Saturday, January 09, 2010

Is President Obama Still on a Holiday from History?

The Christmas terrorist attack and the subsequent crisis in Yemen have provoked controversies whether President Barack Obama is well prepared for dealing with national security threats. Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized Obama’s dull response to the crisis. Terrorism is not the only issue to question current administration’s foreign policy stances. Rivalries among nation states are getting intensified.

At the beginning of this year, Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, talks of reinvigorated power games among sovereign states, and criticizes the Obama administration for their wishful thinking of exploring common interests and solutions to world problems through peaceful cooperation among powers. Not only do Russia and China challenge the United States and Western allies in geopolitical power games in Europe and East Asia, but also manipulate to maintain their influence on Iran and North Korea. Even COP initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emission are regarded as Western pressure for China. Kagan recommends the Obama administration to adjust to the rise of radical nationalism in those powers and rivalries they pose to the United States (“The Perils of Wishful Thinking”; National Interest; January/February 2010).

Regarding terrorism, Dick Cheney blamed Barack Obama for trying to pretend we are not at war with terrorists. Cheney criticizes Obama’s decision to close the Guantànamo prison, as detainees there are hard core terrorists (“Dick Cheney: Barack Obama 'trying to pretend'”; Politico; December 30, 2009).

Cheney has been a vocal critic to the Obama administration’s defense policy. When Obama spent a long time to make the final decision for the surge in Afghanistan, he denounced Obama’s incompetence as the Commander in Chief. Republicans cast doubt whether the Obama administration has an overarching counter terrorist strategy or not (“Cheney blasts Obama on Christmas Day plane scare”; Boston Globe; December 30, 2009).

Following her father, Liz Cheney, Head of Keep America Safe, demands that Obama reverse his decision to close the Guantànamo prison, and urges the President to give his top priority to national defense. She insists that terrorism is beyond law enforcement, and it is a national defense issue (“Another Cheney blasts Obama on terrorism”; Boston Globe; January 6, 2010).

Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute argues that the American public is awakened to understand terrorists can attack their homeland, and beginning to think of national security more seriously. She says that President Obama needs to show serious commitment to terrorism, in order to boost his sharply dropping approval rate (“Serious about Security”; Forbes; January 4, 2010).

During the election, current Vice President Joseph Biden said It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The real test happened now. This is a test for the American public as well. During the election, American voters were preoccupied with sudden financial crisis, and got upset. Yoshiki Hidaka talked about this in detail in his book. But now, America needs more focus on foreign policy. Terrorists are not the only threats. State-to-state rivalries grow, and anti-Western cult nationalism in Russia and China make the world dangerous furthermore. It is time that President Obama reversed isolationist trend among the American public. The world is no longer on a holiday from history.