Forbes 8/20/2014 @ 6:10AM 1,406 views
Is Alfred E. Neuman Making U.S. Foreign Policy?
This story appears in the September 8, 2014 issue of Forbes.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ATTITUDE to the rest of the world could be summed up in the motto of Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: “What–Me Worry?” Obama genuinely believes that U.S. actions around the world for decades have made things worse, not better; that we have been a malignant influence; and that other than powwowing at international confabs and kowtowing to the pretensions of the UN, the less the U.S. does overseas, the better. Even a cursory look at history would demonstrate that U.S. passivity is a green light for dangerous behavior that ultimately affects our very safety. Too bad the President never took a look at what happened in the 1930s and 1970s, when Washington was seen as the capital of a weak, declining power.
Currently we have a lot of worries–some very serious ones–and this President and his officials have shown little appreciation for what they’ve wrought and little knowledge of how to deal effectively with the crises now unfolding.
–The Middle East. Obama has vowed not to send American ground forces back into combat in Iraq. That, to him, would be a catastrophic admission that his happy words about Iraq during his 2012 campaign were a fraud. There is an extraordinarily evil force called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) arising in the region. ISIS has seized large chunks of Iraq and parts of Syria in the name of establishing a new caliphate of murderous extremism.
The question is not whether we should go back into Iraq, but how we are going to defeat this malevolent force. If ISIS succeeds, it will create a safe haven for global terrorism against the rest of the world, in particular the U.S. and American citizens everywhere. We saw what al Qaeda did from its base in Afghanistan before 9/11. Giving Kurdish militias sufficient arms to defend their territory and conducting air strikes to stop ISIS from carrying out genocidal plans against Christians and others are necessary stopgaps–but only that. The fundamental questions remain: What are our plans for destroying this threat? Does the President have any plausible ideas, short of fighting on the ground?
Sadly, Obama is equally bankrupt on ideas to prevent Iran from getting the Bomb and stop its march to amass a formidable armada of long-range ballistic missiles. If Iran obtains or makes it to the brink of developing nuclear weapons, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be sorely tempted to do the same.
–Afghanistan. The bad guys here know Obama desperately wants out, and they’re ready to move to seize power as soon as we leave. The demoralized Afghan government knows it, too. Again, the White House seems not to remember where it was that Osama bin Laden plotted 9/11.
Moreover, an ugly turn in Afghanistan will have a deleterious impact on neighboring Pakistan, a profoundly troubled, nuclear-armed state in which Islamic extremists are becoming more powerful. The reality of al Qaeda and its ilk gaining control of a country with nukes would be horrific.
Again, the President has no real strategy to deal with this.
–Ukraine. The Administration must do more than send happy meals to Kiev. Armed conflict is a very real possibility. Vladimir Putin has taken the measure of our President and feels he can effectively take control of independent Ukraine and perhaps seize more territory to boot, without lasting consequences.
We should be sending massive arms shipments to Ukraine, as the country–or most of it–will fight to maintain independence if it has the tools to do so. Remember, Ukrainian noncommissioned officers were the backbone of the Soviet army.
We will also face the probable need to station NATO forces, including Americans, in Poland and the Baltic states: Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. All are NATO members, and we are bound by treaty to defend them. Stationing forces in these states–which would serve as trip wires–would probably be the only credible deterrence to Russian machinations.
On the economic front we can not only help prevent a collapse but also strengthen Ukraine. As I explained in an Aug. 15 forbes.com post: “Ukraine should immediately implement a currency board, under which the hryvnia would be tied directly to the dollar.”
President Obama may wish to ignore the world. Alas, it won’t ignore us.http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2014/08/20/is-alfred-e-neuman-making-u-s-foreign-policy/