Opinion: Columnists

Five of the Obama Doctrine's stealth foreign policy failures

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Opinion,James Jay Carafano,Columnists,China,Middle East,Libya,Asia,Foreign Policy,Latin America,Russia Reset

On a Moscow train platform, two men smoke and swap rumors in the frozen evening air.

“I hear they've raised the Russian flag in Donetsk?” one says.

“I hear Crimea, too.”

So reports freelance journalist Noah Sneider in Slate.

As Russian troops hoisted their flag over Crimea, President Obama's highly touted “reset” diplomacy crashed and burned. The Russian reset was to have been the crown jewel of Mr. Obama's statecraft, the start of a new era in which Washington and Moscow worked together to solve the world's problems. That naïve dream burst when Vladimir Putin ordered his tanks to roll.

But botched relations with the Russians is just the latest and arguably most dramatic failure of White House foreign policy. This administration has suffered a global string of setback. Here are five previous failures the Oval Office hopes most of us never noticed or won’t remember.

• The empty pivot: Mr. Obama grandly announced the U.S. was shifting its focus to Asia. This would allow us to cope better with China's role as an emerging power, guiding Beijing in a constructive direction. So where's the beef?

In Hong Kong, Beijing has yet to make good on is its 1997 promise of universal suffrage. Indeed, China is actively working to postpone it indefinitely. The U.S. is silent.

In Taiwan, there is growing insecurity over cross-straits relations, and the Obama administration remains largely indifferent. Its efforts at economic engagement with Taiwan have been anemic and grudging. Regarding security, Obama has not approved an arms transfer to Taiwan in more than two years, violating the spirit if not the letter of the U.S.-Taiwan Relations Act. Taiwan desperately needs hardware, especially fighter jets and submarines. Yet, no help is on the horizon.

• North Africa nightmare: In battling transnational terrorism and promoting regional stability, Morocco was a solid U.S. ally. But Washington has so bungled the relationship the countries are now barely on speaking terms.

And everyone remembers “Benghazi,” but few are paying attention to what's happening in Libya now. It has devolved into a completely failed state, worse than Somalia.

• Middle East Meltdown: Countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council once stood as a reliable firebreak against the expansion of Iranian meddling. Now, the GCC is in the middle of a de facto civil war; Qatar is funding the Muslim Brotherhood to destabilize Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Iraq is worse off than when Obama took office. A once dependably pro-Western Jordan overwhelmed with refugees from Syria, is now teetering. And through it all, the administration wastes time “negotiating” with Tehran and brokering a non-existent Palestinian-Israeli peace accord.

• Latin America Civil War: Latin America is in turmoil, too, as socialist states square off against nascent free-market democracies. Venezuela is approaching failed state status. And the administration has been worse than useless. Its top initiative seeks to force Columbia to negotiate with the FARC, a narco-terrorist group that almost destroyed the country and is now moving to fill the power vacuum in Venezuela.

• Antarctic Antics: At the bottom of the world, China is establishing a presence that will allow it to make a grab for that continent’s resources. Fighting over Antarctica’s abundance is still decades off, but ignoring Beijing’s icy “battleground preparations” makes no sense.

Each one of these developments is unfortunate. Taken together, they are tragic--and overwhelming proof of the failure of the Obama Doctrine. That doctrine assumed that all foreign relations problems could be fixed with “smart power.” They can't.

JAMES JAY CARAFANO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
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