President Obama's actions have "substantially improved the tranquility of the global community."
Yes, really. At least that's what White House press secretary Josh Earnest says.
Ed Henry of Fox News asked Monday for Earnest's reaction to the claim, leveled by the Wall Street Journal, that President Obama has been a "bystander" to "global instability," the extent of which "has not been seen since the late 1970s."
His response: "I think that there have been a number of situations in which you've seen this administration intervene in a meaningful way that has substantially furthered American interests and substantially improved the tranquility of the global community." (Alas, the official transcript does not capture Earnest's stammering, mid-sentence realization that he was about to say something very silly.)
White House pool reporters quickly pushed back against Earnest's claim, as did foreign policy experts. Over at AEI Ideas, Fellow Marc Thiessen wrote a piece titled, simply, "If Obama is bringing 'tranquility' to the world, I'd hate to see turmoil."
Just so. Here are five places where Obama's policies have brought anything but tranquility:
In 2011, the Obama administration undermined negotiations of a stay-behind agreement with the Iraqi government. Their hearts just weren't in it. While U.S. commanders recommended that 20,000 troops be kept in Iraq to ensure the country's stability, Obama offered 3,500. His negotiators further specified that a stay-behind agreement must be passed by the fractious Iraqi parliament, scuttling any chance of passing an agreement by the deadline.
When the U.S. military pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, a campaign promise was fulfilled at the expense of a region. The brutal terrorist group ISIS has since declared a vast swath of territory as its own, a so-called Islamic caliphate ruled by terror — and with great potential to export it to the United States.
2. Northern Africa
"Leading from behind" in Libya has brought disastrous consequences to all of northern Africa. When a NATO coalition was formed to depose longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the U.S. declined to direct its efforts. Coalition airstrikes allowed the rebel forces to dispatch the Mad Dog of the Middle East, but little assistance was given as they began the arduous process of stabilizing the country. Due in part to the "light footprint" strategy of the Obama administration, the country has been fractured by infighting and extremism.
Groups affiliated with al Qaeda have gained traction in Libya, killing droves of people, including four Americans at a lightly defended diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Fighters elsewhere have benefited from a flow of unsecured Libyan arms to pursue their objectives. The Tuareg ethnic group, mercenaries who found themselves abruptly unemployed following Gadhafi's fall, sparked a war in nearby Mali. The barbaric terrorist group Boko Haram has used Libyan arms to attack cities and enslave their female inhabitants.
On Monday, a Ukrainian military transport plane flying near the border was blasted from the sky by a missile that "probably" originated from Russia. If confirmed, the incident is the latest in a long series of surreptitious Russian actions against Ukrainian forces.
Measly "scalpel" sanctions have done little to stop the Russians from outfitting separatist forces in eastern Ukraine with heavy weaponry or allegedly launching deadly airstrikes in the country, nor have they done anything to make Russian President Vladimir Putin relinquish his grip on Crimea, which is now considered part of Russia. Remember that?
4. The South China Sea
To Russia's southeast, China is engaging in its own provocations. The People's Liberation Army has become more assertive about Chinese territorial claims to islands and shoals in the South China Sea, leaving its neighbors rattled. Japan has begun to rebuild its military for fear that U.S. support will not come if China seeks to take over contested territory such as the Japanese-held Senkaku Islands.
So far, China is careful to defend its actions as defensive. It has also backed down from its most egregious actions, as on Tuesday when a state-owned oil company announced it would move a controversial oil rig from Vietnamese waters.
The Chinese Communist Party still fears the U.S., which has proved it can act adroitly in the region. Still, the PLA grows stronger and more confident. Tranquil? Not if you live nearby.
5. Central America
According to the liberal Center on Hemispheric Affairs, Central America represents a "glaring lapse in the president's oft-touted foreign policy record." Granted, his attention has been elsewhere (see items one through four).
Where the president has acted, his policies have had unintended consequences. For example, in 2009 the Obama administration attempted to reinstate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya when he was impeached for violating the country's constitution. When that failed, it withheld military assistance to combat cartels, who quickly grew more powerful. Violent crime increased so that today Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world. Its neighbors fare little better.
The administration has often pointed to Central America's violence and poverty as root problems driving the current surge of immigration to the U.S.-Mexico border. In so doing, it argues that a lack of tranquility abroad led to the current state of affairs at the border.
There's irony in that.