President Obama laid out his comprehensive foreign policy ideology while hammering a diverse group of critics that ranged from Dick Cheney to Vladimir Putin, to Donald Trump.
Obama used Bush/Cheney’s failed Iraq war to illustrate the old and incorrect way of thinking, “No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone. In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land. Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed. And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.”
The President mocked Putin and the Republicans in this country who cheerlead for him, “Now, within Russia, state-controlled media may describe these events as an example of a resurgent Russia — a view shared, by the way, by a number of U.S. politicians and commentators who have always been deeply skeptical of Russia, and seem to be convinced a new Cold War is, in fact, upon us. And yet, look at the results. The Ukrainian people are more interested than ever in aligning with Europe instead of Russia. Sanctions have led to capital flight, a contracting economy, a fallen ruble, and the emigration of more educated Russians.”
President Obama accused Donald Trump and the Republican Party of exploiting and manipulating people’s fears, “The increasing skepticism of our international order can also be found in the most advanced democracies. We see greater polarization, more frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling for the building of walls to keep out immigrants. Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary people being exploited through appeals to sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the body politic was infected by those who look different or worship God differently; a politics of us versus them.”
The critics of the President who claim that he does not have a foreign policy vision need to watch this speech. President Obama’s foreign policy places diplomacy and international cooperation first.
The one element that Putin, Trump, and Cheney all have in common is that their policies are exploiting fears, acting alone, and rejecting cooperation. Trump’s idea of building a wall along the Southern border is a unilateral action that plays on the conservative fear of immigrants. Cheney’s entire foreign policy worldview is based on ignoring diplomacy and imposing US will through military strength alone. Putin wants to be the great Russian strongman who imposes his will without negotiation.
Obama is suggesting that the United States should lead, but not bully. The President has embraced the path to peace and global stability that doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun. The military option should be a last resort, not a first option.
Disagreement is not the same as absence. Republicans don’t like it, but President Obama has a successful foreign policy.