Sometimes the writing on the wall is 10 feet tall, and you have to be willfully blind not to see it. The September attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul on September 13, which has now been linked to Pakistani secret service officials, is surely such an instance.
Getting attacked by terrorists backed by someone who is supposedly your ally is a new low. As Heritage’s Lisa Curtis correctly remarks, the Obama Administration has to make it absolutely clear that this is a game changer in the Pakistani–U.S. relationship. If not, this great country will look ever weaker in foreign public perception.
Unfortunately, it is just one of a long line of foreign insults and snubs that the Obama White House seems to have become accustomed to taking from abroad. Being liked more than feared has always been this President’s preferred modus operandi. Unfortunately, his speech to the U.N. General Assembly last week failed on both counts.
So little respect does the U.S. President now command that the Palestinians could not be dissuaded from their U.N. gambit. And French president Nicolas Sarkozy thought nothing of delivering a resounding repudiation of the American position against U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood only four speakers after President Obama had spoken from the same podium. This snub would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.
And as for love—well, here’s what former State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley wrote on the BBC Web site Monday about the Administration’s Middle East policy: “The failure was arriving in New York in the midst of historic and transformational change to deal with a Palestinian request for statehood, and having nothing more to offer than a veto threat.”
And Crowley bitterly comments regarding Obama’s Cairo speech, striking a theme that Hillary Clinton had hammered in the Democratic primary campaign: “This is a test. Peace is hard. But if the only answer is a veto, then Cairo no longer represents U.S. policy. It was only a speech.”
Regrettably, “It was only a speech” applies to so much of the Obama Administration’s diplomatic efforts, going back to President Obama’s hapless attempt to secure the 2012 Olympics for his hometown of Chicago in the first months of his presidency. Practically on the spur of the moment, without any adequate preparation, the President and First Lady took off for a lightning-quick visit to Copenhagen, where the Olympic committee was meeting. In spite of the President’s widely admired speech, Chicago did not even make it to the final round of aspirants. The ultimate winner was London, whose officials had been preparing the case for years. The snub to the U.S. President was as predictable as it was self-inflicted. And it was a harbinger of snubs to come.
It will be the hard but necessary job for the next U.S. President—whoever it may be—to restore the international standing and credibility of the United States. Preserving the nation’s military strength, bolstering its international diplomacy, and using public diplomacy to remind the world of U.S. achievements and clout should all be a part of that task.