Emperor Nero was said to have played the fiddle while Rome burned; Barrack Obama was busy working on his golf game while Iraq did the same. According to his press secretary Jay Carney, the president was fully engaged in that whole Iraq thing while he chipped and putted his way across Porcupine Creek, an exclusive golf club.
And maybe that’s where he should have been. I don’t know.
Thirteen years after the nation embarked, nearly unanimously, on the War on Terror and seventy years after emerging as the strongest power from the most cataclysmic war the world has ever known, most Americans are rather tired of “policing the world.” Besides being expensive, it’s also a thankless job. No one likes how we do it though our detractors certainly aren’t volunteering to expend their blood and treasure to show us how to do it better.
So Obama is doing nothing while the nation that we worked so hard to build teeters precariously on the abyss of the caliphate. Some might argue that we fought long and hard for the Iraqis, held their hands while they grew, trained them, equipped them, and now the time has come for Iraqi soldiers to defend Iraq. It’s their moment of truth, not ours. If they don’t stand up now, perhaps they never will.
The president’s inaction on Iraq should not be mistaken for dovish tendencies. Obama may have fooled a lot of people in 2008 into believing that he was some kind of peace candidate but his actions in the interim say otherwise.
“I’m really good at killing people,” he once remarked to campaign aides. And he is.
President Obama launched a new war in Libya; albeit an air war, which too many Americans don’t consider to be a “real war.” He really wanted to get involved in Syria too, perhaps because he’d shot his mouth off about “red lines,” though he dropped that plan after realizing that public support for intervention wasn’t even cracking double digits. He approved a “surge” of thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan and just recently extended our involvement there by two years. Perhaps Obama will be best known for sharply escalating the drone campaign. A little known fact about Obama is that he has fired more hellfire missiles that any other Nobel Peace Prize winner!
So he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and make bad guys die. Yet despite using drones like playtoys, Obama’s presidency marks an American retreat. I’ll leave that up to the reader to determine whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I know some conservatives and some liberals who can agree that sitting out the next global conflict would be just what the doctor ordered.
Where did it all begin? If I had to put a finger on it, I would say that it began in April of 2009 when, in the midst of his world apology tour, Mr. Obama bowed to the Saudi king. American presidents have not traditionally bowed before foreign leaders. We fought a revolution so that we wouldn’t have to. Though he lied and said that his obvious bow was not a bow, liberals pooh-poohed the whole thing, and pretty soon he was bowing to the Emperor of Japan, the president of China, a robot, and probably the bellhop at his hotel.
The message was clear: We’re not the same superpower we once were. We have been humbled.
Then he began making deep cuts to the military, which is usually a popular thing to do when most people have been deluded into believing that the military receives more funding than welfare programs or education, a preposterous lie. Proposed personnel cuts would reduce the Army in size to a number not seen since 1940. The future of the A-10 Thunderbolt, every infantryman’s best friend, is uncertain due to budget cuts. Long-held garrisons in Europe are being closed.
Not surprisingly, the bad guys of the world are misbehaving. In Egypt, a “pro-democracy” movement that looked suspiciously like a pro-Shariah law movement swept Hosni Mubarak, an American ally, from power. Russia tore away a piece of its neighbor, the Ukraine, without any fear of reprisal from the US or NATO. In Syria, Bashar Assad defied Obama’s “red lines” and (likely) used chemical weapons against his own people. In Iraq, a fledging force of Islamists is routing the Iraqi Army and taunting the United States.
This is what it looks like when the world’s only superpower decides it’s going to get in touch with its inner self.
American fingers have been plugging holes in too many levees for far too long. We’ve held back the North Koreans from attacking their southern cousins, but for how much longer? How many small former satellite states will Putin decide to invade? What’s to prevent China from taking Taiwan? If the Iranians create a worldwide economic catastrophe by blockading the Strait of Hormuz, who will stop them?
Not us. No one is afraid of big, bad America anymore.
It’s clear that the United States has been overextended. In every corner of the world, wherever there is a conflict, the United States picks a side and attempts to influence outcomes using hard or soft power. No other country takes foreign policy to such extremes. Never in the history of the world has one country attempted to do so much—pledging to defend nations such as Japan, Taiwan, and Germany, using its navy to fight piracy and keep the world’s shipping lanes open, battling the narcotics trade, and responding to humanitarian disasters. We do it all!
Whether we can keep doing it is doubtful. Besides the fact that we’re in debt, the young people of our nation, like most of their peers in post-industrial nations, aren’t joining the military in droves.
Yet we should not forget that the news we’re hearing now about the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, about ISIS in Iraq, and about a truculent Russian Federation, are really stories about declining American power. This is what happens when Team America: World Police decides to turn in its badge.