Two successful assassinations -- those of al-Awlaki and bin Laden -- have persuaded some that President Obama, whatever his domestic failures, has presided over a successful foreign policy. This is way too generous. In fact (with the exception of targeted assassinations and the surge in Afghanistan), the president seems to conduct foreign policy based on seat-of-the-pants responses to events, rather than relying on any over-arching strategy. And his reactions to such events are more often based upon reversing what he regards as past American sins than on pursuing America's interests in the world.
This first became evident when the Iranian street erupted in 2009. There is no regime in the world that represents a greater threat to the lives of Americans than Iran's. The mullahs have shed more American blood than any entity except al-Qaida (and they have assisted al-Qaida) over the course of the past three decades. Iran constantly plots to damage the U.S. by sponsoring terror groups, allying with American enemies like Hugo Chavez, and supplying and training the Iraqi militias and Taliban, who in turn kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fall of the Iranian regime would be the greatest victory imaginable against worldwide terror (to say nothing of what it would do for Iranians). Yet when the regime was rocked by weeks of protests, Obama let the opportunity to support the demonstrators, and possibly affect the outcome, slip through his fingers.
Obama couldn't let go of the idea that his role was to prove to the Iranian leadership that unlike past U.S. leaders, such as the "arrogant" Dwight Eisenhower who intervened in Iran in the 1950s, he respected them and meant them no harm.
Similarly, as the uprising in Syria unfolded over the past six months, the president was passive. Previous administrations regarded Syria, Iran's chief client in the Arab world and another key sponsor of terror, as a hostile power. Obama, whose chief aim was to say goodbye to all that, courted the regime, calling Bashar al-Assad a "reformer." He sent an ambassador, and he did not recall him even when the regime used guns and tanks against unarmed demonstrators. (Ambassador Robert Ford has done the best he could under the circumstances, lending his support to the protesters.)
The al-Assad regime has so far killed more than 3,000 Syrians and wounded many more. The "reformer" has also tortured many regime opponents.
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