john bolton views Obama’s foreign policy

14Sep11

Here’s the problem:

With Russia, naïveté is Obama’s dominant flaw. He believed, incredibly, that by canceling planned missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, and broadly scaling back plans for national missile defense; agreeing to the ill-advised New START arms-control treaty; and turning a blind eye to Moscow’s ongoing reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union, he could persuade Russia to look kindly on American interests elsewhere. But appeasement, needless to say, has brought nothing but scorn from Moscow. And, incredibly, Obama’s naïveté has not diminished in the face of it. Administration officials this summer quickly concluded that a bomb, attributed to Russian intelligence, which was detonated near our embassy in Georgia, was actually “an attempt to poke the Georgians in the eye, not the U.S.” Indeed. In early August, China began initial sea trials for its first aircraft carrier. While years away from posing a direct threat to the U.S. Navy, China’s carrier reflects a wider expansion of both its conventional land and naval forces (including submarines) and its strategic-weapons capabilities. Coupled with increasingly assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea and bolder efforts to control transit rights in other nearby international waters, Beijing’s arms buildup foreshadows a major challenge to America and its Asian friends. In response, Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing. More seriously, his administration also refused to sell to Taiwan the most advanced models of F-16 fighter-bombers.

 

China’s focus on area-denial, anti-access weapons systems also underscores its objectives. If China can hold the U.S. Navy at bay and at risk, it can dramatically enhance its drive toward hegemony in East and Southeast Asia. To achieve this goal, Beijing does not need to be a global peer competitor to Washington militarily; it must only be capable of neutralizing the Western Pacific naval dominance we have enjoyed since 1945. Countering such a threat should be a serious priority at the Pentagon, but doing anything consequential would, of course, require additional financial resources for personnel and weapons systems.

Here in particular America is at risk. Obama’s personal and philosophical weakness is revealed most palpably in his view of the national-security budget. Deep spending cuts ($400 billion) in Obama’s first three Pentagon fiscal years, when virtually every other agency and entitlement program was enjoying substantial, indeed extravagant, increases, were already painful enough. But truly staggering is the combination of the further defense cuts ($350 billion) Obama ordered at the start of this year, which are now essentially written into the first tranche of cuts in the compromise legislation raising the debt ceiling, not to mention to the $500–600 billion in additional cuts that will be required if the recent debt-ceiling legislation’s “trigger mechanism” kicks in.

Had Obama openly proposed defense cuts of such magnitude, conservatives would surely have risen in furious opposition. But in the blue smoke and mirrors of arcane budget debates, Obama has succeeded beyond his wildest ideological fantasy. The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson wrote that the debt-ceiling deal “reflects liberal preferences” and was “mostly a triumph of the welfare state over the Pentagon.” With conservatives scoring “own goals” (as the Europeans say in soccer) like this, no wonder Obama sees virtue in “leading from behind.”

Obama is too sinuous a politician to admit this growing record of failure, but that very sinuousness also explains much of his problem. He combines an inability to perceive threats — by not understanding that real differences exist between countries, not just poor communication — with inattention and laziness, naïveté, ideology, and faith in negotiation. His administration’s foreign policy has thus produced a sorry record, with every prospect for an even sorrier future.

Tracing these factors to their logical conclusions, we can see that Obama is simply an invention; there is less to him than meets the eye. Worse than being merely doctrinaire, he is hollow at the center. And that is most assuredly not what we need today, or for another presidential term.

— John Bolton, a former U.S. representative to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Surrender Is Not an Option. This article appeared in the September 19, 2011, issue of National Review.


With Russia, naïveté is Obama’s dominant flaw. He believed, incredibly, that by canceling planned missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, and broadly scaling back plans for national missile defense; agreeing to the ill-advised New START arms-control treaty; and turning a blind eye to Moscow’s ongoing reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union, he could persuade Russia to look kindly on American interests elsewhere. But appeasement, needless to say, has brought nothing but scorn from Moscow. And, incredibly, Obama’s naïveté has not diminished in the face of it. Administration officials this summer quickly concluded that a bomb, attributed to Russian intelligence, which was detonated near our embassy in Georgia, was actually “an attempt to poke the Georgians in the eye, not the U.S.”   Indeed.

  In early August, China began initial sea trials for its first aircraft carrier. While years away from posing a direct threat to the U.S. Navy, China’s carrier reflects a wider expansion of both its conventional land and naval forces (including submarines) and its strategic-weapons capabilities. Coupled with increasingly assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea and bolder efforts to control transit rights in other nearby international waters, Beijing’s arms buildup foreshadows a major challenge to America and its Asian friends. In response, Obama sent Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing. More seriously, his administration also refused to sell to Taiwan the most advanced models of F-16 fighter-bombers.

China’s focus on area-denial, anti-access weapons systems also underscores its objectives. If China can hold the U.S. Navy at bay and at risk, it can dramatically enhance its drive toward hegemony in East and Southeast Asia. To achieve this goal, Beijing does not need to be a global peer competitor to Washington militarily; it must only be capable of neutralizing the Western Pacific naval dominance we have enjoyed since 1945. Countering such a threat should be a serious priority at the Pentagon, but doing anything consequential would, of course, require additional financial resources for personnel and weapons systems.

Here in particular America is at risk. Obama’s personal and philosophical weakness is revealed most palpably in his view of the national-security budget. Deep spending cuts ($400 billion) in Obama’s first three Pentagon fiscal years, when virtually every other agency and entitlement program was enjoying substantial, indeed extravagant, increases, were already painful enough. But truly staggering is the combination of the further defense cuts ($350 billion) Obama ordered at the start of this year, which are now essentially written into the first tranche of cuts in the compromise legislation raising the debt ceiling, not to mention to the $500–600 billion in additional cuts that will be required if the recent debt-ceiling legislation’s “trigger mechanism” kicks in.

Had Obama openly proposed defense cuts of such magnitude, conservatives would surely have risen in furious opposition. But in the blue smoke and mirrors of arcane budget debates, Obama has succeeded beyond his wildest ideological fantasy. The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson wrote that the debt-ceiling deal “reflects liberal preferences” and was “mostly a triumph of the welfare state over the Pentagon.” With conservatives scoring “own goals” (as the Europeans say in soccer) like this, no wonder Obama sees virtue in “leading from behind.”

Obama is too sinuous a politician to admit this growing record of failure, but that very sinuousness also explains much of his problem. He combines an inability to perceive threats — by not understanding that real differences exist between countries, not just poor communication — with inattention and laziness, naïveté, ideology, and faith in negotiation. His administration’s foreign policy has thus produced a sorry record, with every prospect for an even sorrier future.

Tracing these factors to their logical conclusions, we can see that Obama is simply an invention; there is less to him than meets the eye. Worse than being merely doctrinaire, he is hollow at the center. And that is most assuredly not what we need today, or for another presidential term.

— John Bolton, a former U.S. representative to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of Surrender Is Not an Option. This article appeared in the September 19, 2011, issue of National Review.


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