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The Sad Irony of Obama’s ‘Big’ Foreign-Policy Speech

The Sad Irony of Obama’s ‘Big’ Foreign-Policy Speech

The White House has been advancing for days a major foreign policy speech by the president, intended as a "turning point" in American foreign policy. According to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, "our foreign policy is going to look a lot different going forward than it did in the last decade." If only it were so.

President Obama’s speech today at West Point was not a break with the foreign policy practices of his administration these past five years. It was instead a discouraging reminder of how glaringly wide the gap is between what the administration claims for its success and the reticent choices it actually makes.

The president speaks of the United States as the world’s indispensable nation and cites three examples: "when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine — it is America that the world looks to for help." But in two of those crises, the United States has done next to nothing. We are by no means the only nation that could do so little. Those girls were kidnapped on April 14; on May 7 we sent an "experts team" from the FBI, and are finally getting around to special forces and drones. Britain has sent hundreds of troops. It is Ukrainian military forces — armed with U.S. meals ready to eat — that forced masked men out of occupied buildings in Donetsk. The Obama administration declined other requests for military assistance. While White House diplomacy has been active on Ukraine, it clearly failed in preventing Moscow’s seizure of Crimea or irregular Russian forces doing violence in eastern Ukraine. Nor has it galvanized NATO to greater defense efforts or Europe to significant sanctions, much less causing Russia to cower under its powerful global leadership.

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