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America’s needs change at the top

October 25, 2012

Daniel Gardner

Before entering office President Obama had no foreign policy experience. Today he has a four-year record, and he’s saying he’s more qualified than Gov. Romney because he has all this experience. This raises the question of whether experience (which can be a good or a bad thing) trumps policy and leadership.  

Islamic terrorists (two words Obama and company never use together) attacked our mission in Benghazi and murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other men on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 this year. The last time an American ambassador was murdered was 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president and our foreign relations were in shambles.
Is the Benghazi attack an example of bad foreign policies, or just a “bump in the road” as President Obama phrased it in a “60 Minutes” interview with Steve Kroft? 

From the 2008 campaign until today, Obama has stressed he’d conduct foreign relations by sitting down with our enemies and talking. Hillary Clinton mocked this approach when she was running against Obama in the Democratic primaries, and President Obama appointed her Secretary of State. Got to love the irony in that! 

How has Obama’s “Let’s just talk” doctrine fared in the Middle East? An article in the New York Times written by Eric Schmitt and published October 21, 2012, quoted Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar:  

“’There is a widespread sense in the region that Obama is a weak, somewhat feckless leader,’ Mr. Hamid said, citing Mr. Obama’s acquiescence in confrontations with Israeli leaders over settlements and with Egypt’s generals over the prosecution of American-backed nonprofit groups. ‘People think that if you are in a standoff with Obama and you hold your ground, he will eventually back down,’ Mr. Hamid said.”
In the same article Schmitt writes, “On the subject of political Islam, the Obama administration concluded that democracy would inevitably empower Islamist parties, leaving the United States no choice but to build partnerships with them. Breaking decades of mutual hostility, the administration has opened cordial relations with the Islamists who dominated elections in both Tunisia and Egypt — in each case, with promises of tolerance, pluralism and constitutional democracy.”

To back up this summary, Schmitt quotes Benjamin Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, saying, “We believe there is a chance for democratic change to undercut the Al Qaeda narrative.”
“How’s that talky-changy-thing working for ya,” as Sarah Palin might ask.  

Iran is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said allowing Iran to build a nuclear weapon is tantamount to giving nuclear weapons to al Qaeda.  

Has President Obama’s foreign policy of “Let’s just talk” really put al Qaeda “on the run” as he has said in his campaign speeches? Or, are we in greater danger today from al Qaeda and other enemies around the globe?

Ronald Reagan said, “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.”

President Obama’s foreign policies and plans to cut defense spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years have weakened our status in the world and encouraged our enemies to attack us. Four more years of Obama will likely provoke more attacks like Benghazi or worse. We need a change at the top.

Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville. Contact him at

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