Prez flunks foreign policy


Prez flunks foreign policy

Mar 31st, 2014 2 min read
Peter Brookes

Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs

Peter helps develop and communicate The Heritage Foundation's stance on foreign and defense policy through his research and writing.
Americans are down on President Obama’s foreign policy. A Real Clear Politics average of polls over the last month reveals 51 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of international affairs, while only 40 percent approve.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

But what’s perhaps equally important is where the White House’s foreign policy is likely “popular.” While they’re not saying so publicly, my hunch is that Russia, China, Syria, and Iran, among others are pretty darn happy with it.

Obama’s plunge in the polls has a lot to do with Russia, so let’s start there. As a result of the Crimea caper, the United States and our European allies look soft and divided in the face of Russian aggression.

News of rising Russian troop numbers near Ukraine means that a tongue-lashing, invoking international law and some pinprick sanctions haven’t deterred Moscow from continuing to thump the West in the chest.

In addition, the slow and then less-than-robust response to the Kremlin’s criminal conduct in Crimea is just what Russia was expecting based on the White House’s fawning “reset” policy toward the Kremlin since taking office.

Then there’s China. Though keeping an international policy poker face on Ukraine by abstaining on a United Nations resolution, Beijing is as giddy as Moscow is about Washington’s nonconfrontational foreign policy.

Not only is American weakness welcome in Beijing, but the strategic distraction of Europe — courtesy of Russia — will keep the U.S. focus off the Pacific and China’s increasing assertiveness in Asia.

Of course, considering how Washington let Moscow get away with its mischief against Kiev so far, Beijing must be wondering how forcefully the United States would act if China moved on Taiwan or the territory it disputes with U.S. allies, Japan and the Philippines.

The Syrians must love our foreign policy, too. I mean who doesn’t love a “red line” that isn’t really a “red line,” especially if it’s directed at your misdeeds?

Sure, they’ve moved out some of the Bashar Assad regime’s chemical weapons, but almost three years after Obama said that Assad must go, the Damascus dictator is still in power — and winning the civil war.

Iran’s mullahs must be mad for “Obama-plomacy,” too. Washington and others have eased painful sanctions on Tehran in hopes of getting a nuke deal; our regional friends and allies are jittery we’ll give Iran a pass.

Equally comforting to Tehran is that Washington is letting it run amok in Syria, where Iran and ally Hezbollah are propping up the regime, causing some 150,000 people to perish so far.

I won’t get into Venezuela or North Korea, but you get the picture.

Equally heartening to all these countries of concern is America’s coming defense cuts, which will mean we may have the smallest navy since before World War I, smallest army since before World War II and the smallest air force ever.

The world is an increasingly dangerous place. A flabby foreign policy and decimated defense posture isn’t going to make it for the United States. The American people see it, but unfortunately so do our potential foes.

 - Peter Brookes is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for International Studies.

Originally appeared in the Boston Herald