Abstract: In any situation, the friend of freedom is
the friend of the United States, but it is becoming apparent that
the current Administration does not seem to abide by this rule or
the moral and strategic clarity it demands. In office only eight
months, President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team seem
uninterested in the true nature of American leadership in the
world. If President Obama continues to insist on bargaining away
U.S. and European security in order to obtain Russian help with
Iran, then he jeopardizes the support necessary to ratify a new
I have a particular distrust for political labels or political
doublespeak. I dislike theories and ideologies; I prefer things
that are real, things that are true, things that work. I like
clarity. So, to break through diplomatic double-speak, I tend to
follow a simple rule when I come across any foreign policy
question: In any situation, the friend of freedom is the friend of
the United States.
It is becoming apparent that the current Administration -- at
the very least -- does not seem to abide by this rule or the moral
and strategic clarity it demands. In office only eight months,
President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team seem
uninterested in the true nature of American leadership in the
world. They seem not to understand that our most binding alliances
are not with nations, but with all people who yearn to live in
With friends of freedom, we may not always share treaties, but
we share something far more binding and enduring. It is this bond,
at least as much as the NATO Treaty, that unites our interests with
Europe generally, and with former Soviet satellites Poland and the
Czech Republic in particular.
The Czechs and the Poles -- like the people of Cuba, Taiwan,
Israel, and, today, Honduras -- are friends of freedom and are thus
friends of the United States. The current Administration does not
see things this way.
America: A Stabilizing Force for Good
This can be seen in myriad policies and decisions of the past
- In Iran, this year, for the first time in decades, a democratic
movement stood up to a tyrannical regime without the verbal support
of the United States.
- In Honduras, a deposed would-be Marxist dictator finds himself
with more friends in Washington than the citizens of the republic
he attempted to commandeer.
- And in Russia, the leaders of an increasingly troublesome
regime are demanding -- and may even be winning -- concrete
strategic concessions from the United States in exchange for vague
offers of diplomatic assistance.
These and other developments are not just the result of an
untested foreign policy team learning on the fly. They are the
inevitable result of an American foreign policy unmoored from our
commitment to human rights and human freedom and tied instead to
the President's personal ambitions.
There is not supposed to be a "Bush" foreign policy or an
"Obama" foreign policy: There is supposed to be an American foreign
policy that stands for freedom and against tyranny.
The current Administration seems not to understand that a
confident, decisive, and assertive America is a stabilizing
force for freedom and justice in the world.
Nowhere is this problem more pronounced than in Eastern Europe
or in the area of missile defense.
Russia, Iran, and Missile Defense
Earlier this year, President Obama wrote to Russian President
Medvedev and said he was willing to bargain away U.S. missile
defense plans in Europe if the Russians helped to completely
eliminate Iran's threats to global security.
Furthermore, an Administration spokesman recently admitted that
the so-called third site for missile defense won't protect Europe
from a strike launched in Iran. But this ignores the fact that Iran
is not the only place from which a ballistic missile could hit
Europe -- and in that case, if our missile defenses will not
protect Europe, what will?
I don't think President Obama's personal popularity in the
international community will protect them. Or the self-imposed
restraint of terrorist states. Or the moral force of U.N. Security
Council Resolutions. No, missile defense is our best chance to
check the aggression of imperialist regimes and terrorist thugs
alike. It undermines their motivations to spend billions on missile
This is why former leaders of Central and Eastern European
countries recently wrote an open letter to President Obama to
remind him of the sacrifices they had made on behalf of freedom and
the need for leadership now from Washington. It is also why Poland
and the Czech Republic have bravely volunteered to host the "third
site." Its deployment there makes the most strategic sense, both
for the United States and our allies, and also represents the most
cost-efficient option available to us.
As frustrating as this ongoing process is, it represents an
important opportunity for the American people, the Congress, and
our allies. At issue is whether missile defense represents a threat
to the security and stability of the world or whether missile
defense is, in fact, as Ronald Reagan said, the greatest hope the
cause of peace has ever had.
It says a great deal about the world that enemies of freedom
reflexively distrust missile defense, and that free people have
difficulty understanding why anyone would find it even remotely
controversial. It says even more about the United States and the
American people that, even as the world's lone superpower, our
greatest achievement in military technology is exclusively
defensive in nature. No powerful society in history could ever make
such a boast -- indeed, no other society would want to.
Wrapped up in that fact is everything one needs to know about
American exceptionalism -- the clearest, truest, and most reliable
fact in international affairs. Even when we discover ways to defend
ourselves, Americans seek to share the benefits of that discovery
with those nations who share our love of freedom. Missile defense
is not a projection of American power, but of American ideals.
Anyone who objects says more about himself than about America.
This was the case for those who blindly argued, in an age of
unimaginable innovation, that missile defense was a technological
impossibility. This was the case for those who howled in 1986 when
Ronald Reagan said "Nyet" to abandoning missile defense, walked
away from the Reykjavik Summit, and by doing so began the endgame
of the Cold War.
Yet there are still those who believe, as President Obama
suggested in Prague, that voluntary disarmament is the path to
peace and who make spurious arguments about cost when the fact is
that studies by the Congressional Budget Office and the Pentagon
have demonstrated that ground-based interceptors in Poland are both
the least expensive and most effective option available to us.
Defense of Freedom
Aside from the ideals missile defense reflects, there remains
another, far more practical reason for its deployment.
It is undeniable now that the President's overtures toward
Moscow and away from Europe have gained us nothing. Nuclear and
ballistic programs continue unimpeded in North Korea, Iran, and
elsewhere. Russia has announced its opposition to any new sanctions
If history has taught us anything, it is that freedom is the
exception, not the norm. It is not enough for democracies to "bear
witness" to threats against freedom: Those threats must be
countered. Everywhere and always, liberty must be earned, won, and
Missile defense represents freedom's ultimate shield -- not just
for us, but for friends of freedom around the world. It has the
potential to both deter the aggressive impulses of freedom's
enemies and strengthen the resolve of its friends, even in the most
oppressive regimes. This, after all, is why missile defense is
always unpopular with leaders who seek to subdue human freedom and
welcomed by those willing to fight for it.
The question now is, "Which kind of leader does Barack Obama
intend to be?"
Before the July summit in Moscow, several colleagues and I sent
a letter to the President cautioning against any linkage or deal
with the Russians on missile defense in or outside of negotiations
for a new START treaty. Several more Senators have since sent
letters of their own.
The President has yet to get the message, so let me be clear: If
President Obama continues to insist on bargaining away U.S. and
European security in order to obtain Russian help with Iran, then
he jeopardizes the support necessary to ratify a new START
Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy, and abandoning
friendships in order to achieve short-order diplomatic victories is
foolish. Going forward, I sincerely hope President Obama will
follow President Reagan's example and tell the Russians,
The Honorable Jim DeMint (R-SC) is
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee
on European Affairs.