Speaking to graduates of West Point Military Academy May 28, 52-year-old Barack Obama plans to defend his foreign policy, justifying his multilateral diplomacy approach over his critics’ calls for a more interventionist policy. Hit by criticism over his policies in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pacific Rim and, more recently, Ukraine, Obama essentially ends the U.S. role as the world’s policeman during his remaining three years in office. Since coming to office Jan. 20, 2009, Obama has had to clean up the foreign policy messes of former President George W. Bush, whose interventionist foreign policy cost the U.S. over 6,800 military deaths and more than $2 trillion. While Sept. 11 left Bush no choice but to go after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Bin Laden escaped, leaving the rest of Operation Enduring Freedom essentially a 11-year nation-building project after toppling the Taliban in November 2003.
Obama spent the first three years of his presidency finally wrapping up the eight-year-long Iraq War Dec. 15, 2011. Now Obama will end longest military campaign in U.S. history-ending the Afghanistan campaign by year’s end. As hotspots emerged during his president, to his credit, Obama refused to get drawn into another military adventure, resisting calls from conservatives on Capitol Hill and his former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to intervene in Syria. Faced with only bad choices in Syria, Obama kept the U.S. out of another potentially costly Mideast civil war, despite calls from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)and others to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and set up a no-fly zone. Conservatives now blame Obama for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, pushing him to confront the Russian Federation in the Black Sea.
Taking the advice of practically every military advisor in the Pentagon, Obama steered clear of more confrontation with Russia. Putin’s forceful rebuke of Obama’s criticism and U.S. and European Union sanctions suggest that the White House got the policy right, not risking military involvement. Like his GOP critics on Capitol Hill, Obama has been too hasty to condemn Putin for not supporting the current post-revolutionary government that toppled Russian-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich Feb. 22 while Putin hosted the Sochi Olympics. While steering clear of military intervention, Obama has been too critical of Putin. When Hillary accused Putin March 4 of acting like Adolf Hitler, White House criticism went over the top, leading to more punitive sanctions. U.S. and EU officials exaggerated Putin’s intent, beyond protecting Russian interests in Ukraine.
Raising Putin’s lament about the 1991 end of the Soviet Union, Western officials, led by Obama, leaped to the unwarranted conclusion that Putin seeks to reinstate some facsimile of the Soviet Union. When Obama speaks at West Point Wednesday he’s going to tout his multilateral non-military approach. “You will hear the president discuss ho the United States will use all the tools in out arsenal without overreaching,” said an unnamed White House aid, emphasizing multilateralism over military intervention. While there’s nothing wrong with a non-interventionist style, there’s something very wrong with openly criticizing Putin, pushing sanctions and worsening U.S.-Russian relations. Whether admitted to or not, U.S.-Russian relations hit a post-Cold War low under Obama’s foreign policy. U.S. officials that still believe in linkage have watched Obama’s foreign policy grow weaker.
White House officials want to portray Obama has above-the-fray when it comes to foreign policy. Yet the strident tone of his rhetoric toward Putin has pushed U.S.-Russian relations to the lowest point since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. “He will lay out why the right policy is one that is both interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral,” said the White House officials, acknowledging nothing of Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric. It’s one thing to keep the U.S. out any new foreign wars, it’s still another to harm U.S.-Russian relations. There’s nothing Putin has done other than takeover Crimea that warrants the kind of belligerent tome that has driven Putin to denounce the United States. Whether admitted to or not by conservatives on Capitol Hill, bombing Syria or setting up no-fly zones would have made relations with Russia even worse than today.
Obama’s foreign policy can be summed up: No more foreign wars on my watch. While there’s value in recommitting U.S. resources at home, the fact that Obama hasn’t committed U.S. troops to new hotspots doesn’t translate into peace-through-diplomacy. There’s nothing peaceful or diplomatic about threatening Russia with more economic and travel sanctions. Most folks agree that the U.S. shouldn’t play the role of the world’s policeman but they object to Obama’s unwillingness to take a balanced approach with a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council. Instead of showing Ptuin more understanding in Ukraine, Obama’s endorsed Ukraine’s post-revolutionary leaders without considering fallout to U.S. foreign policy. Backing Ukraine’s post-revolutionary government without any regard for Russia has cost U.S. foreign policy dearly in an age of global terrorism.