As President Barack Obama prepares to address the nation Wednesday evening about his strategy for defeating ISIS–a strategy he recently said did not exist–it is worth noting that the president’s foreign policy speeches are rarely helpful, and often harmful, to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals. Focused on politics rather than on policy, Obama is more articulate about the limits of U.S. power than the goals for which he intends to use it.
In 2009, for example, Obama delivered speeches in Cairo and Ankara that cast the U.S. in an unflattering light–and alarmed Israelis about the extent to which he had adopted the Arab rejectionist narrative of recent history.
That same year, he delivered an address at West Point about his plans for an Afghanistan “surge” against the Taliban–and undercut that surge in the same address by announcing a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops.
Last year, the President addressed the nation about the threat of the Assad regime, after his administration had promised Americans (and reassured the Syrian regime, at the same time) that airstrikes would be “unbelievably small.” A year later, as Allahpundit of HotAir wryly notes, Obama is asking the public to support a policy that is somewhat at odds with what he was proposing in 2013. The incoherence is, to say the least, disconcerting.
One the rare occasion when President Obama does propose an actual, concrete plan–like missile defense for Eastern Europe (2009) or a “red line” on Syrian chemical weapons (2012), his promises are swiftly broken. That, in turn, undermines American credibility.
It is hard to imagine Wednesday’s speech will be any better. His incompetence is matched only by the cowardice of Republicans in Congress who will not even vote on the issue.