Foreign and Defense Policy

5 reasons America isn’t better off than it was 4 years ago when it comes to foreign policy

Image: U.S. Army (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image: U.S. Army (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

1.) Terrorism: Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead, though the president didn’t actually kill the terrorist leader himself. But the Obama counterterrorism tactic of blowing people up coupled with what promises to be a pell mell retreat from Afghanistan will mean that both Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan could again fall under the sway of al Qaeda. And that doesn’t begin to contemplate the spread of al Qaeda through Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere (think Sinai). Killing terrorists one by one does not a strategy make.

2.) A weak military: The primary role of a strong military isn’t to fight war, it’s to discourage others from considering the prospect. The U.S. military is weaker than it has been at almost any other period in the modern era. To crib from my colleague Mackenzie Eaglen’s recent WSJ piece:

“President Obama’s 2013 budget request would purchase the fewest aircraft since 1916. Many of the Air Force’s aerial refueling tankers predate human space flight. Training aircraft are twice as old as the students flying them. The F-15 fighter first flew 40 years ago. A-10 ground-attack planes were developed in the Carter years. The Navy is the smallest it has been since 1916. And all of our B-52 bombers predate the Cuban missile crisis.”

3.) China: The threat from China has been well documented – double digit growth in investment in its military, new blue water ambitions, anti-satellite and cyber weaponry – and Beijing is steadily working to drive the U.S. and everyone else out of the South China Sea. But there’s another threat from China as well: Economic collapse. The Chinese economy is in dire shape (needless to say, not America’s fault); the implications of a communist authoritarian regime that can’t manage internal unrest, cracks down, lashes out, and worse are serious for both U.S. economic and security interests, not to speak of our allies in Asia. Obama’s so-called “pivot” to Asia is virtually empty rhetoric, as in short order the military will not be able to sustain a substantial Pacific role and at the same time manage threats in the Middle East. Which brings us to…

4.) The Middle East: Egypt has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Qaeda is infiltrating the Sinai. 25,000 are dead in Syria. The Saud dynasty is likely within a few short years to undergo its greatest generational shift in history. Hezbollah dominates Lebanon. NATO ally Turkey is among the most anti-American countries in the world. And Iran is still developing nuclear weapons. The Obama administration has had no strategy to successfully manage any of these challenges. In five years, the Middle East could be unrecognizable, and even more hostile to U.S. interests and U.S. allies than ever before.

5.) Europe: The splintering of the European Union and the Euro and the rise of Russia have drawn little interest from the Obama administration except insofar as they threaten his reelection. But the future of Europe is far from certain and the economic collapse of some among Washington’s NATO partners is not likely to make the world a safer place. Since World War II, for better or worse, we have worked closely with Europe to ensure the stability of the liberal international order. But much of the EU will be doing little beyond swimming in red ink for the coming years, and paired with our own diminished power projection, the vacuum will provide opportunities to those seeking to challenge the order we have come to take for granted. Russia, while not the USSR, is spending significant effort to stymie international efforts to manage a variety of challenges (viz Syria, Iran). Moscow cannot succeed in the long term against a united Europe and a determined America. In the absence of both, there will be opportunities to make smaller problems large.

What have I left out? The collapse of the U.S.-India partnership. North Korea. South America’s leftward drift. Extremism in Africa. Failure to advance an international trade agenda. A lot.

But each of 1-5 alone is enough to cause the American people major headaches.  Together, they make clear the case that our nation is less safe than it was four years ago.

6 thoughts on “5 reasons America isn’t better off than it was 4 years ago when it comes to foreign policy

  1. Now THIS is a brilliant remark. Do you people actually screen your contributors?

    “Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead, though the president didn’t actually kill the terrorist leader himself.”

    Did you expect the President to PERSONALLY go to OBL’s compound and challenge him to a fist fight?

    This is got to be the lamest comment I have ever seen on ANY political or economic website, and believe me, I have seen LAME.

    “President Truman did end WWII by dropping the atomic bomb. But let’s face it: It’s not like he piloted the Enola Gay himself or anything.”

    God almighty, when does it end?

    • Yeah but Truman did not go around bragging about it like Obama does.

      It was a 10 year operation, and considering they found him in Pakistan is really scary.

  2. Ugh. You are the worst.

    1) I’ll let Max handle that one.

    2) A-10s are being retired, B-52s are still on the docket because they are the best asset for the job; new flashy equipment such as the F-35 or the LCS which we are buying does not seem to reach Ms. Pletka’s assessment; because then she’d have to acknowledge all the problems our procurement process has
    More to the point the defense budget today is more than double what it was in 2006!! which is several times larger than in the 1990s and comparable to Cold War spending. Do we really think terrorism is equal to the Soviet Union in terms of our resource allocations? Most Americans don’t.

    3) China. So now we must also intervene because Ms. Pletka is not pleased with how China organizes its own economy? More to the point, the “pivot to Asia” happened just a few months ago so pretty impossible to assess properly. Moreover, it has been followed by remarkable diplomatic bandwagoning by SE Asian countries on a US plank, massive military sales to build an anti-Chinese coalition; but again, since we hate Pres. Obama, we won’t acknowledge any of that.

    3) The Muslim Brotherhood did not “take over” Egypt; it was democratically elected – you know the core value that American foreign policy revolves around. Hezbollah’s hold on Lebanon is significantly weaker today than at any point in past 5 years. Turkey is anti-American, but again repeatedly shown to be on roughly the same page with the US when it comes to strategic priorities (except on Israel, which is really what Ms. Pletka means), Syria… well until Ms. Pletka sends her kid to fight Syria, the less said the better.

    5) Europe – well done, you have stated that the EU has problems. The inability of Europe to finance its own security umbrella has been a problem for decades, not just the last five years but thanks for noticing…

    6) To say a US-India partnership is in “collapse” is just a lie. A flat lie.

    7) North Korea? You mean the country that is now militarily outmatched by South Korea alone, on the verge of collapse, losing support from even China, and is still ringed by our overwhelming firepower? Oh and never mind its missiles don’t really make it off the ground anymore, hyperbole works better

    I’m done. AEI does great work sometimes. This is most definitely not one of them.

    • You know we still have troops(more troops then any where else) on the border between North and South Korea if South Korea could defend it’s self why don’t we just leave.

      • Because AEI would have a fit?

        I don’t oppose us offering security agreements to key allies, and making them credible – i.e. having troops in the DMZ – so I’m not quibbling that.

        South Korea IS now militarily more powerful than the North, but whether you believe that or not, to argue that North Korea is really a serious “threat” to the US that we desperately need to do something about is just flat out laughable.

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