Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ad Hoc President

Who could have imagined, a mere 26 years after Reagan’s world-changing “Tear down this wall” speech, America would be reduced to clown status on the world stage? Events of the past month demonstrate that U.S. leadership has little grasp of realpolitik, no consistent or coherent foreign policy, and now the international community has little if any respect left for the United States.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s “off the cuff” approach to nearly everything is proving disastrous for the nation.

From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the President has inspired little confidence in his ability to lead. His ill-considered vow to retaliate if Assad used chemical weapons left Obama in the precarious position of having to put up or shut up. The administration’s convoluted diplomatic response, has been harshly criticized from all sides of the political spectrum. The President seems to have persuaded no one that military action is prudent, and as the commander in chief, he has displayed a dangerous naiveté about military strategy. The President’s performance on the world stage has been about as graceful as a Miley Cyrus dance number. Like Ms. Cyrus, Obama’s awkward public contortions have left Americans hanging their respective heads in shame.

Not to be outdone, Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have doubled down in the ‘careless comments category.’ Perhaps in the post-modern world of higher academia, words (“just words”) can be deconstructed and disregarded as meaningless utterance, but in the real world of diplomacy, words matter very much. Consequently, Kerry’s offhand “rhetorical” comments were seized upon by the astute and savvy Vladimir Putin. In complete contrast with the events of 1987, the United States has just been thoroughly humiliated by the Russians, and now has a drastically reduced ability to influence anyone in world politics.

Careless words are not the only problem for America’s foreign policy goals: the Obama administration appears woefully ignorant of historical events and precedent. A little familiarity with Russian/Soviet history might have alerted Obama that Putin isn’t his choom-pal in some international fraternity of world leaders, but rather a formidable opponent always ready to exploit weakness.
Furthermore, our past experiences with Middle Eastern intervention should have taught us to carefully consider taking sides. The Syrian evidence indicates that while Assad is a ruthless dictator, the rebellion primarily consists of equally ruthless Al Queda. Why we would risk American lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on radicals who long to destroy us is beyond comprehension. At some point however, we must ask if anyone who has risen so far in politics could really be so stubbornly obtuse about Middle Eastern geopolitics.

At best, the President’s foreign policy appears dangerously ad hoc, but he seems to have an off-the-cuff approach to domestic issues as well. Ever since we had to pass Obamacare to find out “what’s in it,” the administration has repeatedly had to conjure quick fixes for the latest implementation fiasco. Most recently, in an attempt to protect his union cronies from the worst of the new health care rules, the President floated the idea of granting exceptions for organized labor. However, Congressional leaders last week officially notified the administration that any union exemption would be patently illegal. Unless Obama chooses to violate his own law, he must once again return to the drawing board to try to come up with yet another ad hoc solution.

Without a doubt governance does require a measure of flexibility and adaptability. However, an effective leader must have at least some clear principles on which to govern, and some coherent strategy to implement those principles. This president seems to have neither. The public perception is that we have an administration that is floundering at every turn. Equally disturbing is the sneaking suspicion that all of this policy chaos might be intentional.

Either way, we are in trouble.

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