Words by John Ubaldi, USMC Ret., Contributor, InHomelandSecurity
In 2009, Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United States with the strategic objective of re-calibrating America’s global role on the international stage and to begin shifting responsibilities to other regional powers.
In his first inaugural address the president stated to the world, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
The Obama Doctrine
President Obama’s main objective as president was to have the U.S. pursue a less aggressive foreign policy, coupled with a sharp reduction in defense spending. This historic change in U.S. global leadership would allow other nations to assume the mantel of leadership once filled by America, with his belief the world would better for it.
Often the president utilizes the term…they are on “the wrong side of history,” when referencing U.S. adversaries around the globe, and especially as it relates to Russia and Iran.
As the United States re-calibrates and retrenches from the international arena the world has taken note. This signal was sent early in his administration when the Obama administration scrapped the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe as a way to re-set its relationship with Russia.
Unfortunately, this had the opposite effect, signaling to the Kremlin weakness by the United States, which latter had unintended consequence of allowing Russia to annex the Crimea and conduct a military intervention into Ukraine.
With minimal protest by the Obama administration over Russian action in Crimea and Ukraine, solidified to the world the disengagement of the United States from the role it has played in the international arena since the end of the Second World War, and would have a profound impact on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
This disengagement by the U.S. of its traditional role signaled to the world, but especially our traditional allies in the Middle East region, that they can no longer count on the United States, especially with how President Obama handled Syria with his infamous “redline” statement with regard to Syria using chemical weapons.
His failure to launch military action when chemical weapons were used stunned the region and signaled to adversaries around the globe that the United States is a retrenching power. National security strategists have always stated, “When great powers withdraw, others will the vacuum.”
In his interview in “The Atlantic” titled “The Obama Doctrine”, the president seems to welcome this re-calibration of decades of long-standing U.S. strategy that spanned both Democratic and Republican administrations.
This new foreign policy strategy by the president has allowed Tehran to be accepted as a regional power by the United States, and with it the president has allowed the vacuum to be filled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), Russia and Iran.
The approach the president articulates in foreign policy worries many national security strategists who have often stated, “When great powers withdraw others fill the vacuum.” We are seeing this play out in the Middle East, and around the globe.
The world watched as the U.S. precipitously pulled out of Iraq in 2011, even though military and national security strategists recommended leaving a stay behind force. Former Obama administration Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, remarked that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders wanted a residual force left behind but received strong push back from the White House.
Panetta remarked, “The White House was so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.” This decision allowed Iran to fill the power vacuum left by the U.S. departure, and set the stage for the rise of ISIS inside Syria, which coincided with the “Arab Spring” revolution in 2011.
The tumultuous “Arab Spring” revolts swept away America’s traditional U.S allies in the Middle East region, especially long time Egyptian ruler President Hosni Mubarak, with the assistance by the Obama administration in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This calculation by the Obama administration with regard to Egypt spilled over to how the administration would deal with Libya, as the entire national security team was against how the president dealt with Egypt and how the U.S. intervened into Libya.
The U.S. Military Retrenches
As the world see’s the international order being re-calibrated with the disengagement by the United States, they are also witnessing the sharp reduction in the U.S. military and its ability to project power across the globe.
As the Obama administration continues to embark on deep reductions in the U.S. military, threats continue around the globe from a resurgent Russia, the rise of China in the Asia-Pacific region, the emergence of ISIS as a global terror threat, and other perils have threatened the national security of the United States.
In May of 2012, The Foreign Policy Initiative reported that due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the controversial August deal, by which Congress and the President agreed to raise America’s debt limit, also placed into the agreement “sequestration”, which if the White House and Congress could not agree, would implement automatic across the board spending cuts.
As part of the bargain the debt-limit deal immediately established ceilings to cap the defense budget and other forms of discretionary spending. The budgetary caps that the Obama administration proposed in its fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget of Pentagon spending would cut roughly $487 billion over the next decade.
The Foreign Policy Initiative continued to report that because Congress failed to meet the Budget Control Act’s deadline to reduce the long-term deficit by $1.2 trillion, the Pentagon now would face the worst-case scenario: current law now requires additional across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon budget totaling more than $500 billion over ten years.
In an interview on Fox News, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, under both President George Bush and Barack Obama, stated that he felt double –crossed by President Obama over budget cuts to the Pentagon.
According to Gates, he was told to cut hundreds of billions of dollar more from the defense budget after having slashed billions. He advised the administration to slow the pace of the reductions for fear of endangering U.S. troops. “I think he acknowledged that what I was pitching at a minimum was, ‘The world doesn’t seem to be getting better. Before you head down a path of deep cuts in defense, why don’t you take it kind of slow,’ ” he said. “You know it was one of those things where I lost the argument.”
Even former Gen. Michael Flynn, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama, stated, “Frankly, the United States of America is in a less strong position today because of the readiness and the size of our armed forces.”
Flynn continued to comment, “I think he sees the military actually as something that is more dangerous to the world,” Flynn added. “I think that he looks at the United States military and sees it as a threatening application around the world, than actually as a useful tool.”
The president and his advisors see the U.S. military differently from past presidents, and fail to understand how the United States provides the global stability as a stabilizing force. Without it other regional powers have now begun to fill the vacuum created by America’s absence. This is never more evident than what is transpiring in the Middle East, and other parts of the globe. Instead of a more secure world it has now become less secure.
The transformation of the military is not only confined to the sharp reduction in the Pentagon budget, but goes to the heart of the “warrior culture” inside the very fabric of the military establishment.
This administration has introduced numerous social engineering changes inside the military such as the ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, allowing gays to serve openly, and the controversial social justice change by allowing women to serve in combat.
Many military experts believe these changes will only lower standards; destroy morale, therefore eroding fighting efficiency, all under the guise of political correctness.
America has to understand what the role of the U.S. military is. In today’s politically correct world this statement is hard for many to understand, but the mission of the U.S. military is to deter war and protect the security of the country. Simply stated, it is to kill the enemies of the United States!
This is an alien concept for America to digest as the vast population of this country has never served in uniform, and this goes for the political class governing the United States with only twenty percent of Congress having served.
The former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who served in the Obama administration commented last month, “When you look at the presidential candidates today, not one is a veteran,” Hagel told the crowd of more than 200. “Our current president and vice president are not veterans. The entire senior White House security staff… none are veterans.
“That doesn’t mean they’re bad people, that doesn’t mean they’re not smart, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about this country. But there is something missing here. And at a time when everything is hair-triggered, everything is nitro glycerin, and miscalculations can lead to a lot of trouble, we need veterans input.”
James Fallows penned an article in “The Atlantic” titled “The Tragedy of the America Military”, and wrote as a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.
The only sacrifice America has made in fighting the war on terror has come from the military and never before in its history has the nation been alienated from those who serve in uniform.
As America enters the final stages of the 2016 presidential election, the candidates need to articulate what they see as the vision for the United States on the world stage. The world has become more challenging and more complex, and whoever assumes the presidency will not have a honeymoon period, but will be tested right out of the gate.
If the candidates running for president are not challenged, the world will definitely challenge the incoming president.