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In 1976, amid some of the coldest days of the Cold War, Carter mounted a blistering foreign policy attack on the Ford administration. “Our country is not strong anymore; we’re not respected anymore,” he said, adding, “we are weak and the rest of the world knows it.”
Four years later, Reagan leveled the same attack at Carter’s failed foreign policy by listing the many places where Carter’s doctrine of moral equivalence and appeasement had devastated U.S. interests: “A Soviet combat brigade trains in Cuba, just 90 miles from our shores. A Soviet army of invasion occupies Afghanistan…America’s defense strength is at its lowest ebb in a generation, while the Soviet Union is vastly outspending us in both strategic and conventional arms…Our European allies, looking nervously at the growing menace from the East, turn to us for leadership and fail to find it. And incredibly, more than 50 of our fellow Americans have been held captive for over eight months by a dictatorial foreign power that holds us up to ridicule before the world,” Reagan declared. “Disasters are overtaking our nation without any real response from Washington,” he added, pounding Carter for “self-deceit” and “transparent hypocrisy.”
That brings us back to the current administration. Obama, it pays to recall, premised his entire 2008 campaign on how decidedly different his views on Iraq in specific and national security in general were from his opponents. Alongside his two autobiographies, his stance on the Iraq war was all that his campaign was about. In fact, as his campaign gathered momentum and supporters, he launched broadsides against the Bush administration’s efforts to rescue Iraq—attacking the surge while American troops were in the field.
But back then, criticizing the president was considered courageous by the press. Not so today. Even as Obama’s lead-from-behind doctrine smolders, to criticize this president’s foreign policy is “irresponsible” and “craven” and “disgraceful.”
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