Foreign policy can be tricky, and it is often the one issue in a presidency that brings the most surprises. While there is a certain amount of predictability when it comes to domestic issues and the players that control them, the international realm can be capricious. Or is it?
Academically there several theories in regards to the how foreign policy can be applied. However, in general a term it typically boils down to is whether one is an isolationist or an interventionist. A quick Google search of the best US Presidents for foreign policy and two names repeatedly appear at the top—Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. A democrat and a republican. It is safe to conclude that while historians will still argue over the details, FDR is at the top of the list for overseeing the US’s push toward victory in WWII, and Reagan is at the top for effectively ending the Cold War. There are vast differences between these two men and their policies, but they have one important trait in common—they never backed down and their adversaries knew it. In his speech to Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR stated
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory…No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
In 1987, in a speech delivered at Brandenburg Gate in Germany President Reagan told Russian President Gorbachev to
“Tear down that wall!”
These men spoke with authority, and everyone knew it. Was either victory immediate? No, they took time. Like all foreign policy issues it takes time, patience, and a concerted effort. The waters can be tricky, but there are patterns and signs if you pay attention. Whether you like him or not, President Bush spoke in much the same way after the attacks on September 11th, and it had some effect because our number one enemy went into hiding. The problem today is that this nation lacks that kind of leadership.
In an interview with MSNBC even actress Angelina Jolie admits this. Without directly naming President Obama, while discussing the issue of Syria she states
“We’re lacking in leadership in the world in general. I don’t think there is an example of extraordinary leadership that will break through the stale mate of what is happening in the world.”
It is hard to lead when your policies are all over the map, and when other leaders do not take you seriously—as evidenced by the responses of President Putin when confronted by the White House. Clearly this administration is not of the interventionist policy, but in today’s world it is all but impossible to be an isolationist. So their answer, let’s talk.
Dialogue is a wonderful, war should be avoided, but talk only works so much, and it must be accompanied by two very important things. First, all parties must want to talk and reach a common goal. This flies in the face of jihadists and extremists who see only one answer—conversion or death. Second is that vocal might must be backed up with action. Adversaries must understand that certain things will not be accepted. This is a combination that FDR and Reagan appeared to exhibit. This administration does not convey that message. Instead, they ran on, have bragged about, winding down US troops overseas (specifically Iraq and Afghanistan) and how is that working?
In today’s press conference on the situation in Iraq Pres. Obama made one thing abundantly clear—no troops. He repeated this several times, and it begs the question ‘does this statement embolden ISIL?’ If they believe their fight is working in Syria and Iraq, and they know the US will not send in forces to push back, what is to stop them from continuing or even expanding? Pres. Obama went on to list the goals for working with Iraq, combating ISIL was last. He may have meant nothing by this, but it could speak volumes to some. His plan for dealing with the insurgency is: increasing the intelligence flowing in and out of the country, building joint command centers with 300 US military advisors, conducting regional meetings, and encouraging Iraqi leaders to respond militarily and politically.
Since we are only privy to so much information perhaps in closed door meetings more “might” comes out, but in the public arena—where everyone, friend and foe are watching—the US appears all talk and no action. Where are the days of “absolute victory”, “tear down that wall,” and “we will find you.”
Source: Angelina Jolie talks with MSNBC: http://dailysurge.com/2014/06/angelina-jolie-america-lacking-leadership-around-world/
Photo Courtesy of: https://livinginthegap.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/56bb7-fdr_reagan.jpg
Article also published by SGP Action as “Obama Administration: All Talk, No Action”