Thomas Jefferson established an academy at West Point because he wanted an institution to train Army officers which would be beholden to no political party. Cadets learn their responsibility is to live the academy motto—“duty, honor, country.” That said, it is unfortunate that President Barack Obama chose to make the centerpiece of his remarks at West Point last week a partisan diatribe—with another dose of “anything but Bush” rhetoric. Even more disappointing, the President outlined the main elements of the Obama Doctrine: greater reliance on international institutions; substituting soft power for hard power; and a more subdued and less self-reliant America – a scheme designed more to manage American decline than to ensure its people remain safe, free and prosperous.
President Obama’s dream for a new international order has informed virtually all of his administration’s foreign policy initiatives. And almost all of them demonstrate just why sacrificing American sovereignty and security at the altar of global bureaucracy is such a terrible idea. Both Russia and China continue to manipulate US efforts to impose sanctions on Iran in the UN Security Council to their own ends. For instance, it was just reported last weekend that the Obama administration further undermined its already terribly weak Iranian sanctions resolution by allowing Moscow to sell advanced air and cruise missile defenses to Iran.
Obama’s effort to substitute diplomacy, foreign aid and other instruments for defense are a recipe for disaster as well. Soft power is not a substitute for hard power. Indeed, soft power works best when there is hard power to back it up. The US learned this lesson the hard way in both Iraq and Afghanistan when it found that assistance without the security to protect it is just another target for attack. No effort at “soft power” has proven more disastrous than US engagement with Tehran, which has led to the president of Iran publicly mocking the president of the United States .
President Obama has also pressed the case that the United States can no longer afford to defend itself. Indeed, the administration continues to make the case that defense spending is to blame for high deficits and slow economic growth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Gutting defense will not keep the White House from spending the nation into the ground— but it will make the world much less safe.
The Obama Doctrine is vision of the world the president wants, one that ignores the world as it is. It is anything but a strategy—it is the antithesis of strategy.
Perhaps, the worst thing about the speech was that the President made it in front of the men and women who will have to live with the immediate consequences of his actions. The Obama Doctrine will put them in harm’s way without the modern equipment they will need; with allies who will increasingly doubt our resolve; and at the mercy to an international order that will value their lives for less than the power which the White House wants to put in their hands.