As the World Burns: Obama’s “Stupid Stuff” Foreign Policy and its Disastrous Effects

Gayle Trotter

8/22/2014 12:01:00 PM - Gayle Trotter

The crowded stadium roars its approval -- “Allah is great!” -- as a man shoots a woman in a public execution. Militants destroy a historic religious shrine. Women and children face public abuse, private violence, and daily fear. Girls, denied access to education, remain trapped in a seventh-century dystopia. A bloodthirsty terrorist organization promises death to Americans.

Think this resembles the Middle East today? No, these references date to the turn of the millennium in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Today, these same toxic forces behead children, sell women into sex slavery, drive ethnic and religious minorities from their homeland. Refugees hide in mountains and feed their children the parents’ own blood to prevent dehydration and certain death. ISIS jihadists throw screaming women and children into mass graves and, more recently, beheaded American photojournalist James Wright Foley in a disgusting “made-for-YouTube murder,” as some have called it.

Small wonder, then, that most Americans disapprove of president Barack Obama’s foreign policy. A recent NBC/WSJ survey on the president’s foreign policy registered 57 percent disapproval, an all-time high. Obama’s foreign policy has become noteworthy for a remarkable series of bad decisions, miscalculations, and fecklessness -- tragically ironic for an administration whose foreign policy mantra is “don’t do stupid [stuff].”

Mr. Obama drew an ominous “red line” with Syria, threatening action if Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. When Assad deployed chemical weapons against his own people, Mr. Obama did . . . nothing.

Mr. Obama has taken steps to remove economic sanctions against Iran without any concessions from Iran or progress on limiting Iran’s ambitions to become a nuclear state.

Mr. Obama’s lead-from-behind Libyan policy supported aggressive military action against Qaddafi, who had voluntarily relinquished his illegal weapons program in direct response to the deterrent effect of Iraqi regime change. Post-Qaddafi, Libya has become destabilized, harboring terrorists and causing havoc in neighboring African countries.

Mr. Obama fixated on removing our troops from Iraq as a strategic end unto itself. Since our departure, the resulting vacuum left an environment in which jihadists could take control of most of Iraq and erase its border with Syria.

Mr. Obama declared a specific date for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, signaling both to violent jihadists and Afghan allies an impending return to the pre-9/11 dystopia there. Emboldened, militants attacked U.S. troops there, killing Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer killed in action since the Vietnam War.

Mr. Obama took office vowing to end the U.S. presence in Iraq, seemingly oblivious to the fact that American blood, toil, tears and sweat had recently brought new stability to the country. With a fledging democratic government, Iraq had just begun to experience greater security and order.

Hillary Clinton herself conceded, in seeking to pivot from Secretary of State to presidential nominee, that “don’t do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle” for a nation’s foreign policy and national security. But, unfortunately, “an organizing principle” is not the only thing lacking from the administration’s foreign policy.

As the list of unwise and inept decisions continues to grow, “stupid stuff” increasingly describes both the administration’s own foreign policy and its effects. After nearly six years, events today bear an eerie resemblance to those preceding the largest attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

A statue in front of the National Archives building -- which houses the signed originals of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution -- bears an inscription both hopeful and ominous: “What is past is prologue.” But the president of the pen and the phone does not make his way down to the Capitol building very often to work with Congress, and perhaps he has not seen this reminder frequently enough.

Warning signs point to the unholy war returning to U.S. soil. Will Mr. Obama allow it to happen on his watch? We need decisive action to neutralize the ISIS threat. More empty words and inaction will do nothing to curtail the threat Americans now face.

Gayle Trotter is a writer and attorney in Washington, D.C. Her views are her own.