America In Retreat


As a nation, “we have lost the shared conviction that the American way is worth celebrating and defending, that democracy is the best form of government, and that America is rightly engaged with the world in defense of others who share these convictions”, writes Douglas Schoen and Melik Kaylan.

Moreover, “we must articulate this uniquely American vision again, both for our own sake and for the benefit of those around the world who look to America for leadership”.

The worlds superpower has no foreign-policy vision or strategy. President Obama’s America is passive, confused, and ineffective as a superpower.

Our allies doubt American commitment and resolve, question or outright oppose our policies, and are increasingly looking elsewhere for sustenance and support. In the words of Schoen and Kaylan, “the U.S. has no clear strategy other than retrenchment and the minimization of genuine threats. We seem unwilling to acknowledge what our adversaries are doing”.

This point was underscored this week as former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta directly challenged the leadership under President Barack Obama for his failure to assert “American influence on the world stage.” The president, he said, nursed “the hope that perhaps others in the world could step up to the plate and take on these issues.” As a result, he added, “there was a kind of a mixed message that went out with regard to the role of the United States.”

While Obama points the finger at former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for the vacuum created by the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, Panetta confirms that the president never had his heart in efforts to negotiate a deal to maintain a U.S. presence. That “created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country [Iraq] to better protect itself, and it’s out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed” in not only Iraq, but Syria as well.

The void has left ISIS the ability to grab massive amounts of land to a point in which the jihadists are prepared to capture Ramadi, within eight miles of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The news reports have neglected to take note of this and have instead focused their attention on the group’s operation in  Kobane, Syria this week.

This was part of an elaborate decoy mission orchestrated by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS ’leader. While the capture of Kobane would not greatly increase ISIS military clout, the capture of Ramadi or other cities in Anbar would be catastrophic both for the Iraqi government and Western hopes of attempting to contain the group.

The problem has become two-fold as non-state actors are influenced by state actors like Russia whom is engaging in “arms-supply diplomacy” across the Middle East in an effort to take advantage of the power vacuum left by America’s pull-back from the region.

When chemical weapons were used in Syria by Bashar al-Assad and the infamous red line was crossed, Obama’s response was hollow and empty with a lack of resolve and conviction to back up the claim of holding Assad responsible. This left an opening for Russia to play conciliator and chief.

Vladimir Putin was able to protect his mutual ally and in the process present himself a “peacemaker” to the world by proposing a “diplomatic solution” in announcing Russia’s support for helping and brokering the plan for Assad to turn over his chemical weapons.

The presidents stupefying walk-back from that red line, as well as his retreat from his earlier statements that Assad must go, “has sent an unmistakable message of American weakness to our foes”, states Melik Kaylan.

Playing on the belief that the international community feared Assad could target chemical weapons inspectors acting in Syria, Russia was able to assert a deal in which Moscow says it was provided with significant responsibility over the skies of Syria, purportedly to insure against Assad’s air force acting against the international disarmament effort.

An effort that in fact was brokered by Putin himself which has allowed him to “threaten retaliation against the U.S.” under the pretense that Syrian airspace is under Russian control.

Assad is embolden, Russia is gaining influence, and ISIS is stronger than ever while our “allies” such as Turkey have remained complacent and unwilling to engage.

The current foreign policy of the United States can only be understood as an exercise in contraction. It begins with the demolition of the moral foundation of American dominance from a President whom doesn’t believe in our exceptionalism. This was perfectly displayed in 2009 during his first address to the U.N. General Assembly.

“With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness”, wrote Charles Krauthammer, “Obama indicted his own country for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (towards Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo, for unilateralism and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world”.

It was quiet an indictment notes Krauthammer, “the fundamental consequence of which is to effectively undermine any moral claim that America might have to world leadership, as well as the moral confidence that any nation needs to have in order to justify to itself and to others its position of leadership”.

We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. We must regain our conviction of leadership and responsibility that was once shared by the American people and the President of the United States.

In the words of a true leader, Ronald Reagan epitomized the leadership role that America needs to regain today as the country that remains the “last best hope of man on earth”.

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