Blue State Blues: Cuba, Iran Prove Americans Are Terrible at Foreign Policy

The United States is opening an embassy in Cuba today, after allowing Cuba to open one in Washington, D.C. last month.

It has been less than a year since President Barack Obama announced his new Cuba policy, defying congressional will and the recent results of the midterm elections. It is not clear what we gained from negotiating with Cuba, aside from the initial prisoner exchange. The Castro regime just keeps adding more demands–money, the handover of Guantánamo, and even the censorship of U.S. broadcasts promoting freedom in Cuba.

In deference to the brutal communist regime–which continues to suppress its people and enrich itself at their expense, while propping up anti-American regimes from North Korea to Venezuela to Iran–the Obama administration failed to invite Cuban dissidents to attend the Havana ceremony. (Even our free press played along: the Associated Press said the dissidents “won’t attend,” as if they had snubbed the U.S. instead of the other way around.) Secretary of State John Kerry will meet them–later. God forbid we should actually promote freedom.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is protesting with a blistering speech attacking the Obama administration’s foreign policy, from Cuba to Iran. But he has been powerless to do anything about it–just as the so-called “Israel lobby” has been powerless to stop Obama from putting Iran on track to becoming a nuclear power. Obama has the insane idea that the Iranian regime will become a reliable regional partner once we show it just how nice we can be. He entered talks from a position of strength and emerged in a crouch of surrender.

The public is not impressed. And the list of failures goes on: Russia, Libya, China, ISIS…

Ah, but look what a mess George W. Bush made! Yes–the Iraq War was a strategic disaster, and not just because it strengthened Iran, but also because Bush failed to foresee a future U.S. president who would be so committed to American defeat.

Still, the point stands: the Iraq War may have been a well-meaning effort to eliminate any risk of nuclear or chemical terror, but it was a task for which the U.S. was unprepared. We are not an occupying power. We don’t do empire well.

We don’t actually do foreign policy well, either. That is especially true of the Obama administration. Look at the parade of callow hacks he has assembled around him.

There’s the failed writer Ben Rhodes, running ambitious negotiations without a shred of foreign policy or national security experience. There’s the buffoonish Marie Harf, a dunce with the demeanor of the backup captain on a high school debate team. There’s Susan Rice, the serial liar. There’s even a former employee of a pro-Iran lobby, running Iran policy for the White House.

The Bush team was far better–but Paul Bremer made a mess of Iraq, and even the estimable Condoleezza Rice wasted her last year in office as Secretary of State trying to push Israelis and Palestinians toward peace, repeating the mistakes of Bill Clinton’s last year, which Bush had come to office determined to avoid.

Indeed, the one constant in U.S. foreign policy in recent decades is that each new administration takes power and promptly reverses the policies of the last. Sometimes that is the right thing to do, but it erodes confidence in U.S. leadership.

There is no society greater than American society–not today, and not ever. None more prosperous, more free, or more just. But we have flaws, and our inability to understand how the rest of the world thinks is a big one. It is no coincidence that our best geopolitical strategists have been immigrants.

It is not that we are ignorant, as foreign critics (and domestic elitists) claim. In fact, the more educated we are, the worse the problem. The disastrous Iran deal bears the familiar pattern of idealistic Ivy League graduates defeated by the reality of realpolitik.

George Washington’s farewell is read as a warning against involvement abroad. But perhaps it is best understood as an admonition to stick to what we do best, which is defending liberty.

There are, as Isaiah Berlin said, foxes who try to do many things, and hedgehogs who do only one. In foreign policy, Americans are hedgehogs: we win wars. Ronald Reagan, for example, who made some awful foreign policy decisions, won the Cold War by building up the military.

The best foreign policy for the U.S. is an ever-stronger military. Beyond that, we are adrift.


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