In March, 2012 President Obama told Russia’s then-president Dmitry Medvedev that after his next election he would have more flexibility in dealing with missile defense issues.
He suggested that since he would never have to run for office again, he would be free to be the transformative president he had always wanted to be.
Obamacare was part of it. But, apparently, reducing America’s leadership role in the world was also a major, albeit unspoken part of it.
Polls are showing that more and more Americans believe that President Obama has diminished America’s role in the world. They see a reactive and pusillanimous American president ceding authority to the president of Russia.
Americans have the unmistakable impression that the Vladimir Putin is leading and that Obama is following. This has reduced America's status and stature. Besides, it is demoralizing.
No one should have been surprised. President Obama has consistently believed that America should be just one among many nations of the world. In his “cosmopolitan” view America should be less active in leading the world. To his mind America’s authority makes other nations feel badly about themselves.
In Obama’s gauzy multicultural view of the world, all cultures are equal. Those that have been more successful—think America and Israel—could only have achieved what they achieved by cheating.
Since winners are exploiters and oppressors they must cede authority and territory to the less fortunate, that is, their victims.
Obama has effectively shrunk America. Yet, he still knows how to bluster and bluff. He still issues empty threats, the better, one imagines, to keep American public opinion more or less with him.
Unfortunately, there is no substances behind the bluster and everyone knows it.. You cannot bluff very well when everyone knows you are bluffing.
Some pundits have called it a “speak loudly and carry a baguette” policy, but I prefer: “speak loudly and don’t carry a stick.”
This morning the Washington Free Beacon reports on administration efforts to disempower the American military:
President Barack Obama is seeking to abolish two highly successful missile programs that experts say have helped the U.S. Navy maintain military superiority for the past several decades.
The Tomahawk missile program—known as “the world’s most advanced cruise missile”—is set to be cut by $128 million under Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and completely eliminated by fiscal year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.
In addition to the monetary cuts to the program, the number of actual Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States would drop significantly—from 196 last year to just 100 in 2015. The number will then drop to zero in 2016.
The Navy will also be forced to cancel its acquisition of the well-regarded and highly effective Hellfire missiles in 2015, according to Obama’s proposal.
What are the likely consequences of this strategy?
Military historian Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of what happens when leaders speak loudly while showing weakness.
Remember Pearl Harbor? Hanson explains how FDR’s bluster helped incite that attack:
The Roosevelt administration once talked loudly of pivoting to Asia to thwart a rising Japan. As a token of its seriousness, in May 1940 it moved the home port of the Seventh Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor — but without beefing up the fleet’s strength.
The then-commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral James O. Richardson, an expert on the Japanese Imperial Navy, protested vehemently over such a reckless redeployment. He felt that the move might invite, but could not guard against, surprise attack.
Richardson was eventually relieved of his command and his career was ruined — even as he was later proved right when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
For obvious reasons, this side of the story has been largely eliminated from history books.
Not to be outdone, the Truman administration made a similar error in a different context:
By 1949, the U.S. was pledged to containing the expansion of Communism in Asia — even as Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson (who had been chief fundraiser for Truman’s 1948 campaign) declared that the Navy and Marines were obsolete. He began to slash both their budgets.
A “revolt of the admirals” followed, to no avail. But Mao Zedong’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union took note of the new disconnect between American bluster and massive defense cuts. So they green-lighted a North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950.
And then there is Russia. Hanson reminds us of how Putin got the idea that he could fill the leadership vacuum left by President Obama:
Consider also Russia. We forget that “reset” in 2009 was a loud Obama attempt to reverse the Bush administration’s efforts to punish Russia for its aggression against Georgia — a Russian gambit itself perhaps predicated on the impression that the United States was bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the Bush administration had been weakened by the midterm elections of 2006. Bush’s efforts to promote new missile-defense initiatives with Poland and the Czech Republic, suspension of nuclear-arms-limitation talks, curtailment of official communications with Moscow, and bolder efforts to isolate Iran from Russian interference were all intended to advise Moscow not to bully its neighbors.
Yet Obama entered office declaring that it was the Bush administration’s reaction to the Georgia aggression, and not the Russian invasion itself, that had cooled U.S.–Russian relations. The result was a red plastic reset button that presaged loud lectures about human rights in Russia without any real, concrete follow-through.
Our relationship with Russia is far worse now than during the Bush administration. Vladimir Putin is not just not deterred — who would be, after the U.S. fickleness in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, and in dealing with Iran? — but quite eager in the Crimea and Ukraine to show the world how to deflate American moralistic sermonizing. Putin believes that his amoral show of power impresses others who admire not his strength — for in truth he has little of it — but the simulation of strength that wins him support at home and a sort of sick admiration abroad.
So, we have a president who came into office believing that America was at fault and that if only America would cease its belligerent ways, world peace would break out.
Of course, the American people are responsible for their votes. Having been duped by the Obama campaign they are now paying the price.
But, if they go out and vote in 2016 for one of the major architects of the Russia “reset” policy, that is, for Hillary Clinton, they will deserve what they are going to get.