On Point: The Foreign Policy Clash Between Obama and the Next Congress

by Austin Bay
November 3, 2010

Tea party-inspired candidates primarily stressed U.S.domestic issues during the midterm elections, with special focus on theeconomy. Though the tea party victors now headed for Capitol Hill are in manyrespects a disparate group, an emphasis on free-market principles, a healthyskepticism of big government and a confirmed populist faith in the wisdom ofaverage American voter were common themes in their campaigns.

These unifying themes indicate the new senators andrepresentatives are men and women who believe in American exceptionalism, theidea that the U.S., as the planet's first working and most successfulrepresentative democracy, plays a special role in world affairs.

Their faith in American exceptionalism will ultimatelyinfluence their positions on a range of foreign policy issues. At times, theywill confront President Barack Obama head to head. However, there will beseveral tough cases, such as Afghanistan, where the Obama administration willdiscover many of the new arrivals are critical but reliable allies, unlike thecut-and-run wing of his own party.

President Obama tends to operate in an information cocoonspun by his Chicago pals and a fawning national media, so he may not even beaware that two speeches given by Democrat leaders addressing internationalissues have deeply offended American conservatives. In the next few months,however, he will have to deal with the political outrage bred by these big-timegoofs as expressed by offended Americans who are now serving in Congress.

The first goof is Harry Reid's infamous utterance of April2007, when he said of Iraq ?... that this war is lost, and that the surge isnot accomplishing anything ...? In the context of the moment, Americanscommitted to winning the Global War on Terror identified the senator as anAmerican leader providing psychological and moral encouragement to an enemy intime of war.

Moreover, Reid did it for partisan political advantage. Hecontinued the defeatist narrative Democrats had been pushing since 2003 as partof their campaign to defeat their real enemy, George W. Bush. History hasproven Reid was dead wrong, but the heinous act is not forgotten or forgiven.Obama himself used the defeatist narrative in 2008. Like Reid, Obama will nowpay for it.

The second speech is Obama's own 2009 Cairo apology to theso-called Muslim world. American conservatives can make a strong case that theU.S. has zip nada nothing to apologize for to any religious group, especiallyone stuck with Iran's vicious clerics and several dysfunctional feudalsocieties that export terrorists. Obama's speech came at what historians maycall the height of Obama's diplomatic narcissism, when he implied his veryexistence bridged international divisions and moved tyrants to engage inresponsible nuclear disarmament negotiations. Yes, that's a laugh now, but abitter chuckle, coming as it did right before Iran's pro-democracy GreenRevolution erupted.

Obama was slow to support the vulnerable Iranian protestors.Expect the American exceptionalists in the new Congress to support themunabashedly.

The newbies will also clash with other Obama policies. Theymay support nuclear weapons reduction but demand the U.S. maintain a reliablenuclear deterrent, which could mean building new nuclear weapons. Obama'sfoolish decisions regarding missile defense will be revisited.

Where will the new Congress and the president cooperate?

One of the biggest gripes among Obama's hard-left supportersis they expected him to provide the denouement to the defeatist narrative andpull out of Afghanistan and Iraq. So far, Obama has not made that mistake,though Afghanis and Iraqis voice severe doubts about his commitment. Cynicsread Obama's ?rhetoric of doubt? as hooey to jive the defeatists in hispolitical base. They cite Iraq's air force as an example. It will requiretraining and logistics assistance until at least 2018. This suggests the U.S.Air Force will help protect Iraqi skies for beyond 2011. Obama knows this. Hesupports it because way down deep he really does not want to lose Iraq on hiswatch. The new conservatives in Washington don't want him to lose it, either.

In Afghanistan, President Obama is pursuing a ?surge?strategy led by Gen. David Petraeus, a man Senator Obama's party vilified in2007 for pursuing the same strategy in Iraq. Obama will take deserved heat fromnew congressional leaders for his blatant hypocrisy, but they will support hisAfghan initiatives. They will demand, however, he exhibit the resolve of acommitted commander in chief.

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To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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