National Security

Obama Wages War Against Straw Men

His commencement address at West Point was the wrong place for a political stump speech.

May 29, 2014

Once again, Barack Obama used an address to and for brave Patriots in uniform to make a defensive political speech aimed at his opponents. Over Memorial weekend, it was his address to our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, which he spent laying out his case for ending the war. Wednesday, it was his commencement address at West Point, which received a deservedly tepid response from the cadets.

Here are some lowlights of what Lt. Col. Ralph Peters called an “exercise in self-adoration”:

“We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more. And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength: a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise – who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away – are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.”

Where to begin? Maybe this: Ending wars isn’t the same as winning them, as we said yesterday.

Furthermore, former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Pete Hoekstra explained, “The U.S. might have diminished al-Qaeda’s capabilities in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it has not diminished the threat from radical Islamist terrorists as a whole. They have instead reestablished themselves in such safe havens as the Maghreb, the Levant, and the Arabian Peninsula. The threat from radical Islam is in fact much more dangerous to American and Western interests than when the administration assumed office six years ago.”

Even The Washington Post’s editorial board excoriated Obama’s embarrassingly bad foreign policy, writing that the retreat from Afghanistan “would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results have been consistent – consistently bad. … An administration that faulted its predecessor for being ideological seems to have substituted ideology for reality-based foreign-policy.”

And the idea that America “has rarely been stronger” is laughable – particularly to the despot thugs in Moscow, Tehran, Damascus, Pyongyang and Beijing. Our allies would be laughing too if Obama’s failed leadership weren’t so serious.

As for the “growing economy,” well, see the first quarter GDP retraction.

“The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of [American] leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

This is not only a pathetic straw man – no one advocates military action “in every instance” – but to Obama, government is the hammer and every perceived problem in society is a nail.

“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the Rule of Law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.”

In 2009, he belittled the very idea, saying, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” And no president has done more to undermine American exceptionalism than Obama, primarily because he continues to flout Rule of Law.

“In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe. But this isn’t the Cold War. Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions. … And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.

… We don’t know how the situation will play out and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot.”

Obama’s “leadership” regarding Ukraine has been feckless. He didn’t mention Russia annexing Crimea, or that Moscow is still succeeding in fomenting violence in eastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is more emboldened than ever.

The bottom line is that Obama chose the wrong venue and audience for a petty political rebuttal. This was a West Point commencement, not a rally in Iowa. But the only war this commander in chief seems adept at waging is the one against his political enemies.

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