President Barack Obama vowed in an NPR interview on Thursday that the U.S. will respond to Russian cyberattacks that some in the intelligence community believe to have occurred to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Mr. Obama said: “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”
Tough talk — that means nothing.
Mr. Obama has a history of making bold threats to foreign governments, without ever following through. Here’s three examples, where Mr. Obama has shown our enemies his bark is tougher than his bite, and his foreign policy legacy will be stained because of it.
1. Syria’s ‘red line’
In 2012, Mr. Obama said any attempt by Syria to move or use its chemical weapons would change his approach in the region, evoking more direct U.S. intervention.
In an impromptu press conference, Mr. Obama said: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” Mr. Obama said. “That would change my equation. … We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”
The red line was crossed — and there was no changing of his administration’s calculus.
This week, children were under fire in the streets of Aleppo as the city fell to Mr. Assad’s soldiers.
“Hundreds of civilians have died in the offensive; the full toll is not known because the humanitarian groups that rescued and treated civilians and tracked casualties largely collapsed under fire in recent days,” The New York Times reported.
Scores of women have reportedly committed suicide to avoid being raped, as children are being burned alive.
2. Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia
Mr. Obama’s first term strategy was to “pivot” or “re-balance” its diplomatic and military attention from the wars in the Middle East to the Asia Pacific region. This pivot has largely been devoid of content, while the region becomes more unstable.
Mr. Obama has done nothing regarding Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, and this year encouraged the Philippines to work out the dispute over the artificial islands on its own, despite the White House support for a ruling at The Hague in July against China’s claims to the waterways it claimed, Bloomberg reported.
“There are many reasons China has not been deterred, but one of them is likely that [Chinese president Xi Jinping] took the measure of Obama when he shirked his own ‘red line’ in Syria back in 2013 after evidence showed the Bashar al-Assad regime had gassed its own people,” Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake wrote.
Mr. Obama also failed to take North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities seriously.
In September, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test which prompted South Korea’s president to call North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong-un as “spiraling out of control.”
Mr. Obama reacted, saying that “the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state.”
But he’s done nothing to prevent it.
Even The Washington Post editorial board wrote at the time: “Mr. Obama has failed to take the North Korean buildup seriously enough. For years, his administration pursued a policy of ‘strategic patience,’ which mostly consisted of ignoring North Korea while mildly cajoling China to put more pressure on the regime.”
3. Won’t ‘hesitate to use force’ against Iran
In March 2012, Mr. Obama threatened Iran at an AIPAC meeting in Washington: “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy for containment. … I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. … I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the Unites States and its interests.”
Except, he has. In trying to ink a nuclear deal with Tehran, Mr. Obama turned a blind-eye to the country’s aggression.
“Iran’s nuclear program remains intact,” asserted Ali-Akbar Saleh, the man who heads the Iran Atomic Energy Agency, this summer. “We have done nothing that could not be undone with the turn of a screw.”
Iran has continued to expand its ballistic-missile program. In a March testing, the Iranian government released a statement in Hebrew reading, “Israel must be wiped off the arena of time,” and the Obama administration backtracked from its original claims that these launches were prohibited by the U.N.
In January, Iran detained U.S. sailors in international waters, and military magazine “Stars and Strips” wrote in August that the U.S. Navy was facing a “new normal” in the Persian Gulf, with increased Iranian provocations.
“U.S. sailors in the Persian Gulf can expect increased harassment by Iranian vessels as Iran’s hard-liners seek to bolster their position ahead of next year’s Iranian election and the U.S. is absorbed in its own electoral campaign,” the magazine wrote, describing two August incidents were Iranian fast boats swarmed U.S. warships and warning shots needed to be fired.