Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Case against Obama’s Humble and Sweet America

Since this January, policymakers have been discussing job performance of the Obama administration. Considering the midterm election in November, it is vital to talk about Obama foreign policy in one year.

Shortly after the presidential election, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor of the Carter administration, said that America’s image in the world would improve under newly elected President Barack Obama. This is partly true. Those who are dismayed with “with us or against us” approach by the predecessor George W. Bush see Obama a long awaited savior. However, we should not praise Obama diplomacy simply because he is popular among global public opinion leaders, particularly liberals, leftists, and otherwise anti-Americanists.

The Foreign Policy Initiative has published a report, entitled “Foreign Policy 2010” to make an assessment on US foreign policy under the Obama administration. This report presents analysis on an extensive range of issues, including fundamental policy approaches, the War on Terror, the Middle East, Russia, China, national defense, and human rights.

At the beginning of this report, the Foreign Policy Initiative evaluates overview of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in one year. In the first essay, entitled “FPI Analysis: President Obama's Foreign Policy, Year One” (p.8 ~ p.14), the Foreign Policy Initiative says that President Obama has made right decisions to extend withdrawal timelines in Iraq and send additional troops to Afghanistan. However, Barack Obama is associating his foreign policy with those who believe American decline is inevitable, and he downplays American military power (two ongoing wars notwithstanding), alliance with liberal democracies, and promoting American ideals.

As to the Middle East, President Obama showed a drastic change in the understanding of US role in this region. Not only did Obama apologize US commitment to the coup d’état to oust Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953, he said that he would respect the current regime of Iran, even though grassroots revolt happened in June last year. Robert Kagan, Director of the FPI, criticizes that Iran takes Obama’s message that America will not endorse Iranian citizens' quest for freedom (Obama's Year One: Contra”; World Affairs; January/February 2010).

The Middle East is not the only problem. In the same article, Kagan comments bitterly that engagement with Russia and China will eventually underscore alliance with NATO partners, Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, and India. When Obama visited China in the last November, he did not advocate human rights issues. Gordon G. Chang, the author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World”, says “Beijing’s ruthlessly pragmatic leaders see our failure to press human rights as a sign that we think we are weak. And if they think we are weak, they see little reason to cooperate. So promoting human rights is protecting American security" (“Obama’s Fundamental Misconception”; National Review Online――The Corner; November 23, 2009). Regarding Russia, Charles Krauthammer, Columnist of the Washington Post, argues that Obama’s appeasement to Russia over Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will be counterproductive, as Kremlin believes this area their rightful sphere of influence (“Debacle in Moscow”; Washington Post; October 16, 2009).

As mentioned in the first article of “Foreign Policy 2010”, religious fanaticism and autocracy throughout the world will be emboldened when America appears weak. It is nothing strange that a substantial number of people regard Barack Obama as a Jimmy Carter in this century.

In view of present challenges and dangers across the globe, Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow, and Gary Schmitt, Resident Scholar, both at the American Enterprise Institute, raise a critical concern that the drastic cut of F22 Raptor fighters, naval power, space and missile defense programs will erode air, maritime, and technological supremacy of the United States (“Obama and Gates Gut the Military” Wall Street Journal; April 8, 2009).

As a Princeton student Christina Renfo puts it, “The President should stop focusing on maintaining his popularity as an end in and of itself and start making substantive policy decisions even if they disappoint some members of the international community” (“A Paradoxical Burden: Obama’s Popularity Abroad”; Princeton Student Editorial――American Foreign Policy; 15 February, 2010).

While a formidable number of global citizens are infatuated with charming daydreams cited by Obama, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton denounces his disdain for orthodox strategic thinking to keep America safe throughout the Cold War and the post Cold War era. Obama boasts that the new START with Russia will be a breakthrough toward a nuclear free world, but arms reduction is no incentive for Iran and North Korea to abolish their nuclear programs. In addition, Bolton argues that the United States has reached unnecessary and premature strategic weapons agreement, because the Russian economy will eventually deter Kremlin from pursuing nuclear parity with the United States. Also, he points out that Russia does not assume a global policeman responsibility as the United States does. John Bolton concludes sarcastically, “Perhaps it would have been better had the president's (State of the Union) speech not mentioned national security at all” (“More Mr. Nice Guy”; Weekly Standard; February 8, 2010). It sounds right to the point to call Obama Mr. Nice Guy as Bolton does. President Obama’s speeches in Prague and Cairo sound very sweet to naïve global citizens, but they are empty at all.

Ultimately, no other presidents and would be presidents until the inauguration of Barack Obama were so willing to accept American decline without considering the harmful consequence of it. As Yoshiki Hidaka insists in his book, “America has chosen a misfortune”, Obama may not have confidence in American values. His humble and sweet foreign policy needs to be reviewed from critical perspectives.