The Dangerous Direction of Obama’s National Security and Foreign Policy

President Barack Obama makes a statement on a year-end bipartisan agreement to extend expiring tax cuts, 06 Dec 2010
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BY DANIEL DE GRACIA II AND BRANDON POSNER – “When your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue … It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”
–Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Following the American experience in Vietnam, civilian and military policymakers alike took a time-out to evaluate the war they had just fought. An academic revolution occurred in which policymakers discarded overused political taglines and invalidated myths about war and instead reached for classic texts like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. The result was a paradigm shift that affected not only warfighting but America’s entire outlook on national security and foreign policy.

Death Of The Weinberger Doctrine

Just as the ancient tactician Sun Tzu taught that “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight” the Reagan Administration developed the Weinberger Doctrine which established specific rules governing the use of American military force. New “smart” weapons were also developed which departed from the older tradition of overwhelming firepower and enabled policymakers both flexibility and superiority whenever wars were fought. America relied on a combination of diplomacy, intelligence and the deterrent of a solid, well-equipped military to preserve peace. Sun Tzu taught that victory was more than just defeating the enemy on the battlefield, it was defeating the enemy without even needing to resort to the battlefield. America learned that principle and America was secure.

The 21st century American national security and foreign policy weltanschauung of President Barack Obama is a drastic departure from the lessons learned during the post-Vietnam academic revolution. Whereas 80s doctrinaires such as Colin Powell advocated caution in diplomacy and restraint in military force – using the analogy of intervention being akin to breaking a vase (“you break it, you own it”) – it has become clear that Obama’s policy is a bull loose in the pottery shop of unlimited war and provocative diplomatic skirmishes. Obama’s most recent foreign policy address, made on May 19 at the State Department was in effect a promise to be at war with everything and everyone even as the United States at home suffers from a dying economy and an unsustainable debt.

Like George Orwell’s fictional world of Nineteen Eighty Four where one day the government asserts “We are at war with Eastasia!” only the next day to claim “We’ve never been at war with Eastasia!” the policies of the Obama nomenklatura are a confusing pattern which makes enemies out of our allies and allies out of our enemies in a fashion that is challenging for even the most experienced academic observer to make sense of. While Pakistan is labeled a unreliable ally for harboring al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, the United States is simultaneously assisting rebels in Libya whose number – according the U.S. Army’s own Sinjar Records intelligence white paper – includes affiliates of al Qaeda and persons related to individuals who launched insurgent strikes against Coalition forces in Iraq. This is just one of many bizarre contradictions of the Obama Administration which discredits the United States abroad and almost certainly promotes a terrorist blowback climate which leaves us less safe at home.

President Obama likewise noted in his State Department address that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”  Today, Israel is 45 miles wide. Under Obama’s vision, Israel’s land area would be some 8 miles narrow and wide open to attack by her neighbors. Israel would also lose Jerusalem. This is a radical departure from 2004 when the United States promised Israel that they would not have to withdraw their borders back to the 1967 lines.

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently pleaded with the United States since 1996 to consider how they would act if terrorists were engaging in regular strikes in New York, Miami or other American cities. President Obama’s foreign policy is in effect a statement to the Israeli people that we have the right to defend ourselves and act in our best interests but our allies do not. This kind of hypocritical, inconsistent and confusing policy alienates our partners abroad and embitters their populations against us.

It is time for a new academic revolution in America’s national security and foreign policy. We need to prioritize fiscal stability at home because just as Sun Tzu warned, an economically unsound America limits our capabilities to sustain and recapitalize our national defense and invites malevolent state and non-state actors to exploit our weakness. We also need to re-think the strategy of the way the United States fights the ongoing, multi-trillion dollar global war on terror (GWOT) in light of the fact that Russia and China are becoming increasingly powerful.  In 2008, the Rand Corporation think tank established that our GWOT operations often have the opposite effect of what we intend, causing conditions ripe for terrorist recruitment and diplomatically estranging us with foreign nations. The General Accounting Office in 2009 also warned that our ongoing commitments abroad have seriously impeded services like the US Air Force from modernizing and recapitalizing their inventory for domestic airspace sovereignty operations. We need to focus on making America safe, stable and capable of protecting the integrity of her own airspace, waterways and borders. We need an America that does not rely on costly, unlimited and unwinnable engagements to preserve peace and security.

We also can’t enter treaties that weaken our country. New START (SNV-III) is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. It requires both countries to reduce their nuclear missile launchers by half. President Obama has an idealistic yet ultimately impractical vision of a world without nuclear weapons. By reducing our strategic deterrence and defensive military capability, Obama accomplishes nothing but increase our exposure to a first strike by nuclear capable states. It is simply unwise for us to enter treaties that decrease our military power. As a matter of fact, Russia has already threatened to pull out of the treaty. President Dmitry Medvedev warned that if Russia and the United States don’t agree on a new missile shield, Russia will pull out of the START treaty. So now, not only has this treaty lowered our nuclear capability, but it prevents us from using our own defense technology. This treaty, and others like it, end with us having a weaker country than we started with.

The lesson that history has taught us is that stability through wisdom is better than exerting force in crisis. America cannot continue long in the course our President has set for our nation. Whereas in the past policymakers made the effort to study and act, today we need policymakers and the public at large to learn what it means to protect and preserve America’s place in the world. Will we succeed? The choice is ours.

Danny de Gracia is an economic advisor, a political scientist and a journalist who lives in Waipahu. Brandon Posner is a conservative guest columnist with The Intelligencer, a reporter for the Tea Party Patriots and the Vice Chair of the Bucks County Teenage Republican Party.