Military aircraft are outfitted with a telecommunications device called "identification, friend or foe" — IFF for short. It helps sort out the bad guys from the good guys, a useful tool when flying at the speed of sound, climbing to 30,000 feet. Nature field guides help wildlife enthusiasts and park rangers identify plant and animal species, aiding them to more effectively sort out the benevolent from the dangerous.
Though we don't normally associate telecommunications devices or field guides in sizing up people, perhaps President Obama could use something like it. It's clear he needs help in distinguishing between friends and enemies of the United States. After all, he's continued to extend olive branches to our fiercest adversaries, while throwing allies, both foreign and domestic, under the bus.
During Mr. Obama's nearly five years in office, he has created a "bizarro world," in which up is down and down is up. He's helped usher in anti-American Islamist governments across North Africa and the Middle East, and is soft on Russia, Iran, Syria and any al Qaeda, Taliban or terrorist affiliate detained by U.S. forces. Simultaneously, he's ruled domestic issues with an iron fist, demonizing the opposition so bitterly that even the Chicago political machine would blush.
Yet determining national friends and enemies must be about serving America's interests, not Mr. Obama's personal agenda, which has weakened us abroad and pushed us toward insolvency.
So here are suggestions for his field guide, starting with friends:
Veterans: They put their lives on the line to defend America and deserve our unwavering support. Holding them hostage to partisan politics related to the government shutdown, such as blocking compensation claims and possibly payments to 3.8 million vets, is unconscionable. Denying World War II veterans access to their memorial in Washington, which actually cost money for police to cordon off the open air monument with bicycle racks, is equally reprehensible.
The military: Of all the government functions to fund, the military should top the list; after all, it's spelled out in the Constitution. If the $1 trillion in defense cuts targeted at the military over the next decade isn't bad enough, the denial of death benefits, including burial reimbursements to family members of those killed in Afghanistan since the shutdown, adds insult to injury.
Members of Congress: Elected by the American people, they took the exact same oath to support and defend the Constitution. Though political parties have seen spirited debates since the Founding Fathers, the current nastiness toward another political party hasn't been this acute since the Civil War era. It's time to respect the Congress as an equal branch of government, regardless of political affiliation. Certainly, it's a two-way street, but as the nation's elected leader, he should take the high road and remain above the fray.
Now, let's point out enemies:
Iran's regime: Though newly elected President Hasan Rouhani has signaled a fresh approach to Iran's relations with the West, it's most likely for show. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran's real boss, and he's waged a low-level war against the United States for decades. Perhaps Iran is simply adjusting its public diplomacy strategy so cash-strapped and war-weary America and Europe will ease up on tough economic sanctions, thus allowing Iran to recover economically. Then the regime will continue with its clandestine nuclear program until it gets the bomb. Remember, Iran excels at chess. Let's stop playing checkers.
Vladimir Putin: The Russian "reset" button was an abysmal failure, as President Putin continues to bully his foes, including America and his immediate neighbors. The New START agreement led to Russia's 10-1 advantage in tactical nukes, and did nothing to address the rogue state nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. Granting asylum to America's worst spy in decades, Edward Snowden, was embarrassing. Mr. Putin's diplomatic solution on Syria's chemical weapons sounded nice, but now comes the hard part — extracting them from a civil war that has already killed 100,000.
Gitmo detainees: Though the 164 al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists there have collectively killed tens of thousands of civilians, including on Sept. 11, 2001, and via scores of other mass-casualty terrorist attacks worldwide, the international left has waged history's largest propaganda campaign to paint them as the victims. It's time to stop advocacy on their behalf. Granting them full constitutional rights will guarantee more will be freed to kill more Americans. Already, nearly 30 percent of those released have returned to terrorism.
At every turn, it seems that Mr. Obama has made unwise choices when it comes to America's friends and enemies. Yet he is a smart guy and savvy politician, so the question we must ask is, why?
Is Mr. Obama really as "incompetent" as former President Bill Clinton seems to think? Or are his intentions more sinister toward American power, prestige and role in world affairs? It's hard to say, though considering Mr. Obama's track record, one might argue that Mr. Clinton's observation could be considered charitable.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2009.