EDITORIAL: Obama’s feats of weakness

Administration’s effort to boost global image has flopped

At the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev., on Monday, President Obama heaped praise on his foreign policy record. “Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America,” he said. “There’s more confidence in our leadership. We see it everywhere we go.” This raises the question: Where exactly has he been going?

Since Mr. Obama took office, the opinion of the United States generally has declined in every country surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, according to a report released in June. Despite the vaunted White House effort to reach out to Muslim-majority countries, U.S. favorability ratings in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan are below where they were in 2008, when George W. Bush was at the helm. The study notes that “opinion is generally against Obama in most of the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, with about half or more in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan saying Obama should not be elected again.”

That’s not to say nothing positive has happened on Mr. Obama’s watch. He presided over the takedown of Osama bin Laden, and he has excelled at killing terrorists by remote control. On the other hand, the START 2 nuclear arms agreement with Russia has proved a debacle for American nuclear strategy, and Russian President Vladimir Putin regards Mr. Obama with open contempt. All of the administration’s diplomatic frameworks, whether in North Korea, South Asia, Iran, Israel or the Middle East generally, have failed. Mr. Obama has shown no leadership regarding the continuing chaos in the Arab world, unless it has been leading from behind. The U.S. relationship with Israel has frayed significantly since 2009. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl said this week that with respect to Israel, Mr. Obama has “backed up his words with feats,” but that is an odd choice of words. One usually thinks of feats of strength, not feats of weakness.

Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters should be especially disappointed, because he has failed to deliver on their top priorities. The day he arrived in Washington, Mr. Obama vowed to close the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Three-and-a-half years later, it is still in operation. Mr. Obama put combating global warming at the top of the agenda, but he failed to provide the necessary leadership to reach international consensus on the issue. The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, under negotiation in New York, is likewise doomed, in part because the White House has abandoned the cause late in the game. In all these cases, Mr. Obama’s weakness benefited America because he was unable to seal these very bad deals.

There’s a reason Mr. Obama has not been a strong leader internationally. He never set out to be one because he has never believed in the exceptional mission of the United States. When he came into office, he promised the global community he would listen rather than lead. His instinct was to apologize instead of persuade. He would rather bow to foreign leaders than stand up for America.

The Washington Times

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