To call Obama’s foreign policy “Carteresque” is an insult to Jimmy Carter
For a few decades, Jimmy Carter has been thought of as the modern president with the very worst foreign policy. He’s also been considered the bottom of the heap of modern presidents as well. But James Kircheck makes the point that the one positive accomplishment in all of this is the Obama administration’s ability to elevate Jimmy Carter from worst to next to worst when it comes to both the presidency and foreign policy. An objective look at the foreign policies of both presidents shows some remarkable similarities, but there are also striking differences. The biggest is that upon examination, Carter’s foreign policy, while poor, wasn’t at all as inept and incompetent as the current president’s. When the Iranian hostage crisis and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan took place, Carter at least had a plan and executed it:
By January, Carter announced a series of proposals directed at weakening America’s adversaries. First was a 5% increase in defense spending, a move that angered many of his Democratic allies in Congress who had taken to slashing the defense budget in the wake of the Vietnam War.
In his State of the Union address, Carter announced what would later come to be known as the Carter Doctrine: that the United States would use military force to protect its vital interests in the Persian Gulf.
Next came an embargo on grain and agricultural technology to the Soviet Union. Carter also declared that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow summer Olympics unless the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. When they did not, he began covert funding of Afghan rebel fighters.
Conservatives like to credit Ronald Reagan with ending the Cold War. To the extent that the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by American policies and not the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the communist system itself (a debate that engages historians to this day), the last year of the Carter administration laid the groundwork.
Now you may disagree with what he did and how he did it, but at least he took action. On the other hand:
The correlations between the world situation in the twilight of the Carter administration and in the second Obama term are hard to ignore. Once again, Russia has invaded a neighbor. Only this time, that neighbor is on the European continent, and Moscow went so far as to annex — not merely attack — its territory. And once again the Middle East is in flames, with the prospect of another Islamist movement taking control over a state, this time in Iraq.
But rather than respond to the collapsing world order by supporting our allies and undermining our adversaries, the Obama administration dithers. It is an indication of just how worrisome the situation is that many in Washington are pining for the resolve and fortitude of Jimmy Carter.
For months, the beleaguered Ukrainians have requested the most basic of military aid. The administration sends Meals Ready to Eat. Even hard-hitting, “sectoral” sanctions aimed at the Russian economy are viewed as too provocative.
Last year, Obama declared a “red line” on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Assad’s deployment of such weapons, the world was told, would constitute the sort of breach of international law and norms requiring an American response.
When Assad did use such weapons, Washington allowed itself to be coopted into a farcical deal — proposed by that most altruistic of world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin — that saw the purported removal of Assad’s chemical arsenal. The message from Washington to Assad: You can continue murdering your people en masse and destabilizing the entire Middle East, but just do so using conventional weapons.
When you analyze what this administration has done, or in may cases not done, you’re left scratching your head. At least what Carter did had some short term and long term plan. As pointed out, it laid the basis for future foreign policy (whether or not you agree with its direction).
But when you look at the Obama foreign policy (or lack thereof), it shows no direction, no leadership, no nothing. Add to that a feckless John Kerry preceded by an equally feckless Hillary Clinton and the US suffers on all fronts in the world arena. Where there was a discernible lack of respect that emerged due to Carter’s bungling at times, it was nowhere as deep or as widespread as the lack of respect in the world for Barack Obama. The two examples above typify both the emptiness and toothlessness of this administration’s attempts at foreign policy. The lack of leadership is telling. And again, Obama et. al. seem to think that symbolic acts serve the purpose and that talking equals action. For instance:
Few take America, least of all Secretary of State John Kerry, at its word anymore. Earlier this week, Kerry demanded that Russia urge separatists in Ukraine to disarm “within the next hours, literally.”
Or what? This empty threat followed months of similar reprimands from Washington.
Precisely right – or what!? Same in Syria, with Russia, Iran, well, you name it. Empty threats and hand-waving. Red lines drawn, erased and redrawn.
And, of course there’s the “blame Bush” side of their “foreign policy”:
Obama and his surrogates endlessly complain about the “disaster” they inherited from the Bush administration there, but the country was largely pacified by the time Obama entered the White House. Today, due largely to American absenteeism in the region, Islamist militants that make Al Qaeda look like a Rotary Club control a large chunk of the country.
There is no real reason we should be witnessing what we’re seeing in Iraq, had this administration not made the SOFA agreement conditions unacceptable. Its handling of that was “failure by design”. And now, well now the inevitable has happened hasn’t it? Our answer? “Buy jets from the Russians”, a move that will let them steal another step in the region.
Global instability is on the rise and faith in America’s stabilizing presence is on the decline, and all we have from Washington are empty, millennial-friendly buzz phrases. “Leading from behind” was how one, too-clever-by-half administration official termed Obama’s global strategy. Hitting “singles” and “doubles” is Obama’s own, jocular assessment of his foreign policy. And now, “Don’t do stupid s—” is the mantra being repeated throughout the halls of the White House and State Department.
“Don’t do anything at all” seems more apt a description of this administration’s approach.
I disagree slightly – the mantra being repeated through the halls of both the White House and State Department isn’t preceded by “don’t”. They’ve been doing “stupid s—” since day one and continue to do it on a daily basis. And there is absolutely nothing that seems to indicate that won’t be the case for the rest of Obama’s term. While the majority of the nation and the world are seeing the horrific downside produced by this inept and incompetent administration’s “foreign policy” and lack of leadership, there is at least one winner – Jimmy Carter.