CARDENAS: Obama charisma not working in foreign policy

Approval ratings have dropped across the globe

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One of the most talked-about and tweeted segments of the final presidential debate on foreign policy involved President Obama’s Middle East tour at the beginning of his term. This tour, incidentally, did not include a stop in Israel — a country that the president has never visited while in office.

Mitt Romney rightly called it an “apology tour,” based on the comments made by the president. Mr. Obama reacted by retorting, “That is a whopper.” Apparently, he is the one with “Romnesia.”

In April 2009 in France, Mr. Obama apologized for American “arrogance.”

Two months later in Egypt, Mr. Obama apologized for actions “contrary to our traditions and our ideals” after Sept. 11, 2001. There are many more examples.

A review of the president’s 2008 campaign clearly reveals that the centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda involved his self-described charisma and ability to “win over” the support of heads of state who had heretofore been our adversaries.

Poll after poll indicate that this president has worn out his welcome and his popularity since taking office, even in places such as China, Russia and the Middle East.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2009, 78 percent of Europeans approved of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. Now, only 63 percent do. Among Muslim nations, his average approval rating has plunged from 34 percent to 15 percent. Similar declines have occurred in China, Japan, Russia and Mexico.

Now that the message of hope has soured, what is there to expect in our foreign policy for the next four years? It starts here at home.

During this fiscal crisis in America — unlike anything we have seen since the Great Depression — it is difficult to forecast that foreign policy will garner much attention as voters focus on their presidential choice Nov. 6.

Indeed, never have our foreign and domestic policies been so intertwined.

Our greatest national security challenges emerge from our lack of sound domestic policies.

Our national debt, gross domestic product forecasts and a weakened dollar have created our biggest international vulnerabilities. Even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged this threat in November 2010.

Our lack of sound energy policy continues to create a trade imbalance of more than $500 billion a year — and much of these wealth transfers are going to countries such as Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

A strong domestic economic policy under a President Romney will create a robust national energy initiative, creating more than 3 million new jobs and getting our country on the road to energy independence within a decade. It will also lead us to a balanced budget within 10 years and stop the out-of-control debt from further eroding our strength abroad. When foreign nations own almost 50 percent of our $16 trillion debt, and China alone holds 12 percent of it, we are weakened at every international forum of which the U.S. is a part.

Also, our military capabilities, diplomatic record and trade policies are the subject of appropriate scrutiny and review, and in every instance the Obama administration has set back our nation in many unfortunate ways.

First, let’s not forget that the president long ago proposed and enacted a $487 billion cut to our defense spending, long before sequestration became an issue. It appears that the White House failed to inform its own secretary of defense, who protested that these cuts were intolerable and would reduce our capabilities to troubling levels.

Second, his budgets have shaped our military strategy — not vice-versa — and that is dangerous for our safety and that of our allies. For example, Mr. Obama announced plans for an intensified presence in the Pacific Rim and South China Sea. Yet the U.S. Navy has been decimated to its lowest levels in almost a century, and the president’s cuts mean that strengthening our naval capabilities is not possible.

Third, in modern times we have always had enough troop strength to fight in two separate fronts, if necessary. The president is downgrading this capability to only one engagement at a time — which is a serious weakness.

Peace through strength was President Reagan’s motto, and it is precisely what we will have under a President Romney, who plans to fortify our defenses. In his own words, Mr. Romney believes “in a military that is so strong, no one would test it.”

Fourth, our diplomatic scorecard is weak. Mr. Obama has allowed China to cheat on trade; given unilateral, costly concessions to Russia; stood by while the Middle East has gone from an Arab Spring to a smoldering mess — far worse than it was four years ago; and forgotten about Latin America, where the growing drug trade and narcotrafficking has had repercussions for our neighbors and increased violence at home.

Lastly, there are 100 trade agreements being negotiated in the world today. Our country is involved in only one of them. This is a pathetic and troubling performance — stymied by domestic pressure from union bosses and radical environmental groups allied with Mr. Obama.

The president’s style of diplomacy has worn out its welcome, and his foreign policy strategies have not worked. America and the free world need a new commander in chief.

Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union.

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