No subject has occupied the attention of the commentators in recent weeks more than the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The missing plane got a huge share of attention, but not as much as keeping track of our inept foreign policy team as they dealt with Putin’s in-our-face annexation of Crimea.
Our foreign policy team seems to consist only of Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama. If there is any input sought (or offered) from the foreign affairs committees of the Senate or House of Representatives or from the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security it is well camouflaged.
As if this week, Obama’s cumulative foreign policy achievements are pretty much non-existent. There is, in the world, an almost unanimous perception that the U.S. has either chosen on purpose to weaken our position of leadership in the world or is hopelessly incompetent. Both perceptions are accurate!
Obama opened his first term with the apology tour, then helped incite the "Arab Spring" disaster in Egypt, abandoned the missile defense that was promised to Poland and the Czech Republic, took a "what difference does it make?" approach to the murders of our diplomats in Benghazi, then offered the Russians a "reset" of relations which they didn’t even ask for! Any one of these might be considered as merely a mistake. However, all of them in a series, taken as a whole, have to be regarded as an intended long term policy in operation.
Delusion number one is Obamas’s apparent world view that the first 200 years of American foreign policy were a mistake. Becoming self-reliant and protecting the independence of Latin America while being decisive in preventing would-be aggressors such as Germany (twice), Japan and Russia from achieving world domination by totalitarian regimes was somehow not a good thing. Delusion number two is that the rest of the world powers, including our enemies, share his benign view of how to resolve differences.
Obama is the only major leader who believes that somehow in the 21st Century the goals, grievances and tensions that have motivated countries and cultures to behave aggressively toward each other for several lifetimes will be resolved by some mysterious new order of good will. Secretary Kerry’s reaction to the Crimea annexation was a speech which said, "this is not how we act in the 21st Century" and that Russia has to understand that such behavior is no longer acceptable according to the new norms.
Ignorance of the situation, as well as how foreign policy is actually conducted, is rampant. I.e., last week Obama stated that Russia is only a "Regional" power, not a world power. Doesn’t he realize that the Russian "Region" covers nine time zones, that Russia borders the U.S., Japan, Korea, China, Iran and nine eastern European nations plus Ukraine? Doesn’t he see the problems caused by Russian moves to stall our attempts to soften Iran’s nuclear program? Doesn’t he see any connection between his proclamations that "Assad must go" and any use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a Red Line that would cause the U.S. to react actually led to a greater role for Russia and Iran in Syria and the rest of Middle East? Doesn’t he realize that announcing major cuts in U.S. military strength the same week that Crimea was being annexed might not be a shrewd strategic gambit?
Saudi Arabia is now talking of starting its own nuclear program. Israel’s defense minister has publicly questioned the U.S. resolve to honor our pledges to defend Israel. North Korea is again launching missiles over South Korea into the Sea of Japan. China has begun an aggressive policy toward Japan, and has increased the size of their naval presence in all of the waters they consider to be their sphere of influence.
Diplomacy is somewhat like a high stakes card game. It frequently happens that a strong player with weaker cards reads his opponent well and wins with a bluff or a finesse. Weak players with stronger cards usually lose, especially when they pursue a strategy that tells their opponents that they are not in it to win it.
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.