The Washington Post’s editorial board over the weekend trashed President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, going so far as to accuse him of living in a “fantasy” world.
“President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality,” the editorial board said in its scathing commentary. “It was a world in which ‘the tide of war is receding’ and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces.”
The Post’s editorial statement, titled “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy,” goes on to suggest that the Obama administration thinks it exists in a world where “invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances” are things of the past.
“That’s a nice thought,” the Post’s editorial board said, acknowledging that the nature of warfare has changed over the past 60 years. Still, it argues, political strife between competitor countries is still a very real and very dangerous thing.
“Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia,” the Post editorial board said. “Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.”
The Post goes on to note that several countries over the past decade have lashed out without any fear of repercussions, most notably Putin’s 2008 “incursion into Georgia.”
“Mr. Putin paid no price for that action; in fact, with parts of Georgia still under Russia’s control, he was permitted to host a Winter Olympics just around the corner. China has bullied the Philippines and unilaterally staked claims to wide swaths of international air space and sea lanes as it continues a rapid and technologically impressive military buildup. Arguably, it has paid a price in the nervousness of its neighbors, who are desperate for the United States to play a balancing role in the region,” the Post notes.
“But none of those neighbors feel confident that the United States can be counted on. Since the Syrian dictator crossed Mr. Obama’s red line with a chemical weapons attack that killed 1,400 civilians, the dictator’s military and diplomatic position has steadily strengthened,” it adds.
The editorial board notes that the urge to focus on domestic issues over foreign policy isn’t new or even an incorrect one, but argues that the U.S. has a financial and national security interest in remaining active in the world’s affairs.
“If a president doesn’t make the case for global engagement, no one else effectively can,” the editorial board said.
The board stresses that they’re not calling for “boots on the ground,” and explain that the situation is much more complicated than that.
“Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not,” the Post notes. “While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.”
“Putin…will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements,” it adds. “China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.”
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