Must Mr. Obama Flunk Foreign Affairs 1.01 Yet Again?

A B+ for Barack Obama? Are you kidding?

There's a saying that all politics is local.  That may be true in places like Chicago, but it's an unfortunate fact that the President of the United States has to worry about what's going on in other countries.

Back before the 2008 Presidential election, Sen. Joe Biden, who's now our Vice President, predicted that foreign rulers would test Mr. Obama should he become President.  How right Joe was!  In not even a year, foreign leaders have tested Mr. Obama time and again.  Each time, he's flunked the test and been carried out in a basket.

The sad part is, judging from his rhetoric after each incident, he might actually think he's won!  Let's look at the record and see whether he's won or lost.

When an issue came up suddenly and Mr. Obama had to react without a whole lot of time to think about it, we call it a "Pop Quiz;" issues that build for a long time we think of as "Semester Tests."  We can understand a bit of hesitancy on a pop quiz, but there's no excuse for flunking a semester test where there's been ample time to consult and plan.

So what does Pres. Obama's foreign policy report card for 2009 look like?  Read it and weep.

Pop Quiz - Honduran Constitutional Crisis

Hugo Chavez, the dictator of Venezuela, had secret talks with the new President.  Mr Obama later supported Mr. Chavez's protege, Pres. Zelaya of Honduras, who tried to violate the Honduran constitution by unlawfully getting himself another term as president.  In accordance with their own constitution, the Honduran courts ordered their military to remove Zelaya from office, supported by the Honduran legislature.

What was Mr. Obama's response?  He showed as little regard for the Honduran constitution as he shows for ours and demanded that Honduras take back an ex-President who had been lawfully removed from office.

Rather than bend over for the Americans, the Hondurans clung to their Constitution, held an election which was widely regarded as being "free and fair," and we're belatedly recognizing the result.  We not only came down on the totally wrong side of an international issue, but our demands were totally ignored by one of the smallest, poorest countries in the Western hemisphere; America wound up looking stupid, incompetent, and impotent.

Handling the Honduran crisis - F

Semester Test - Anti-Missile Defense System

Mr. Obama gave up Mr. Bush's plan to put anti-missile defenses in Poland and Czechoslovakia.  This plan had been known for a long time; it didn't catch Mr. Obama by surprise.

Mr. Bush had agreed to install missile defenses to protect our European allies and ourselves against rogue Middle Eastern states who were building missiles that could reach most of Europe and were working to develop nuclear weapons to go with the missiles.  No points for guessing who!

The Russians didn't appreciate the idea of their former satellites being able to defend themselves against Russian missiles and were considerably miffed.  For reasons he didn't explain, Mr. Obama abruptly canceled the plan to help defend our new allies.

The astounding thing isn't that Mr. Obama did something to please the Russians - he'd been talking about resetting the relationship between the US and Russia as if it were possible to reconcile two utterly incompatible philosophies of governance.  One could argue that sometimes it's worthwhile giving up something important as long as you get something else valuable in exchange.

What's astounding is that he gave away something the Russians wanted without getting anything in return.  The Russians said, "Thanks for acknowledging we were right all along.  Now where were we?"  No help against Iran or North Korea, no detente in Georgia or Chechnya, and certainly no more respect for human rights of journalists and businessmen in Russia itself.

Killing the Missile Defense System for No Gain - F

Semester Test - Military-Only Nuclear Facility in Iran

The world watched agog as our intelligence agencies admitted that they'd known for a long time that Iran had built a nuclear facility whose only possible use is making material for weapons.  Although We the People hadn't been told about it, the CIA seems to have known about it before they published their famous National Intelligence Estimate which falsely claimed that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapon development program.

We now know that they lied about Iran's activities, probably to embarrass President Bush, who was promoting a somewhat more muscular policy towards Iran's nuclear ambitions than the CIA wanted.

Candidate Obama seized on that phony estimate to argue that the Iranians could be talked out of building nuclear weapons.  As President, however, he's known the truth about the Iranian military facility for a long time.  Talk of sanctions and other measures against the program go nowhere; the Iranian nuclear development program proceeds full steam ahead while we dither and wring our hands.

Even the New York Times suggests that we stop talking and bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities:

Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran's bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try.

Mr. Obama's Iran policies are so ineffective that he's got the warmongers at the Times thinking like neocons!

Stopping the Iranian Nuclear Program - F

Semester Test - Somali Piracy

The Somalis have been boarding ships and selling them for ransom for years.  There's been plenty of time to put a plan in place and pass the word to all participants.

Nevertheless, when the Somalis held an American ship captain, Mr. Obama had to shoot from the hip.  He got an American naval vessel into the area, but he wouldn't let the Navy Seals shoot the pirates as they had every right to do.  He had the Seals wait for days on end until finally the French military accumulated the gumption to take back a French ship by force.

At that point, Mr. Obama gave our guys the go-ahead and they took care of the situation in short order.  At least he took action, if only after days of dithering, and only when embarrassed into it by a historically unprecedented French military victory.

He didn't have to wait for the French, of all people, to show us how it's done.  It's well established that pirates who're caught in the act can be dealt with summarily, no lawyers need apply.  Why wait?

But, hey, the pirates are now in Davy Jones' Locker where they belong and the American captives are free once again; all's well that ends well.

Following the French Military Lead - C+

Pop Quiz - Fraudulent Iranian Election

Nobody was surprised when the Iranian government faked the results of their Presidential election - that's what Chicago-style politicians do.  Everybody was surprised, however, when the students decided they'd had enough of their theocratic rulers and started protesting.  The regime was right to fear the students - they followed exactly the same pattern that had brought down the Shah of Iran back during the Carter administration.

Mr. Obama had a unparalleled opportunity to "engage" the Iranian regime about their treatment of the dissenting students.  We all know how much American support helped the dissidents in Poland and Czechoslovakia throw off the yoke of their Russian rulers.

Instead of indicating that he sympathized with the students' desire for freedom, however, Mr. Obama ignored them and made a point of supporting the thuggish Iranian regime.

The student protests continue; Mr. Obama continues to support the nuclear-aware Iranian tyrants against the wishes of their people.  Even shutting up would be an improvement.

Human Rights in Iran - F

Semester Test - China and Climategate

Back in 1989, Chinese college students staged a number of pro-democracy rallies to protest poor living conditions and lack of political freedom.  After crushing the students with tanks, the regime decided that they'd better make some changes.

Instead of offering democracy, however, they switched to capitalism so the Chinese people could start businesses and get rich.  Getting rich took everyone's mind off of politics and the regime survived.

Two decades on, the climate change lobby wants the Chinese to stop emitting so much CO2.  Every human activity emits CO2, of course, particularly generating electricity.  The Chinese have set up a low-carbon electric generator which uses GE turbines and found that the electricity costs at least twice as much as electricity made from coal.

Mr. Obama visited China and tried to persuade the Chinese to reduce CO2 emissions.  The Chinese promised to use energy more efficiently which would mean that their emissions would not rise as fast as before, but rise they would.

The Chinese have no choice - if their people lose hope in economic growth, they'll rebel.  Even in America, mismanaging the economy has cost Mr. Obama a great deal of public approval.  A similar loss of approval would cost the Chinese rulers their heads.

Mr. Obama surely knows the realities of the Chinese economic situation which drive their energy use and thus CO2 generation.  In spite of these realities, Mr. Obama made a deal which requires us to set a goal of giving developing nations $100 billion per year, if only to justify his pending takeover of the energy-producing sectors of our economy.

He knows that his "cap and tax" bill would cripple the American economy.  That's a favorable tradeoff for him because it would give government more power.

It's not a favorable tradeoff in China or in India.  They'll take billions of our taxpayer dollars and emit as they like - unlike our president, the Chinese are well aware that the "science" of "global warming" is now a proven fraud.  Once again, Obama offers freebies to our rivals in exchange for nothing at all.

Offering the Chinese Billions to Fight Global Warming - F

Year-End Test - Oslo Speech

Mr. Obama gives wonderful speeches, but he usually doesn't say anything.  We were utterly wowed by his Oslo speech which had actual content, and what content it was:

The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.

We'll give him an A for that - that's exactly what ought to be coming out of the mouth of a President of the United States - but we have to admit we're grading on a curve.

Back when Mr. Gadaffi of Libya was making noises about building nuclear weapons, President Reagan had our air force send cruise missiles through his palace windows.  One of his children was killed and his bedroom took considerable damage; alas, like Tiger Woods, Mr. Gadaffi was in some other bedroom at the time.

Nevertheless, Mr. Gadaffi got the message.  He behaved a lot better for quite some years and even turned in his nuclear weapons program after Mr. Bush invaded Iraq.

If that's what it takes to get an A, Mr. Obama is due no better than a B-, but compared with his earlier grades, it's a stellar advance.

Saying that War May be Necessary to Preserve Peace - A

Sometimes, even after the final exam has been given, a teacher rolls out a surprise last quiz just to see if the students have been paying attention.  Sure enough, our enemies did exactly that, squeezing one more foreign-affairs trial into a very full 2009, which brings us to:

Pop Quiz - Iran Invades Iraq

Reuters reports that 11 soldiers from an Iranian tank detachment invaded Iraq, raised the Iranian flag, and claimed an oil well.

"Iraq demands the immediate withdrawal from well No. 4 and the Fakka oilfield, which belongs to Iraq. Iraq is looking for a peaceful and diplomatic settlement to this issue," he [Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh] said.

Iraq and Iran fought a multi-million-casualty war within living memory and the Iranians keep sending jihadis to stir up trouble in Iraq.  The two countries don't seem to rub along very well with each other.

Who or what would lead Ali al-Dabbagh to believe that there could possibly be a "peaceful and diplomatic settlement to this issue"?  Whom do we know who has repeatedly, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, insisted that he can talk to the Iranian government and achieve constructive results by words alone?  None other than Barack Hussein Obama, that's who.

Mr. Obama has acted like a pusillanimous wimp with respect to foreign policy ever since he took power.  Then, in Oslo, he spoke of the necessity of inflicting violence to preserve the peace.

The Iranians want to know if he means that.  Surely even the less-than-competent Iraqi government can come up with a military force capable of defeating 11 enemy soldiers.  Iran won't really mind; they can afford to lose 11 men, or to have them flung then back across the border.

Were we in their shoes, we'd want to know which is the real Mr. Obama: the man who wields words, or the man who wields war?  This is a cheap way for them to find out.

Come to think of it, we at Scragged would like to know too.  All eyes on Fakka Oil Well No. 4.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Pretty good summary of his first year in office. The A for Oslo might be a little too congratulatory. The fact that he was there at all (meaning he accepted the award) started it off as a D or F in my mind. The speech might have worked back up to B- at best.
January 4, 2010 9:27 AM
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