Peter Brookes: Pentagon changes won’t save foreign policy
OK, so maybe at least one head had to roll — in this case that of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — after the murderous mid-term elections which partly reflected Team Obama’s sloppy steering of the ship of state in international waters.
But the inconvenient truth about all of this delicious D.C. drama is that swapping out one Pentagon pasha for another won’t fix President Obama’s floundering foreign and national security program. It’s not so much the people that are the drawback; it’s the policies. Simply said: We’ve been plowing into the plethora of international problems imprecisely.
The responsibility for guiding American foreign and national security policy writ large, especially on the hot issues, rests with the president.
The Pentagon, the State Department and others, while advisers, are in the role of implementing that policy set forth by the White House’s political potentates.
That’s how our system “works,” especially for this crew, which is infamous for its micromanagement.
Unfortunately, that foreign and defense policy vessel has taken on plenty of water in the face of some very stormy seas. Here’s some of where our ship of state has foundered on the shoals — or even been dashed on the rocks:
• Islamic State/Syria/Iraq: The U.S. was caught flat-footed by this “junior varsity” terrorist group. The Islamic State has taken a swath of territory in a blitz across Syria and Iraq. It has also brutally beheaded Americans.
While we supposedly left Iraq “stable and self-reliant,” the three-plus-year Syria civil war has taken some 200,000 lives. The Bashar Assad regime is still in power — though its days were said to be “numbered” — and al Qaeda’s Khorasan Group has moved in.
• Russia/Ukraine: The Kremlin took Crimea with little fuss, probably provided the missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysian passenger airliner, and is now spearheading instability in Eastern Ukraine, moving aggressively against a sovereign state in violation of international law.
• Iran: On Team Obama’s watch, we’ve seen Iran move forward with its nuclear (weapons) program and develop its space and ballistic missile systems — both precursors to an intercontinental ballistic missile capability that is expected next year.
Worse, the prez pitched over the side the Bush-era missile defense system in Europe that would have been operational by now for a system that will lag Iran’s ICBM by three to five years.
• China: The “pivot” to the Pacific looks more like a pirouette — and Beijing couldn’t be more pleased. China is now building islands in the South China Sea to claim ownership over 1 million square miles of ocean.
You might add: the failed Middle East peace mediation, terrible Israel ties, Eastern Europe’s jangled nerves, the Benghazi tragedy, two North Korean nuke tests, the “Islamist Spring,” al Qaeda in Africa (Boko Haram, al Shabab, etc.) and so on.
You get the picture.
Contrary to Team Obama’s assertions, we’re not safer now than we were six years ago — and the reason is our foreign and national security policies.
Unfortunately, moving the crew in the steamer chairs around the deck of the S.S. Obama won’t change the calamitous course this ship of state is on.
This article first appeared in the Boston Herald. Peter Brookes is a Fort Valley resident, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter.