We’ve come a long way from President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” President Obama’s policy apparently is to whisper slyly and compromise our security.
What else are we to conclude of his notorious open-mic moment with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev? Why would he think it’s OK to send a message to President-elect Vladimir Putin that “all these issues, but particularly missile defense … can be solved” if Mr. Putin will “give me space” until after the U.S. presidential election?
In short, hang on, Russia. I can’t tell the electorate that I’m willing to weaken our defenses. Once those dopes have sent me back to the White House for another term, I’ll have a free hand to give you what you want.
As if we haven’t already given away too much. Under the 2010 New Start agreement, a strategic nuclear arms-control pact with Russia, the United States agreed to reduce its missile-defense capabilities, along with the number of strategic nuclear missiles and bombers. Russia, however, may build more such “delivery vehicles,” because it reported fewer of these (521) than the treaty allows (700). New START was really about degrading America’s strategic superiority.
On missile defense, we left two allies twisting in the wind. Both Poland and the Czech Republic had ignored Russian threats and agreed to host missile-defense sites that would have helped protect U.S. territory and our European allies. Mr. Obama canceled both sites shortly after taking office. But this, and New START, apparently aren’t enough for the Kremlin. Hence the president’s whispered hint that more is coming.
Are these concessions being made to an ally, someone who has demonstrated a willingness to work with the United States to make the world a safer place? On the contrary. Mr. Putin has been openly disdainful of American foreign policy in many of the world’s trouble spots, from Syria to Asia to Latin America. What does he get? Respect and rewards. A genuine ally such as Britain, meanwhile, is treated poorly. The administration has gone out of its way to assure Britain that it’s nothing special, and it even sided with some of its adversaries in matters such as the dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
Think about the message this sends to the world: It’s better to be America’s enemy than to be its friend. That belligerence pays off. That cooperation is a fool’s game.
Worse, the president joked about it the next day. Before taking reporters’ questions, he said, “First of all, are the mics on?” Then he offered a lame defense of his initial comments: It’s an election year, so there’s no time for “thoughtful consultations.” On the contrary, it’s the perfect time. But surely he knows that. So why is he making jokes that seem to indicate he doesn’t take these matters very seriously?
He should. Consider the wide array of threats the U.S. faces. In addition to terrorist groups - al Qaeda, of course, but many others as well - we have rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea acquiring nuclear capabilities. China continues to build up its military at an alarming rate. The unrest in the Middle East shows no signs of abating. And those are just the threats we know about.
Yet the Obama administration’s budget proposal would reduce total U.S. defense spending by more than 21 percent in fiscal 2014 from what it was in fiscal 2010. While other militaries expand, ours is being forced to contract.
It should go without saying that we need a comprehensive missile defense with components on land, at sea and in space. That way, we have a much better chance of stopping an enemy missile in almost any stage of flight.
“I think we’ll do better in 2013,” Mr. Obama said as he tried to explain his open-mic incident. We can indeed. But we have to reverse the reckless and dangerous game he insists on playing with this country’s security. He doesn’t need “space.” He needs sense.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Times