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The short-lived restoration of American prestige wrought by George Bush’s routing of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the destruction of the Hussein regime in Iraq soon dissipated in the administration of Barack Obama and his promise to “embrace a new era of engagement” and a “new way forward” with America’s enemies. In practice this has meant his solicitous “outreach” to thug regimes like Iran and Syria, the appeasing and unreciprocated “reset” of relations with Russia, the Carter-like pledges that America would be a “partner mindful of his own imperfections,” the undercutting and hounding of stalwart allies like Israel, the craven apologies to the Muslim world for a “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims,” and the abandonment of unsavory allies like Hosni Mubarak, who nonetheless better served America’s interests than the Muslim Brothers soon to run Egypt are likely to.
All we have gained from Obama’s “new way forward” is further damage to our prestige, and the perception that America is an unreliable friend and a contemptible enemy. Iran blusters, threatens, and continues to work furiously on obtaining nuclear weapons, with the patent support of Russia and China. Russia ignores our sermons on international morality and provides diplomatic and material support to Syria’s Bashar al Assad’s brutal slaughter of his citizens. Our precipitous withdrawal from Iraq promises to squander all that has been gained for the last 9 years and to further strengthen Iran. The Taliban have marked our announced 2014 withdrawal date from Afghanistan on their calendars, in the meantime tempting us into “peace negotiations,” and demanding as the price just for starting talks the release of their murderous colleagues from Guantanamo, 5 of whom Obama is thinking of releasing as a “good will gesture.” The allegedly “moderate” Palestinian Authority is moving closer to forming a unity government with the genocidal Hamas, without any worries that the near $1 billion in U.S. financial support will stop. And most recently, the interim Islamist government in Egypt has indicted 16 American NGO workers and kept the 6 still in Egypt from leaving the country, virtually kidnapping them. Like the Palestinians, the Egyptians don’t respect us enough to fear that we will cut off the more than $1.5 billion in annual aid.
In short, thanks to Obama’s foreign policy, our enemies and rivals do not believe that we will vigorously defend our interests and citizens. We have the most lethal military power in the history of the world, but we lack the prestige based on the certainty of friend and foe alike that we will use that power to protect our friends and punish our enemies. Great powers decline for many reasons, but losing respect for their power is surely one of them.
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