U.S.

May 5, 2014

Obama’s inaction invites challenges to the U.S.

In the Philippines this week, President Obama took a cheap shot at critics of his foreign policy.

“Why is it,” the president pondered at a news conference, “that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?”

But who is banging the shield, demanding war? Critics of the president’s foreign policy have ranged from human rights activists on the political left to congressional Republicans on the right.

No one is eager for a new war. Indeed, the worry in many circles is that the president’s foreign policy has been so provocatively feeble that we risk war through our own indecision.

Rather than acknowledge this legitimate anxiety, the president has created a dynamic in which he bravely confronts political opponents who don’t exist.

On the world stage, inertia has consequences. And we have felt the consequences across the globe. Storms clouds are forming in some regions, lightning is striking in others. I worry that those storms might eventually reach our shores.

One of those regions is Syria. The Syrian civil war started in Obama’s first term. He had a variety of tools at his disposal, such as arming moderate rebel factions and restoring the U.S. military posture in the Mediterranean, that could have prevented Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons or even shortened the conflict.

The president didn’t use these tools, but he did declare that the use of chemical weapons against civilians there would be a “red line.” When Assad ignored this warning, Obama seesawed between punitive military action and more rhetoric. He came to Congress with a request that it authorize military force, backing down when it became clear he didn’t have the votes.

So much for the idea that “everybody is so eager to use military force.” After his policy failures backed him into a corner, it was the president who went looking for a fight — not his critics. The criticism isn’t that the president failed to send the Marines into Syria but rather that he allowed the situation to degrade to the point where military force was needed.

Asia, meanwhile, is the Balkan powder keg of the 21st century. The region is undergoing a multinational arms race spawned by Chinese territorial distension. Beijing has staked claim to territory that isn’t China’s and is building up the military capacity to take and hold it.

The president’s decision to pivot to Asia was correct, but — like our allies — I fear the pivot itself is on paper only. The Navy is losing ships faster than we can build them. The Air Force is set to lose 500 combat aircraft in the next few years. We are cutting tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines from our forces. We still refuse to ship Taiwan modernized military equipment and failed in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations to send Japan top-line military equipment such as the F-22 Raptor.

Again, the criticism here isn’t that the president has failed to start a war in Asia but that he is allowing the situation to disintegrate to the point where war may become reality.

In Ukraine, Obama promised assistance to the embattled government. A blue moon later, the administration got around to sending some military rations and sleeping bags.

Yet the president is ignoring bipartisan sentiment from both the House and Senate — and the advice of former NATO commander Wesley Clark — to send more lifesaving equipment to the Ukrainians. These radios, body armor, night-vision goggles and such could well alter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus.

Next week, the House Armed Services Committee will draft its annual defense bill. In it, we will provide the range of options the president has overlooked. The steps are firm but reasonable. They recognize the utility of intelligence and cyber-cooperation with Ukraine, enhanced military readiness in Europe and a strategic framework for U.S. security cooperation with partners in both Eurasia and Europe.

None of us wants a war with Russia. But, as with the threats in Syria and China, I am deeply worried that Obama’s inaction is fertilizing the European soil for wider conflict.

Increasing violence in Iraq, provocations by North Korea and an ongoing Iranian nuclear program stem from similar paralysis in the Oval Office. I believe that these growing threats to peace spring from the same source: the perception that the White House is too timid when challenged.

Our adversaries have tested us repeatedly. They have concluded that this administration will avoid any sensible precaution, any defensive deployment, any hike in military preparedness, because it believes any show of strength is akin to starting a war or desiring a war.

That sentiment is precarious, and we have watched it subvert the international order for six years now. Let’s hope it doesn’t take a war for the Obama administration to wake from its slumber.

 

Editor’s note: McKeon, a Republican, represents California’s 25th District in the House, where he chairs the Armed Services Committee. This commentary first appeared in the May 1 edition of the Washington Post.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 7, 2015

News: F-35 loses dogfight to fighter jet from 1980s – A new report alleges that an F-35A was defeated by the very aircraft it is meant to replace.   Business: South Korea selects Airbus for $1.33 billion tanker contract – European aerospace giant Airbus won a $1.33 billion deal June 30 to supply air refueling...
 
 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce photograph

Boeing, Embraer to collaborate on ecoDemonstrator technology tests

U.S. Chamber of Commerce photograph Frederico Curado, president & CEO of Embraer, and Marc Allen, president of Boeing International, at the Brazil-U.S. Business Summit in Washington, D.C. The event occurred during an offici...
 
 
Untitled-2

Tactical reconnaissance vehicle project eyes hoverbike for defense

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, has been exploring the tactical reconnaissance vehicle, or TRV, concept for nearly nine months and is evaluating the hoverbike technology as a way to get Soldiers away from ground thre...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. William Banton

Upgraded AWACS platform tested at Northern Edge

Air Force photograph by SSgt. William Banton Maintenance crew members prepare an E-3G Sentry (AWACS) for takeoff during exercise Northern Edge June 25, 2015. Roughly 6,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen ...
 
 
LM-Legion

Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod™ takes to skies

Lockheed Martin photograph by Randy Crites Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod recently completed its first flight test, successfully tracking multiple airborne targets while flying on an F-16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Legion Pod was in...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Marleah Robertson

First Marine graduates Air Force’s F-35 intelligence course

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Marleah Robertson Marine Corps 1st Lt. Samuel Winsted, an F-35B Lightning II intelligence officer, provides a mock intelligence briefing to two instructors during the F-35 Intelligence Formal Train...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>