President Barack Obama came into office promising a foreign policy different from his predecessor, but after four years, U.S. interventionism is no less common than it was during the presidency of George W. Bush.
The Obama administration is preparing to assist the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States in fighting Al Qaeda militants in Mali, while at the same time recognizing Syria’s opposition, which is supported by rebels with links to Al Qaeda. Just this morning it was announced that hundreds of U.S. troops are in Turkey as part of a NATO mission, a little after a week after the USS Eisenhower was moved off the coast of Syria. The drone strike program continues despite its effects on innocent civilians and the damage it is doing to America’s reputation.
Egypt will continue to receive U.S. military aid despite being in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Like the drone strike program, this policy threatens to undermine U.S. credibility among those that would be natural allies. Obama intervened in Libya last year, yet this year saw Libya dominate the news again thanks to an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. The administration’s response to the attack highlighted the fiasco that is U.S. foreign policy.
The five instances listed here are only a sampling of this administration’s foreign policy failures. There is little reason to be hopeful that 2013 will bring a sea change.
The most notable foreign policy screw-up of 2012 was the Obama administration’s handling of Libya. In March 2011 the Senate passed S.RES.85, asking the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Shortly thereafter Obama commenced military intervention as part of the NATO operation authorized by the U.N. National Security Council.
Thanks to NATO's intervention, the rebels defeated Gaddafi’s forces. In October 2011, Gaddafi was killed by his former subjects, and another chapter in the Arab Spring saga had finished.
In September Libya came back into the spotlight after the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was stormed, and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other members of the American diplomatic mission were killed.
The administration initially claimed the violence and murders were motivated by a trailer for an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. Yet it quickly became clear that something was seriously wrong with the administration’s story about the attack.
Two days after the attack American warships moved into the area as drones hunted for Ambassador Stevens’ murderers. Three days after the attack, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he thought the attack was the result of a terrorist plot, not a protest against a film. That same day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave an account of the attack that differed from the account other U.S. officials had given. Libyan officials, meanwhile, claimed that American diplomats were warned of the attack three days in advance. Despite the White House's story about spontaneous protests, the assault on the diplomatic compound was looking increasingly like a pre-planned terrorist attack.
The Obama administration took way too long to come clean about the attack. Its inability to communicate the truth swiftly is frightening and indicative of the relationship between intelligence services, the administration, Congress, and the public is in dire need of repair.