Review Caroline Glick's criticism on The Obama Administration's Foreign Policy. http://carolineglick.com/the-new-york-times-destroys-obama/ Do you think the criticism of Obama's foreign policy is...

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It is a little difficult to critique a presidential administration’s conduct of foreign policy on the basis of opinion article that primarily critiques a journalist’s investigation into the Obama Administration’s handling of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda.  To the extent that Caroline Glick’s article makes valid judgments regarding the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, those judgments are excessively limited in their scope.  Glick’s focus on journalist David Kirkpatrick’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks severely limits what could have been a more useful discussion of foreign policy.  That, however, was not her aim; Glick’s purpose was to focus on Obama’s counterterrorism strategy rather than on the foreign policy decisions in which that strategy should be grounded.  That said, Glick’s article does provide the basis for a broader examination of Obama’s foreign policy.

Like all political candidates running for higher office, then-Senator Barack Obama was highly critical of the policies of the then-incumbent presidency of George W. Bush.  In a major speech during his campaign for the presidency, Senator Obama stated:

“I am running for President of the United States to lead this country in a new direction - to seize this moment's promise. Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America - once again - to lead.”

Towards that goal of diverging from the policies of the Bush Administration, the Obama campaign, and the newly-established administration that followed the 2008 elections, set about redirecting U.S. foreign policy.  Criticisms of the Bush Administration are warranted and instructive, to some degree.  The Iraq War, in particular, proved a costly and highly questionable endeavor executed for mistaken reasons (in effect, the weapons of mass destruction that turned out to have already been dismantled by Iraq in the years prior to the invasion).  Additionally, there is no question that the preparations for and invasion of Iraq in March 2003 drained vital military resources away from the military operations underway in Afghanistan intended to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban.  Where President Obama, Vice President Biden (brought onto the campaign ticket to provide the neophyte Obama with the appearance of foreign policy gravitas), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and senior-level White House foreign policy officials were all gravely mistaken was in the assumption that just because George W. Bush viewed certain foreign governments a certain way that former President Bush must have been wrong.  Such was certainly the case with regard to U.S. relations with Russia, China, and Iran, three of this nation’s most pressing foreign policy challenges.  When Vice President Biden, in a well-publicized February 7, 2009 speech at an annual international security conference in Munich, Germany, stated that “it's time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia,” he was expressing the Obama Administration’s ill-considered notion that the previous presidential administration – that of George W. Bush – had fundamentally misdirected the tone of U.S. policy towards Russia.  The Obama Administration came to office imbued with a sense of a mission to “correct” American policy towards countries like Russia and Iran that it believed would be responsive to a more conciliatory approach.  That approach can, logically, be considered to have been a massive failure.  Russian politics, history and culture were not shaped by the Bush Administration.  The ascendency to the pinnacle of power in Russia of Vladimir Putin, an extremely autocratic figure whose formative years were spent in the service of the former Soviet Union’s secret police, the KGB, marked a major “reset” of Russian foreign policy from that of Putin’s predecessors, Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, the former blamed by many Russians for the dissolution of the Russian Empire, the latter a hopelessly corrupt drunk.  The notion that this autocratic dictator would be amendable to a more conciliatory American approach was badly mistaken, as was the Obama Administration’s efforts at reaching out to the theocratic tyranny ruling Iran.  The seizure of the Crimean Peninsula and active military support for the destabilization of Ukraine are testament to the extent to which Obama, Biden, Clinton and others in the administration miscalculated in their approach to Russia.

With respect to the war on terrorism, again, the Obama Administration made the classic mistake of assuming that whatever its predecessor did must have been wrong.  Where Glick is right in her critique of President Obama is in her focus on the president’s failure to understand the dynamics on the ground in Libya, both during and following that country’s revolution.  Even there, however, her own perceptions are too narrow.  The war on terror has not been as focused on the chain of command within al-Qaeda that begins at the top with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former Egyptian physician turned terrorist leader who succeeded Usama bin Laden.  Glick, an Israeli journalist currently affiliated with a very conservative U.S. foreign policy institute, the Center for Security Policy, based in Washington, D.C., ignored the myriad counterterror operations routinely conducted around the world by U.S. military and intelligence forces, including in the southern Philippines, in Somalia, and in Yemen, the latter being the base of operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the more deadly branches of the organization.  It is unfair, therefore, to suggest that the current administration has ignored al-Qaeda offshoots and branches not directly associated with al-Zawahiri. 

If there is one glaring example, however, of a failed counterterrorism strategy, it is in the events currently underway in Iraq.  Candidate and President Obama made the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq a centerpiece of his foreign policy.  That’s fine as far as it goes; part of the equation, however, involved a pledge to continue to conduct counterterrorism operations in Iraq on an as-needed basis.  That, obviously, was not done, and the president’s rejection of Iraqi requests to assist in combating the Islamist militants that subsequently seized major cities in Iraq proved catastrophic, perhaps his greatest foreign policy failure to date.

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