for “signature” statements and responses to foreign policy and national security challenges. Ronald Reagan is known for his efforts to defeat Communism and advance “peace through strength.” Bill Clinton is remembered for his argument that military operations, such as his humanitarian intervention in the former Yugoslavia, are justified “where our values and our interests are at stake and where we can make a difference.” These presidential statements or responses are commonly called doctrines.
President Barack Obama had hoped to improve America’s standing in the world by crafting a foreign policy vastly different from his predecessor’s. He said, for example, that America would reach out to other countries as “an equal partner” rather than as the “exceptional” nation, rejecting a concept that had been held by many previous Presidents going back to the Founding Fathers; that “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail”; and that “[o]ur problems must be dealt with through partnership” and “progress must be shared.”
Throughout his tenure, Obama has laid out in public statements the tenets of a doctrine that portrays America simply as one nation among many, with no singular claim either to responsibility or exceptionalism. These tenets specify that (1) America will ratify more treaties and turn to international organizations more often to deal with global crises and security concerns, often before turning to our traditional friends and allies; (2) America will emphasize diplomacy and “soft power” instruments such as summits and foreign aid to promote its aims and downplay military might; (3) America will adopt a more modest attitude in state-to-state relations; and (4) America will play a more restrained role on the international stage. These tenets, however, have made America and the world far more insecure.
The Obama Doctrine has failed because it has led to instability, vulnerability, and economic stagnation that naturally follow from a weaker America. America has seen dangerous times before—during the Revolution, the Civil War, and two world wars. Each time, America emerged stronger because most Americans decided they did not want to be defeated. What Ronald Reagan believed remains true: America must secure the peace through strength: strength of character; strength of will; strength of leadership; moral strength from our values, virtues, and aspirations; economic strength born of opportunity; and military strength hewn from the ingenuity and ideals of a free people. America’s decline is not inevitable. It is a choice.
The tenets of the Obama Doctrine have had both intended and unintended consequences: They seek to make America less exceptional, they put us on the road to decline, and they have made us less secure as other countries feel emboldened to threaten us and hold our policies hostage. The alternative is not to become the world’s bully, but rather to reassert strong and focused leadership in defense of U.S. vital national interests and liberty around the world.
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