Friday, September 28, 2012

Politicking: Part Two

The next thing I want to discuss is foreign policy.
In the last four years, President Obama has got us out of Iraq, is drawing us out of Afghanistan, gave the order to kill Osama Bin Laden, gone after al-Qaeda much more thoroughly, and kept us from getting involved in other wars. On the surface, these look like positive foreign policy achievements. I would argue that, for the most part, they are not.
To begin with, President Obama ended the war in Iraq too soon, leaving no US presence in that country, and without the Iraqi government and military fully prepared to take over from us. This has allowed Iran to gain a great deal of influence in that country, more than it ever should have been allowed.
Secondly, the drawdown in Afghanistan is foolish at best. Since President Obama took office, the Taliban has had a resurgence in that country, attacking and influencing others to join their cause in the process. That country is nowhere near ready for us to leave. And if we do leave by 2014, in the same manner we left Iraq, that country will most likely quickly fall back into the hands of the Taliban. Let us not forget that al-Qaeda has had a larger presence there in recent years as well.
Thirdly, the decision to kill Osama Bin Laden, while celebrated by many in this country and others, may prove to have been a wrong decision in the end. Here’s why. With Osama Bin Laden alive, we could box him in and prevent his influence from having any sort of positive outcome for al-Qaeda. Killed, however, Bin Laden becomes a martyr for the cause, inciting retaliation by al-Qaeda and promoting recruitment to their cause. I’m not convinced that President Obama’s assessment of Bin Laden’s killing is the right one. President Obama would have us believe that al-Qaeda has been weakened by the death of Bin Laden and that they are not the threat they once were. With recent events in Libya and attacks in Afghanistan and other nations, I find President Obama’s assessment hard to believe. I’m much more inclined to believe that we have made a martyr out of Bin Laden, which is something Bin Laden wanted, and that that may prove to have been foolhardy of us in the end.
Fourthly, when it comes to keeping us out of additional wars, I will give President Obama a gold star. He has kept us out of additional wars, and I’m sure most Americans are thankful for that. However… was this for our best, or for the best of others around the world? I’m not convinced that it was.
When we look at the events of the Arab Spring, the people in many of those Arab countries wanted us to stand with them. For years we told them that if they stood up, we would give them aid. But we didn’t really do that. We aided them diplomatically, but only once it was clear they would win and actually overturn their dictatorial regimes. We waited. When it comes to military support, we did virtually nothing. We allowed other nations, like France, Germany, and the UK, to take the lead. We didn’t fight for them. Because we took a back seat, we allowed the events of the world to shape us, rather than actually shape the world by our involvement. Our lack of leadership slowed the democratic process from taking place, allowed those less supportive of democracy to gain power and influence, and allowed those dictatorial regimes to remain in place far longer than they should have. We looked weak by our inaction.
We can also look at Iran. Under President Obama’s watch, Iran has gained nuclear capabilities. This was something that Presidents in the past have fought and prevented, but President Obama was not able to prevent. Since gaining nuclear capabilities, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel with an atomic bomb, and has continued to advance Iran in that goal, testing missiles and the like. This has justifiably terrified the Israelis and caused them to want to take a tougher stance against Iran. What we’ve seen in reaction by President Obama is to push for UN sanctions against Iran, which have been unsuccessful at best, and to put our alliance with Israel in question by refusing to meet with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Israel only “one of our allies” in the middle east, rather than “our greatest ally”, which they are, refusing to draw any red lines or give Iran any ultimatums in order to prevent their achieving a nuclear weapon, openly talking down our relationship with Israel in conversations with other world leaders, and refusing to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Now, this is just my opinion, but if we were ever on a course that could lead to a third world war, this is it. If Israel decides we don’t have their back, and decides to strike against Iran, we could see a war spread all across the globe in response. If Iran strikes Israel, we could likewise see a war spread out all across the globe. I say this because each country, Israel and Iran, have their dedicated allies. If these two countries go to war, all of their allies will inevitably go to war as well, and this would include the US. I don’t think President Obama understands this, or else he would do as Mitt Romney has said he would do, which is to take a firmer stance on the side of Israel, to impose greater sanctions on Iran, and to strategically work at destroying Iran’s nuclear sites. I have heard many people think that Mitt Romney wants us to get into a war, but all I see is his earnest resolve to help keep us out of one, whereas President Obama’s lack of leadership will almost certainly see us in one, if not perhaps the greatest this world has ever known.
If I haven’t scared you away yet, let us discuss the current situation going on in Libya and across much of the rest of the Arab world. On the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, America was once again attacked by members of al-Qaeda at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This was the first terrorist attack on American soil (one could actually argue the second depending on your thoughts of the Fort Hood shooting that took place in 2009) since September 11, 2001. For the first time in roughly thirty years, one of our ambassadors, Chris Stevens, was killed in that attack, along with three of our servicemen. This happened because our President’s foreign policy was flawed.
After this attack, we have learned much. President Obama has claimed that the reason this attack happened was because of a spontaneous outrage/protest generated by an anti-Muhammad video posted on YouTube. According to his press secretary, Jay Carney, this was not a planned terrorist attack, the ambassador had security, it was in reaction to the before mentioned video, and there were no threat warnings prior to the attack. Other administration officials, such as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, were quick to mirror such sentiments. All of these statements have since been proven wrong. There were no protests at the consulate, it was a terrorist attack (by al-Qaeda) from the beginning, it was a planned attack, it had nothing to do with the video, Ambassador Stevens did not have an adequate security detail with him, and there were in fact warning signs that such an attack was imminent. This was a failure of foreign policy, and the Obama administration knew all of this. Rather than admit their mistakes, however, they chose to lie to all of America instead for nearly a week before changing much of their story. At the same time, they chose to bash Mitt Romney for his statements made the night of the attack, which have since proven to be right.
As for the anti-American protests that have popped up all across the Arab world since, which in large scale were probably brought on by that video, that too demonstrates a failure of President Obama’s foreign policy. President Obama has told us repeatedly that his foreign policy is right; that it has made us more liked throughout the world and made the Middle East and Arab world a safer place. Polls, however, have shown that people favor us less in that region now than they did four years ago. And considering Israel and Iran are at the brink of war, Iran has gained influence in Iraq, things in Afghanistan are deteriorating, al-Qaeda is still alive and well, we’ve been attacked in Libya, the Syrian government is slaughtering their own people in a civil war, and we’re being protested against in nearly thirty different countries now at the same time, I would say President Obama is wrong. His foreign policy has been a failure.
I will also remind everyone that before he was president and afterward, for a time, Barack Obama said he would close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (better known as Gitmo). He also said he would repeal the Patriot Act. Neither of these promises has come true, and I’d argue that they can’t. President Obama openly tried to close Gitmo, only to find out there was no place else he could send those detainees held there. No one wanted them, and the security risk of placing them in other areas was too great. Likewise, President Obama discovered he could not adequately fight terrorism without the Patriot Act. I would argue that he didn’t know what he was talking about before taking office concerning both of these issues. In my opinion, he was only against them in the first place purely for political reasons. When he became president, however, he realized he was wrong and needed both. I bring this up only to demonstrate that President Obama’s foreign policies have been failures from the very beginning of his presidency; that from the very start, he didn’t understand what was best for America in this regard.
In contrast, I believe Mitt Romney will stand up for our allies, make it clearer who our allies are, and take a tougher stance on all those who would call themselves our enemies. I believe he would follow common sense rather than ideology as well. As I said a moment ago, Mitt Romney was proven correct about the events in Libya on the night they were happening. He understood that people don’t just show up to a spontaneous protest with major assault weapons. He understood that four Americans had been killed in a terrorist ridden part of the world. He understood that it wasn’t likely to be coincidence that something like that just happened to happen on an anniversary of 9/11. He used common sense, rather than ideology, and knew what turned out to be right, while President Obama and his administration lied to us, or just flat out got it wrong, for nearly a week.
There’s something else we must look at though. And this concerns all Americans, beyond just foreign policy or economic policy. Let’s look at the video which apparently outraged so many in the Arab world. To begin with, I don’t agree with the sentiments in that video. And I can understand why some would be angered by it. However, I will defend the right of the one who made that video and said what he did in it to the death, just as countless of Americans present and past have as well. One of the greatest parts of being an American is that we are guaranteed a right to free speech. It is one of the most transformational freedoms we have promoted around the world since before the idea of our nation was even conceived. We Americans have always valued our God given right to free speech.
In recent weeks, I have doubted whether President Obama truly believes in this freedom or not. When he learned that a video had incited some outrage toward us overseas, President Obama’s first response was to apologize for the insensitivity of it. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it hadn’t been his only response to it (at least for two weeks until giving a speech to the UN). I can understand apologizing for the hateful comments presented in a video, but I cannot excuse this President for making that his only response. Whoever our president is, he or she should always stand up first for our freedoms, rather than downplaying them because of the intolerant, hateful, religious fanaticism of others who would turn to violence rather than peaceful forms of disagreement. When we apologize for the insensitive comments of some, but say nothing in support of their right to make such insensitive comments, we are in essence downplaying and apologizing for our right to free speech. It hasn’t helped either that President Obama announced to other nations during his most recent UN speech that we accept as a nation when other countries do not allow freedom of speech. If we were ever going to tell other countries that it was okay for them not to allow freedom of expression, this was certainly it.
Another example of this has come in the way the State Department, upon learning CNN was going to reveal the contents of Ambassador Stevens’ journal (which they were able to just pick up and walk away with from the crime scene in Benghazi four days after the attack took place—some security clean up there, huh?), tried to prevent them from doing so. Once CNN did publish the contents, revealing that Ambassador Stevens was indeed fearful for his safety and life, the State Department then released a statement against CNN, inciting other news agencies to demonize them for publishing the truth.
And it’s not just our freedom of speech that is being potentially threatened, but our religious freedom as well. There have been concerns about President Obama for some time now in this regard, but I will only discuss one particular concern. Again, this comes back to a provision of Obamacare, which would force religious institutions to provide contraceptives to healthcare patients. The Catholic Church has been on the frontlines of this issue. According to the church, it is sinful to use contraceptives. So, in forcing them to provide contraceptives, this forces Catholics to go against their faith, thereby infringing upon their religious freedom. President Obama has not backed down on this issue, instead pushing for litigation that would force Catholics to provide contraceptives.
Maybe it’s just me, but I seriously have the feeling that President Obama only truly supports our freedoms when they serve him. When they do not serve him, he seems fine to do without them.
To be continued...

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