Listening to President Obama’s State of the Union speech this week, I couldn’t help but feel that he dealt with foreign policy and national security issues like the cop who doesn’t want a bunch of “rubberneckers” at an accident or crime scene.
“Move along now folks … nothing to see here.”
But, in fact, there’s plenty to see here and we, as the American people, aren’t just a bunch of onlookers at a five-alarm fire — although it’s understandable how some could see the fiery state of the world that way.
For instance, on the matter of the Islamic State, the president seemed to want us to think everything is going to be OK if we just don’t get too dramatic in the face of the threat that ISIS poses both at home and abroad.
Beyond the likes of the recent Paris, San Bernardino and Istanbul terror attacks, Fox News reports that ISIS now has affiliates in nearly 20 countries and has gathered foreign fighters from 120 nations.
In other words, it’s spreading — and that’s not comforting.
The president also touted new ties with Cuba, but didn’t touch on The Wall Street Journal report of a U.S. Hellfire missile accidentally shipped to the island in 2014, its advanced technology undoubtedly shared with potential U.S. foes (e.g., Russia, China and North Korea).
No one is bragging about improvements in the human rights situation in Cuba, either, which makes one wonder why the president called for the lifting of the trade embargo — a clear propaganda and economic victory for the Castro regime.
Speaking of Cuba, the president in his speech once again pressed his case to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a gnawing, unfulfilled Obama promise. Many experts don’t accept the president’s premise that “it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.” And still others fear these bad guys will return to the battlefield.
The president also gave himself a pat on the back for the Iran nuclear deal despite ongoing pressure to punish Tehran with economic sanctions over recent violations of a U.N. mandate on the testing of nuke-capable ballistic missiles.
Speaking of bad nuclear deals, what about North Korea? Not a word, even though Pyongyang recently tested its third — and most powerful — nuclear weapon since Obama took office. North Korea has also made progress on putting an atomic warhead on an ICBM.
There was nothing substantive in the speech on Russia, either. Moscow is pretty troubling considering it still has Crimea in its grip, haunts eastern Ukraine, threatens Europe, builds Arctic bases and supports the Syrian regime.
Then, too, no mention of China’s massive military buildup, which supports its construction of new islands and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Reuters reports that Beijing landed its first aircraft on one of those islands, meaning jet fighters aren’t far behind.
Obama said little on Afghanistan, as well, where some 10,000 U.S. troops are assisting Kabul battle an increasingly tough Taliban. There was also nothing on Team Obama’s 2011 misadventure in Libya, which now has an ISIS-claimed “province.”
We all know the State of the Union speech isn’t just about foreign policy and national security — and there are reasons for caution in such a speech. But the president owed the American people a lot better look at the critical issues that challenge American interests in 2016.
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter.
This piece originally appeared in The Boston Herald.