Obama and Foreign Policy: Following in the Footsteps of Jimmy Carter
EARLY IN HIS PRESIDENCY, Jimmy Carter set about to alter US policy toward the Soviet Union. Six days after his inauguration he sent a letter to Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev, hailing the two countries’ “common efforts towards formation of a more peaceful, just, and humane world” and saluting Brezhnev’s supposed “aspiration for strengthening and preserving . . . peace.” In a commencement address at Notre Dame, he declared that Americans had shed “that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in that fear.” In the months that followed, Carter slashed the defense budget, scrapped the B-1 bomber, welcomed the takeover of Nicaragua by a Marxist junta, and launched diplomatic relations with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.Obama, like Carter, is simply your garden variety liberal. As such, he believes that if we have any enemies it’s our fault that they don’t like us. It couldn’t possibly be that there are evil people in the world (like Communists and radical jihadists) who hate us because of our superior institutions and belief system. Rather, our institutions and belief system are (at best) no better than others, or (more typically) inferior.
Carter’s failure to understand the threat posed by the Soviet Empire had costly consequences for America and the world. Will this pattern now be repeated with Barack Obama and the global threat from radical Islam?
Ever since taking office two weeks ago, Obama has been at pains to proclaim a change in US-Muslim relations. In his inaugural address he invited “the Muslim world” to embark on “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Six days later he gave Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language satellite channel, his first televised interview as president. This week he continued his charm offensive with a friendly letter to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which represents 57 Muslim governments. He has promised to deliver a major address in an Islamic capital by spring.
The president cannot be faulted for using his bully pulpit to reach out to the world’s Muslims, especially given his Muslim roots and family ties. But running through Obama’s words is a disconcerting theme: that US-Muslim tensions are a mostly recent phenomenon brought on largely by American provincialism, heavy-handedness, and disrespect. Missing is any sense that the United States has long been the target of jihadist fanatics who enjoy widespread support in the Muslim world.
“My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy,” Obama said, although “we sometimes make mistakes” and “have not been perfect,” and even though “too often the United States starts by dictating” and fails to use “the language of respect.”
Such apologetic pandering is inexcusable. For decades, as commentator Charles Krauthammer noted last week, “America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them.” To liberate oppressed Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Americans risked -- and in many cases lost -- their lives.
Even more troubling is Obama’s seeming cluelessness about US-Muslim history.
“The same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago -- there’s no reason why we can’t restore that,” the president said on Al-Arabiya.
Well, let’s see. Twenty years ago, in 1989, American hostages were being tortured by their Hezbollah captors in Beirut and hundreds of grief-stricken families were in mourning for their loved ones, murdered by Libyan terrorists as they flew home for Christmas on Pan Am Flight 103. Thirty years ago, in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah of Iran, proclaimed America “the Great Satan” and inspired his acolytes to seize the US embassy and hold scores of Americans hostage for nearly 15 months. That same year Islamist mobs destroyed the US embassies in Pakistan and Libya, and staged anti-American riots in other countries.
Thus, all one needs is to “understand” the point of view of our enemies, and “dialogue” with them.
Ronald Reagan was willing to “dialogue” with Communists, but only from a position of strength, and with the clear understanding that Communism was an evil philosophy and that the Cold War was their fault. Which is why he was a great president, and Carter is an object of ridicule.
The global jihad, like the Cold War, will only end when our enemies lose their will to fight -- or when we do. Let us hope [Obama’s] a quicker study than Jimmy Carter.There is no evidence he will be.