It’s a good thing that Obama isn’t running on his foreign policy record, because it’s every bit as bad as his economic record. The Obama 2012 website only lists National Security as an issue. That is already a backhanded admission that the only thing he can run on is Bin Laden.
No U.S. president since John F. Kennedy has come to office with more global goodwill than Mr. Obama; no U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has been so widely rebuked.
So writes Bret Stephens and lists some of the highlights of the rolling disaster.
His failed personal effort to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. His failed personal effort to negotiate a climate-change deal at Copenhagen in 2009. His failed efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran that year and this year. His failed effort to improve America’s public standing in the Muslim world with the now-forgotten Cairo speech. His failed reset with Russia. His failed effort to strong-arm Israel into a permanent settlement freeze. His failed (if half-hearted) effort to maintain a residual U.S. military force in Iraq. His failed efforts to cut deals with the Taliban and reach out to North Korea. His failed effort to win over China and Russia for even a symbolic U.N. condemnation of Syria’s Bashar Assad. His failed efforts to intercede in Europe’s economic crisis. (“Herr Obama should above all deal with the reduction of the American deficit” was the free advice German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble offered this year.)
In June, the Pew Research Center released one of its periodic surveys of global opinion. It found that since 2009, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. had slipped nearly everywhere in the world except Russia and, go figure, Japan. George W. Bush was more popular in Egypt in the last year of his presidency than Mr. Obama is today.
The big glaring problem with Obama’s approach is that he has gone in assuming that his anti-colonial resentments, so aptly documented by Dinesh D’Souza, will give him something in common with Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Putin. This was his mistake.
Obama’s hostility to American power may make the Swedish Nobel committee love him, but it only earns him contempt from enemies and allies. Like most of the left, Obama is unable to distinguish between realpolitik and ideology. He is unable to understand that being on the left does not mean he has something in common with Islamists and Communists. It means he is their useful idiot.
Strong nations or nations wishing to be strong don’t respect appeasement from their enemies, they despise it. Americans may see Obama as a foreigner, but foreigners see him as an American. Americans may see him as a Muslim, but Muslims see him as an apostate. Obama’s soft power has won him no respect, because the countries whose respect he wants to win with soft power, despise soft power.
Obama’s global failure is emblematic of the foreign policy failures of the left. The American left sees the world in terms of American politics. They think that the reason that other countries hate us is because we are on the right, rather than on the left. But other countries see us in terms of their politics. They don’t react to what we do, they react to what they want.
Our soft power has fed their perceptions of their own strength. The more that Obama appeases Iran, the stronger Iran thinks it is and the more likely it is to get into a conflict with the United States because of that false perception of strength.
This is a basic lesson that the left never learns.