This week marks the one year anniversary of the president’s election to commander chief, but it seems more like an occasion for concern than for slapping high-fives.
It is not hard to craft comparisons between Carter and the current occupant of the Oval Office. Both entered office with high expectations; both vowed to change the tone in Washington and remake the world. Carter had a terrible sophomore slump. America’s enemies took stock of his foreign policy in his first year in office. The next year they exploited the weaknesses they found. His presidency never recovered. Obama may also be setting himself up for the fall.
In many ways, Obama has mimicked Carter’s foreign policy priorities. The most noticeable Carter-like act from the White House is gutting defense. Faced with a poor economy and a post-Vietnam distaste for military power, Carter took a “peace dividend” that left the military hollow. He disguised his defense by arguing he was transforming the military with a new strategy. That certainly did not fool the Russians, who took American retrenchment as a sign to step up aggression from South Asia to Africa to the doorsteps of the US in Latin America.
Obama is trying a similar strategy. Heritage defense analyst Baker Spring rightly argues that the administration’s long-term plans for the Pentagon are a train wreck just waiting to happen. Even our allies see this one coming. Recently, Australia produced its new defense blueprint and pushed through a surge in defense spending, predicted largely on the belief that they could not longer count on the America as a resolute defense partner in the years ahead.
The president has also opted on the old tried-and-totally unproven strategy of arms control “uber alles.” He has subordinated virtually every defense and foreign policy priority to signing new treaties limiting strategic weapons. Most damaging, he has started to gut the missile defense programs that would protect the nation and its allies from attack. While the White House has denied they are taking large backward steps, Heritage analysis finds otherwise. Indeed, it is likely that the administration’s course on arms control may result in more states owning nuclear weapons and the missiles that carry them.
On the foreign policy front, the administration’s “soft power” strategy that relies almost exclusively on negotiations and international institutions like the UN has little to show for it