As President Obama begins his final year in office, polls show that public confidence in his national security leadership has collapsed: Only 18 percent of Americans say the United States is winning the war on terrorism, and even a 59 percent majority of Democrats are dissatisfied with how Obama is prosecuting the fight against Islamist radicalism.
Obama’s response? The Post reports the president has “scolded his aides about how poorly the administration was communicating” his strategy and ordered an “uptick in our communications tempo.”
Not an uptick in our “operations tempo” against the terrorists, mind you — an uptick in our communications tempo. You see, the problem isn’t the military strategy; it’s the communications strategy. If Americans don’t see how brilliant Obama’s approach is, he must not be explaining it well enough.
Put another way: It’s not him; it’s you.
This New Year’s communications push will apparently include a world tour, with about a half-dozen foreign trips already planned and designed to cement the president’s foreign policy legacy. But we can learn a lot more about Obama’s legacy from the places he won’t be visiting than those he will.
• Obama won’t be visiting Ghouta, Syria, the opposition-held region outside Damascus where President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas on his people after Obama warned him not to with his infamous “red line” (that he then failed to enforce) — the worst chemical weapons attack since the Iran-Iraq war.
• Obama is not likely to visit Bodrum, the Turkish beach town near where the body of a Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, was found face-down in the sand — killed in a refugee crisis created because Obama stood by and did nothing while the Assad regime massacred more than 200,000 innocent men, women and children.
• Don’t expect Air Force One to touch down in Moscow for a summit with President Vladimir Putin to celebrate the fabulous success of the Obama-Clinton Russian “reset.” And don’t expect Obama to visit Crimea, which Putin annexed after the president failed to enforce his Syria red line . . . or eastern Ukraine, where Russia is conducting a guerrilla war against the Ukrainian government . . . or Latakia, Syria, where Russia has established its first major air base in the Middle East as part of its new coalition with Iran to counter U.S. influence in the region.
• Obama isn’t likely to visit Libya, birthplace of his foreign policy doctrine of “leading from behind.” The country has become such a terrorist haven in the wake of Obama’s failed intervention that we have had to close our embassy and evacuate the country. And Obama definitely won’t set foot in Benghazi, where a U.S. ambassador was killed in what Obama refused for weeks to call a terrorist attack.
• Obama probably won’t be visiting Yemen, a country he held up just a year ago as a counterterrorism success story. That’s because Iranian-backed rebels overthrew the government that was helping us fight al-Qaeda, allowing the terrorists to dramatically expand their area of operations.
• Obama certainly won’t visit Mosul, Iraq, which fell under control of the Islamic State soon after the president blithely dismissed the terrorist group as the “JV” squad. In 2010, Vice President Biden actually bragged that Iraq would be “one of the great achievements” of the Obama administration. He’s not saying that anymore. The “JV” squad has carved out a radical Islamist caliphate the size of the United Kingdom out of large swaths of the country.
• Obama probably won’t visit Kandahar, Afghanistan, where U.S. forces recently had to destroy a major al-Qaeda training camp. At first, that might seem like a major accomplishment Obama would want to celebrate. But there’s one small problem: There were no al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan when Obama took office. Today, in the wake of Obama’s Afghan drawdown, the New York Times reports that al-Qaeda is making a deadly comeback in the country where it planned the 9/11 attacks.
Visiting these and other places would highlight the fact that Obama will be bequeathing to the next president a world that is far more dangerous than the one he inherited. Indeed, Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told Congress in 2014: “Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I’ve not experienced a time when we’ve been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”
He’s right. But don’t take Clapper’s word for it. As you assess Obama’s record, ask yourself some simple questions: Are you safer now than you were seven years ago? Are the forces of Islamist radicalism weaker than they were seven years ago? Is the danger to our homeland smaller than it was seven years ago? Is the United States more feared by our enemies and respected by our friends than it was seven years ago?
For the vast majority of Americans, the answer to each question is a clear “no.” And no White House global policy PR tour is going to change that.