President Barack Obama's national security flops just keep coming
A strange obsession with setting out his national security agenda is backfiring for President Barack Obama
By Matt Lewis
1:49PM BST 31 May 2014
The US leader President Barack Obama tried again this week to hit the reset button on his reputation as America’s guardian of national security.
While the issue plagues his poll ratings and his many speeches crowd out other more fruitful areas for a Democratic president, there he was again on Wednesday at West Point, outlining his foreign policy strategy.
The reception for the speech was dire.
The Washington Post declared that he had “marshaled a virtual corps of straw men,” in making an argument for an “Obama doctrine” that was at odds with every US president since the Second World War.
During the heady days of 2008, and beyond, when the “hope and change” mantra was still popular, it looked like Obama might just be able to reorder the entire American political calculus.
After decades of Democrats reinforcing the negative stereotype that they were weak on national security and foreign policy, it seemed as if he was on the cusp of exorcising those demons to rebrand his party as the serious and competent custodians of the nation’s safety.
By ordering lethal force to end the Somali pirate standoff in 2009 to free Captain Richard Phillips and by ordering the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama’s first term featured some big moments as well as his signature big speeches.
It seemed for a time his vision for using Special Forces and drones to make surgical strikes (as opposed to threats of boots on the ground) was a workable alternative for a war-weary nation that wanted to exert influence without getting its hands dirty.
But while Obama was racking up symbolic victories amongst pirates and terrorists, the geopolitical situation was deteriorating, and authoritarian regimes were watching. The most egregious misstep was Obama’s drawing -- and then ignoring -- a red line on chemical weapons in Syria. At worst, it invited provocation.
At best it made him look impotent. When one considers that Secretary of State John Kerry had just compared the Bashar al-Assad’s regime to Nazi Germany and its use of chemicals to the Holocaust. In that context it was hard to interpret this struggle as anything less than a moral crusade that could not be brushed aside.
When the president did just that the media hardly noticed.
It was a similar tale when the American consulate in Benghazi was stormed, leaving four, including the ambassador Chris Stevens dead. However the media largely bought the line it was a spontaneous attack brought on by a controversial YouTube video - certainly not a pre-planned terror attack (after all, Al-Qaeda was on the run).
During that same election season, Obama mocked Mitt Romney’s declaration that Russia was a geopolitical foe, suggesting that Romney was somehow stuck in the 1980s.
But when Russia invaded Ukraine this spring -- occupying, and ultimately annexing Crimea -- it seemed that Obama’s attempts to reorder the American electorate, making foreign policy and national security “Democratic issues” again, had finally hit an iceberg.
In May, it was revealed that as many as 40 military veterans may have died waiting for care from the Department of Veterans Affairs -- and that the Phoenix VA had created fake wait lists to hide the delays. An audit report revealed that as many as 1,700 were never even scheduled a doctor’s appointment or put on a wait list. The firing of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was inevitable.
Over the Memorial Day holiday, Obama scheduled a surprise visit to Afghanistan (where he will eventually fulfill his 2008 campaign promise of ending the war.) It should have been a positive story, but a pall was cast when it was revealed that the White House had accidentally outed the CIA chief living in Afghanistan. And thus, an otherwise positive trip turned into a mockery.
Ultimately, Obama’s problem is that he lacks a coherent foreign policy. He is overly fond of theorising, but the hard worldly realities defy his attempts to resolve the messy issues on his desk.
And his foreign policy doctrine is unprecedented in modern America, somewhat arbitrary, ill-conceived, and utterly lacking in moral clarity. More and more, it appears he has reverse engineered a foreign policy, based primarily on doing the opposite of George W. Bush did, as opposed to overtly crafting a wise and coherent foreign policy strategy going forward.
Unfortunately for him, he now faces very serious challenges having to do with his fundamentally having no plan and a never-ending cascade of embarrassments and scandals. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10866863/President-Barack-Obamas-national-security-flops-just-keep-coming.html