There is growing bipartisan awareness that the entire President Obama/Hillary Clinton/John Kerry foreign policy, not simply in Gaza or even Israel generally, is a disaster. The public realizes this. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 59 percent of voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign policy (“U.S. role in world affairs”), with only 39 percent approving. In handling relations with other countries, 43 percent approve, 55 percent don’t; on Ukraine, 41 percent approve, 57 percent don’t; on Israel, 37 percent approve, 60 percent do not; on Iraq, 41 percent approve and 57 percent don’t; and on Afghanistan, 38 percent approve and 60 percent do not. Obama has managed to hand the advantage on national security back to the GOP, as voters favor Republicans to protect the country over Democrats (33 to 18 percent). On maintaining the United States’ image (27 to 24 percent) and handling international crises (29 to 20 percent), Republicans also best Democrats.
The popular impression is confirmed by bipartisan experts. Bill Gertz reports:
The Obama administration’s four-year defense strategy lacks funding needed for fulfilling global military missions and the U.S. military faces “high risk” in the world unless changes are made, according to a bipartisan report by a congressionally backed panel of defense experts.
The report by the National Defense Panel, led by former Defense Secretary William Perry and retired United States Army Gen. John Abizaid, criticized the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review for outlining military responsibilities that cannot be met because of sharp defense funding cuts.
The report concluded that the capabilities called for in the QDR “clearly exceed the budget resources made available to the department.”
“This gap is disturbing if not dangerous in light of the fact that global threats and challenges are rising, including a troubling pattern of territorial assertiveness and regional intimidation on China’s part, [and] the recent aggression of Russia in Ukraine.”
In short, conservatives’ argument that we have been shortchanging defense and endangering our national security by rote budget cuts unrelated to external threats was precisely right. (In fairness, right-wing isolationists favored slashing defense budgets as much as Obama.) Gertz quotes outgoing House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon as saying, “It is the same conclusion many Americans have already reached: there is a cost when America does not lead and there are consequences when America disengages. What the president fails to understand—which the report points out—is that a strong military underwrites all other tools our nation has for global influence.” The panel recommends rebuilding our navy, keeping our force strength at least at pre-9/11 levels and upgrading our air force.
One is compelled to ask: Did Hillary Clinton not notice? Did she ever urge the president not to hack away at our defense budget? (Maybe she believed that the cuts were fine since we supposedly had “al-Qaeda on its heels” and were “ending a decade of war.”)
Former senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) provides a big-picture explanation in the Wall Street Journal for what has gone so terribly wrong: “Too often we have sent a message of uncertainty to our allies and enemies, making the former more anxious and the latter more ambitious.” He recounts Obama’s inaction in Syria and mishandling of the Iran negotiations. (“In the clearly stated opinion of friends like the Saudis, we and the Europeans have been naïve and ineffective and, as a result, they have begun planning how to deal with a nuclear Iran. Those plans include obtaining their own nuclear weapons.”) It is the same story of weakness and unreliability in eastern Europe and Asia. Lieberman concludes, “This is self-evidently not good for America’s security, prosperity or freedom. It can be turned around if we stand more clearly with our allies. Some will say that the U.S. cannot and should not be the world’s policeman. But if we want our allies to join us when we ask for their help in protecting order and freedom in the world, we must take sides and be there when they need our help.”
It is therefore a mistake to treat the Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy debacle as a series of discrete errors. Rather, it is their entire worldview that has been flawed from the start. The chickens are only now coming home to roost. To fix what is wrong will require new people, a new outlook and new resources. Those who counseled retreat, retrenchment and reduction in our armed forces should not be entrusted with fixing what they wrecked.