Obama's Unsuccessful Foreign Policy Comes from the Non-Interventionist School



This article will seek to briefly explain how Obama's foreign policy pursuits have been very similar to the non-interventionism pursued by libertarian ideologues.

Beginning in 2009, Obama came into office declaring to the Muslim world that the U.S. had entered "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." He also said the U.S. would be willing to "extend a hand" to those "who cling to power through corruption and deceit" if they "are willing to unclench" their fists. Among his first actions as president was to call on Israel to open the borders of Gaza. Shortly after entering office, he said on an Arabic language news station, "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy."

He attempted to do so by ending the war in Iraq and will pull troops out of Afghanistan in 2014. U.S. retreat from this part of the world will be the first time that America will not have influence over them in 15 years.

In Syria -- where more than 150,000 people have been murdered in a civil war -- Obama said that the president, Bashar al-Assad, must go, but then retreated on his statement. He also said there was a red line -- the using chemical weapons on Syrians by the government -- and that crossing it would result in some form of punishment. There was, however, no punishment when the line was crossed.

In Iran, Obama initially enforced sanctions, but later decided that Iran was on a less destructive path and urged Senate Democrats to oppose new sanctions. He is working with the international community to try ween out Iranian attempts to build nuclear weapons.

In Egypt, Obama said, "Ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people." He called on long-standing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down and built strong relations with the newly elected President -- who was eventually ousted as well -- Mohamed Morsi. He never directly got involved in the Egyptian conflict, other than making declarations about what the U.S. thought might be a good prescription for Egypt.

President Obama has supported non-interventionist's claims about Israel since the very beginning of his presidency. "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," the American president said in Cairo in a June 4, 2009 speech to Muslims. "This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop," he concluded. He also asserted that the American position is that the 1967 borders are a starting point for a two-state solution. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working diligently to craft a solution. In a 2013 video released by the White House, a map of Israel was displayed that did not have territories that are contested, such as the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, as being Israeli territory.

More recently, Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to stay out of Ukraine. Putin ignored the warnings and entered Crimea with Russian military might. There were no consequences for his actions thus far, and Obama continued his tradition of not getting involved directly.

Therefore, Obama has simply refused to take any substantive action in the international community other than using discussion and diplomacy to further his foreign policy objectives -- which appear to be largely non-interventionist in nature. He has maintained some U.S. alliances, but has not asserted U.S. military might in any significant way.

One possible exception to this is in Libya, where Obama backed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to create a Libyan no-fly zone. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, pushed for international action to launch air attacks on Libyan ground targets threatening civilians. In March 2011, Obama authorized the firing of 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in Libya, in response to regime actions against rebel forces, to enforce the UN no-fly zone.

Absent from this single action in Libya, Obama has carried out a non-interventionist foreign policy. Libertarians have gotten their wish on foreign policy.

Unfortunately, it's this author's opinion that the Obama foreign policy has not turned out so well for the United States.


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