Obama as C-in-C?

The third week of March was not a good one for Barack Obama. The news cycle was dominated by tapes of the racist tirades of Jeremiah Wright, and by Obama’s efforts to distance himself from his long-time pastor and counselor.

Had the Wright tapes not emerged at that time, the news cycle might have been dominated by a speech that Obama delivered on March 19, 2008, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. In it, he offered voters a sketch of what American foreign policy might look like under President Barack Obama.

Although Obama’s view of the world is not as twisted as his pastor’s view, it is every bit as troubling. And that view informs his foreign policy prescriptions. In the speech, Obama revealed several disturbing elements that would define his foreign policy.

The first is Obama’s view that Islamist Terrorism is caused by poverty and inequality. Obama initially expressed this idea when he was an Illinois State Senator who aspired to be a U.S. senator. Speaking to an anti-war rally in October 2002, Obama explained why he was opposed to going to war in Iraq. He now wears this speech on his sleeve as proof that he was always opposed to the war.

It certainly did reveal his opposition to the war, but it also revealed a shockingly naïve view of Islamist terrorism. He said: “Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East … stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.” According to Obama, the desire to carry out suicide attacks in the name of Islam stems from “poverty and despair.”

Never mind that many of Al Qaeda’s recruits have come from privileged backgrounds.  And never mind that indoctrination in well-funded Wahabbi madrassa schools — not the lack of education — has produced thousands of jihadist fighters for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Obama’s supposition that terrorists just want their governments to stop “oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent,” is even more nonsensical. His equation of Islamist terrorists to western freedom fighters betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the enemy. A President Obama would attempt to solve the problem by cajoling moderate Middle-Eastern government into allowing freer speech, broadening civil rights, and launching American-style anti-poverty programs.  

This is, to quote Jeremy Bentham, “nonsense on stilts.” Islamist terrorists are not fighting for open, western-style democracies. They are fighting to impose Sharia law and silence all dissent. If anything, moderate Middle-Eastern governments are too open and too permissive, according to the Islamofacist worldview. Just ask the Iranians.

Three years in the senate have not cured Obama of his naivete. He continues to repeat this notion. On March 19, he insisted that America must invest “in education and opportunity” to defeat radical Islamism. It is as if Obama thinks that young men in Saudi Arabia join al Qaeda for the same reasons that young men in Chicago join a street gang. Scholarships and jobs won’t solve the problem.

The second element of Obama’s foreign policy flows from the first: his desire to send extraordinary amounts of economic assistance around the world to make Islamist terrorism go away. On March 19, he promised that he would double our economic assistance to foreign countries.  He would also double the size of the Peace Corps. His view of international problems is a simplistic one:  more American money means more American friends.

Obama opined with respect to Pakistan, “That is why we should dramatically increase our support for the Pakistani people — for education, economic development, and democratic institutions. That child in Pakistan must know that we want a better life for him, that America is on his side, and that his interest in opportunity is our interest as well.”  

In Obama’s world, it’s that simple. Expose the kid in Pakistan to the audacity of hope, and he’ll reject militant Islamism forever. Obama failed to offer any examples of countries in which this strategy has succeeded. But why let experience get in the way “change we can believe in?”

The third element is one that we are all familiar with — Obama’s pledge to get our soldiers out of Iraq as soon as possible. On March 19, he not only promised to end the war immediately, he also laid out a specific timetable: “I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove 1 to 2 combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them in 16 months.”

I’m sure Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent organizations appreciate Obama’s willingness to provide a precise timetable for withdrawal. If they are lucky, he’ll soon explain which brigades will leave first and which operations in Iraq will be immediately halted.

It is the height of irresponsibility for any presidential candidate to publicly lay out such a detailed timetable. This facilitates terrorist planning and allows them to determine when to launch their next waves of attacks. It also offers hope to those insurgents who may be on the verge of surrender. Why give up now, when in January 2009, a precipitous U.S. withdrawal will begin?

So much for listening to the advice of our military commanders in Iraq. Obama has a schedule to keep. Just when things are going our way and the surge is working, Obama would impose his naïve, brigade-a-month timetable. If he succeeds, we may just snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Chaos and genocide would surely follow.

And what will Obama do to ensure stability in Iraq when the troops are gone? “We will engage with every country in the region—and the UN—to support the stability and territorial integrity of Iraq.” In other words, we will ask Iran and Syria to play nice. And by merely “engaging” with them, we will convince them to support a free, open and stable Iraq.

Apparently, Obama is so impressed by the power of his own words to charm swooning Democratic voters, he thinks that a few choice phrases will melt the hearts of Iranian and Syrian leaders.

The fourth element of Obama’s foreign policy will be to apologize to the rest of the world for American unilateralism and seek greater popularity in the international community. As Obama explained on March 19, “[O]ur alliances around the world have been strained.”

He didn’t offer any evidence for that assertion. Nor did he address recent developments to the contrary. French and German voters have elected the most pro-American governments in decades. Seven years of bombings by Islamist terrorists throughout Europe have hardened European leaders to the threat they face and have increased their cooperation with U.S. counterterrorism programs.

Ignoring such evidence, Obama constantly complains that America needs to change its image in the world. He seems to believe that America must tailor it foreign policy to win the approval of the champagne-swilling, globalist crowd at Davos.

How do we win greater popularity in the world? According to Obama, “This means closing Guantanamo, restoring habeas corpus, and respecting civil liberties.” Translation: bring Taliban fighters and other terrorists captured in Afghanistan to prisons inside United States, try them like garden-variety criminals in U.S. courts, and dramatically scale back U.S. surveillance of terrorist organizations. All of this, even though no court has found that anyone’s civil liberties have been violated.

The last President who saw it as his central mission to curry favor with the rest of the world was Jimmy Carter. It was during his presidency that Islamist extremism began to spread like a wildfire throughout the Middle East. Despite Carter’s winning smile, it became fashionable in the region to burn American flags. As the Iranian hostage crisis demonstrated, not only did certain nations still not like us, they didn’t respect us either.

The fifth and final theme in Obama’s foreign policy is perhaps the most troubling. He twice told the audience in Fayetteville that America must adopt a new ideology. He said he was “running for President because it’s time to turn the page on a failed ideology.”

He later offered the following cryptic words: “An ideology that does not fit the shape of the times cannot shape events in foreign countries.”

One wonders what aspects of American ideology a President Obama would attempt to jettison. Would it be our commitment to democracy and self determination? Would it be our belief in free markets? Would it be our willingness to risk American lives so that other people may be freed from tyranny? Or would it be our rejection of Islamist extremism?

American ideology is, and always has been, a force for good in the world. And despite what Obama’s advisers are telling him, American voters aren’t looking for a leader who will apologize to the world on our behalf. Indeed, our allies aren’t looking for that either.

American leadership in the war against Islamist terrorism is precisely what our allies can least afford to lose. If America does not lead with resolve and force, it will be doubly difficult for our allies to defend themselves.

Obama’s prescription of offering billions of dollars in foreign aid along with a doubling of the number of Peace Corps volunteers will do nothing to stop the advance of militant Islamism in the world.  

In sum, Obama’s recent statements reveal a shocking naivety about the world, as well as a radical change of course that he would undertake in American foreign policy. This is one “change” that none of us can afford to believe in.