I have been struck by the response to what my liberal friends call President Obama’s most significant speeches since taking office. They claim that he not only did not simply declare an end to the post-9/11 era. He also offered a vision of America’s role in the world that he hopes could be one of his lasting legacies. The vision is one based upon liberal thoughts of law and order and criminal proceedings not one that is based upon national interests.
He argues, they claim, that we should favor energetic diplomacy, foreign aid and more measured responses to terrorism to the active engagement of terrorists in the past. Some have even suggested that he wants to capture terrorists and bring them to the US for trial. Thankfully even his liberal supporters understand the fallacy in this.
Unfortunately this ambitious vision is unattainable because it is not based in the reality that is the world today. To say that it is fraught with risks, and hostage to forces that are out of the president’s control would be an understatement.
His poll based attempt to change the agenda (polls show an American war weariness) away from violations of the first amendment, the IRS scandal and Benghazi does not consider:
- The toxic civil war in Syria
- The extremist threat in Yemen
- The American relationship with Pakistan as we seek to withdraw troops from Afghanistan
- The increasing threat that is Iran and its proxies – Hezbollah and Hamas
- The upcoming Islamic summer both domestically and internationally
- The growing tensions created by Chinese attempts to dominate the South China Sea
- The increase of Al Qaeda and its affiliated Islamic terrorist groups in North and Central Africa—the French are withdrawing from Mali, but the terrorists are not defeated, only scattered. The President’s claim that Al Qaeda has been defeated is blatantly false according to the RAND Corporation and even some liberal think tanks.
- Al Qaeda may be less concentrated than it was in Afghanistan but it is much more widely spread than it was.
- North Korea’s, reduced from the recent heights, but still present bellicosity continues
- Finally, if all of these problems were solved he has no clear sense of what comes afterward
He made this speech at the same time that the Saudis are concerned about the growing Iranian nuclear threat and overall threat to the region. Every arm chair strategist in Saudi Arabia has a version of the upcoming attack on the kingdom.
Amid all of this uncertainty, it was telling that neither the president in his speech nor his aides afterward made any firm declarations about how his vision would be carried out. For example the vaunted reduction in drone strikes lacked any specificity.
The reality that was not even mentioned in the President’s speech is that the terrorist threat is also likely to last for decades, and it may increase as technology advances. He never mentioned weapons of mass destruction (WMD). WMD in the hands of terrorists is the greatest threat to the US, Israel and our allies around the world! No one should doubt that al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Iran’s Revolutionary Guards will use them when they get them.
In short the President was long on rhetoric and both substance and reality were omitted because of political need.