Share

Opinion: Columnists

Obama tries, but he cannot avoid evil

By |
Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Barack Obama,Foreign Policy

Ever since Ronald Reagan the warmonger landed in Washington (or since George McGovern said "Come home, America") liberals longed for a foreign policy president who was up to their standards, was as "thoughtful" as they were, and understood all their dreams.

Someone who knew that talk of evil and good was always sophomoric, that the resort to force always was counterproductive, and that the crazy idea that this country was special — promoted by yahoos like Abraham Lincoln — was better described by their own Michael Kinsley as just another excuse to break rules.

The harder Obama tries to avoid the suggestion of violence, the more people horribly die.

Came the dawn and they got him, and we went in six years from a stable Iraq with al Qaeda contained to a Middle East both in flames and in pieces, with civil wars raging in three or more countries and an Islamist movement too bloody for even al Qaeda to stomach, and Russia, having swallowed the Crimea, hovering over Ukraine. Key to all this is a smaller American footprint, a refusal to use force or the threat thereof when it would have been useful, and a failure to rally the world against evil. In short, all the things the liberals called for. We hope they like the results.

The knock on conservatives is that they seem to want conflict, but that’s not exactly the case. What they really want is making themselves strong enough to deter it, or, failing that, so strong that if anyone ever tries to attack them, they never will try it again. "We arm to parley," said Winston Churchill, the ultimate neocon, meaning that strength is perquisite to ensuring tranquility. That was the reason NATO was formed in the late 1940s; that John Kennedy campaigned on the "missile gap" (which was nonexistent); that Ronald Reagan sent missiles to Europe and batted down talk of a "freeze."

That is the weapon Obama let drop, when he cut back on troops and on defense spending, cut back on support for our allies in Europe, sent troops to Afghanistan with a fixed date of exit, pulled out of Iraq before the war ended, drew many lines in the sand that Syrian President Bashar Assad would cross over, and bombed Libya and got rid of its leader without doing anything more. Not to mention ignoring or failing to act on reports about ISIS, long before it had reached its current proportions, when it might have been stopped or contained.

"We have witnessed as close to a laboratory experiment on the effects of U.S. disengagement" as the real world is likely to give us, Fred Hiatt has written. "Obama thought he could engineer a cautious … retreat from U.S. leadership. What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world."

"Every time Barack Obama thinks he has succeeded in establishing restraint as the central doctrine of his foreign policy," Doyle McManus wrote recently, "a new burst of chaos in the Middle East draws him back in."

But this has it backward. We don’t have Middle East chaos despite the fact that "restraint" is his policy. We have it as the result. The more Obama retreats from forcible measures, the more force pursues him. The harder he tries to avoid the suggestion of violence, the more people horribly die.

Six years after Obama's historic transformation of just about everything, he has proven his antagonists right in their major assumptions: Evil exists, not in a relative manner, and cannot be reasoned with. Force, and the intent to use it, is the pillar of global stability. And America remains the exceptional and the indispensable nation, without which the world goes to hell.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.
View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Noemie Emery

Columnist
The Washington Examiner

More from washingtonexaminer.com