One of the great conflicts in American foreign policy is between the short-term tendency of Americans to brush off foreign threats, and the knee-jerk response to foreign threats, which is to take crushing action. That leads to wild vacillation in American foreign policy on the right. On the left, however, there’s a solid consistency: America is a nefarious force in the world and should be stopped from her colonial, imperialistic aspirations. The Left is driven by isolationist foreign policy not out of the belief that isolationism makes America stronger, but out of the belief that isolationism protects the rest of the world. That’s nonsense. It has led the Left to pander to America’s enemies and ignore her friends, all the while weakening her defensive capabilities.
Myth 1: Slashing our military doesn’t cost American lives.
Fact: Slashing our military leads our enemies to attack.
American history is replete with periods in which Americans fell asleep at the switch, believing that there would never be another threat. From World War I to World War II, America slashed her military so much that by the time of Pearl Harbor, the United States had only about 180,000 soldiers, making our military the 19th largest in the world, ranking below Portugal. Our military weakness gave the Japanese and Germans the impression that if they struck quickly, they could overtake us. That was an error on their part — but a strong military could have deterred that action in the first place.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Clinton administration engaged in dramatic military cuts that left our enemies believing we could be had. Between 1993 and 2000, active duty military was slashed from 1.8 million to 1.4 million, and the fleet shrunk from 454 ships to 341 ships. Osama Bin Laden termed America a “paper tiger” thanks to the Clinton administration’s unwillingness to deploy military force, even after attacks on Americans. That weakness, in turn, led to September 11.
It also meant that when the Bush administration invaded Iraq after invading Afghanistan, the army was not fully prepared to conduct two wars. That led to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous line, “you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Then, after George W. Bush left office, the Obama administration slashed the military once again. And once again, security around the world has collapsed.
Myth 2: China is our friend.
Fact: China is aggressively expanding its sphere of influence.
China is far weaker than most media believe. China faces real and growing demographic problems: its population will move into a decline phase soon, and the country also faces a severe oversupply of men versus women. Their economic strength is similarly overblown, as repeated stock market crashes over the past two years demonstrate. China’s form of crony capitalism is exponentially worse than America’s — at least here, we have private industry. Communist China has private industry, too, but only so long as the government allows it. This means dramatic malinvestment of resources seized from some and given to others. China has borrowed money to build ghost cities — literal empty cities — and factories that create gluts in the market.
“Beijing has responded with its usual clumsiness and brutality, threatening to jail stock traders as the market shudders and devaluing its currency in the hopes that China’s accustomed economic life-raft — exports — can be goosed enough to take up the slack,” Kevin Williamson wrote in National Review in 2015. “But in reality China can only do so much of that, because China is an importer, too.”
Still, thanks to years of American weakness, China has been on the move.
Thanks to America’s failure to properly protect Taiwan, China is now exploiting its trade ties to attempt to force a reconciliation with the free state. According to Forbes, “Taiwan’s trade with China reached a record $130 billion in 2014 after the governments signed a series of deals since 2008 to ease restrictions on imports and investment.” But China’s increasing insistence on Taiwanese submission threatens those trade ties — and China is using its increased military power and sway to threaten other countries to cut off trade with Taiwan as well.
China, as author Robert Kaplan says, sees Taiwanese independence as a threat to the mainland: their goal is to swallow Taiwan whole. “If China succeeds in consolidating Taiwan,” Kaplan writes, “not only will its navy suddenly be in an advantageous strategic position vis-à-vis the First Island Chain, but its national energies, especially its military ones, will be just as dramatically freed up to look outward in terms of power projection, to a degree that has so far been impossible.” And, says Kaplan, by 2020 the United States will not be able to defend Taiwan from China.
Failure to defend Taiwan would create a Chinese sphere of influence throughout the region. Other countries within China’s reach would undoubtedly distance their relationships from the United States and draw closer to China to avoid being eaten, “allowing a Greater China of truly hemispheric proportions to emerge.” A strong navy could prevent China from trying to go after Taiwan — but America is busily destroying its own military.
Meanwhile, China has begun projecting its power into the international waters of the South China Sea. The South China Sea is the thoroughfare for one-third of all seaborne commercial goods, as Kaplan has pointed out, as well as half of all the oil for Northeast Asia. China has been building a man-made island in the South China Sea, seized land throughout the area, and overruled any claims from nations including Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. The Chinese navy has even blockaded the Philippines from operating in parts of the area. Even though the UN ruled that China violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, China simply ignored them and went ahead with its plans anyway.
China is building new alliances all over the world to expand its burgeoning empire — and again, the United States is doing nothing. According to CNN, “China poured billions of dollars into Latin America in 2015 . . . more money than the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank gave to the region last year combined, according to the Inter-American Dialogue, a non-profit in Washington.” The goal is to create friendly governments in America’s hemisphere — and to that end, the Chinese government promised a $250 billion infusion into Latin America by 2026. China essentially subsidizes Latin American dictatorships with cash infusions, providing a vulnerable point in America’s backyard.
Naturally, China has also formed a de facto alliance with Russia. Both China and Russia actively support the regimes in Iran and Syria, and both are willing to use force to achieve their aims. The world looks bleak for countries in China’s crosshairs.
And we are in their crosshairs. For now, Chinese direct action against the United States has been restricted to online attacks — they’ve used cyberwarfare against both private American companies and American governmental agencies. But that could change if China sees a point of leverage. And they certainly have a point of leverage with regard to American debt.
The Chinese economy is largely reliant on the success of the American economy, but there could come a point at which China’s leadership would be willing to risk damage to its own population to hurt the United States. If so, they have the capacity to do it: they own $1.3 trillion in American debt. Dumping America’s debt on the open market would deprive the United States of the ability to borrow, forcing America to either print money to pay off its debt or raise taxes dramatically, sinking its economy.
Myth 3: The European Union must be maintained.
Fact: The European Union has outlived its usefulness.
At the start of the 21st century, conventional wisdom suggested that the European Union would be the next great global superpower. That wisdom, it turns out, was dead wrong. The precursor to the European Union was formed in the aftermath of World War II as a response to two phenomena: the repeated warmongering of Germany and the rise of the Soviet Union. The EU was part of the same movement that created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — it was designed to band together an economic alliance to stave off the evils of communism. The EU came to its fullest glory with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany.
But with the death of the Soviet Union, the EU changed its mission. No longer was the EU worried about creating a zone of freedom to counteract the Iron Curtain. Now, the EU became about “Europe without frontiers.” The EU sought freedom of travel for anyone within its borders, the finalization of the so-called Single Market, and the attempt to dump national currencies in favor of the Euro. In 2012, the Nobel Prize committee awarded its Peace Prize to the EU for their redistribution of wealth and willingness to open their borders to Muslim refugees.
These policies, combined with plummeting birth rate across the entire system, have crippled the EU. Columnist Mark Steyn predicted this a decade ago: “The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. . . . To avoid collapse, European nations will need to take in immigrants at a rate no stable society has ever attempted.”
As Steyn pointed out ten years later, his prediction had come true: Angela Merkel imported well over a million Muslim refugees, few of them vetted, most of them young males, in 2015, and planned to do the same in 2016. Steyn warns that such a move would make young Muslims 40 percent of Germany’s young male population. And they’d bring families, too, as well as non-Western culture.
As Europe’s economies collapse — Greece’s debt was 177 percent of its GDP as of June 2015; Italy’s was 132 percent and Portugal’s 130 percent; Ireland, Cyprus, and Belgium were all above 100 percent, with Spain and France not far behind — the lack of a common economic policy has torn the EU apart. Germany has pursued unpopular austerity measures in order to prevent the collapse of its economy, and has been rewarded with an unemployment rate below 5 percent in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse — but other nations in the EU still suffer from unemployment above ten percent. And the workforce in most of Europe is declining in size, threatening future economic viability.
At the same time, terrorist attacks from new Muslim immigrants and their children exploded:
- in 2013, the EU experienced 152 failed, foiled, or completed terrorist attacks;
- by 2015, that number had increased to 211.
Europol also warned that the risk of lone wolf attacks had greatly increased. The crime rates across Europe are increasing, too, in the wake of importation of massive numbers of unwesternized Muslims; that’s particularly true of sexual assaults on young women and anti-Semitic attacks. There is a reason so many Jews are fleeing Europe, and it’s not the neo-Nazis.
The British were the first to recognize the problem — they voted to exit the European Union in 2016. And even their more moderate politicians understand that the multicultural fantasy pressed forward by the international left is doomed to failure. As early as 2011, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron — who opposed Brexit — said, “we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.” French Socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande has condemned Islamic jihadism, too; shortly after the murder of 84 people in Nice by an ISIS-identifying terrorist, Hollande stated, “France as a whole is under the threat of Islamic terrorism.”
But this does not mean that Europe will have much of a choice. Europe receives a significant percentage of its oil and natural gas from Russia or from OPEC nations. This makes Europe highly vulnerable to leverage from expansionist powers. And if Europe hopes to avoid the riots that tore Greece apart, it may have no choice but to continue importing young immigrants. Europe could change its fate by embracing small government conservatism, but even the far-right parties of Europe focus more on curbing immigration than on economic reforms that would obviate the need for mass immigration. Marine Le Pen’s National Front party in France, to take the most high-profile example, follows protectionist logic that would harm the economy, while upholding the value of a welfare state that bleeds it dry.
Europe, it appears, is headed for collapse. Nationalism is a temporary move away from an international leftism that cripples the continent, but neither far-right nor far-left nationalism will save the countries of Europe from themselves.
Myth 4: Israel is a western interloper in the Muslim Middle East.
Fact: The Jewish State historically predates Islam by a millennium and a half, and Israel has every right to build on Jewish land.
One of the great lies of the modern left is the notion that Israel has no right to exist in its historic homeland, that it is some sort of civilizational interloper in the heart of Muslim territory. In reality, Jewish presence in the Holy Land stretches back 3,000 years, predates both Christianity and Islam, and has never been broken. The only historic independent states to exist on the land that is currently Israel were Jewish ones. Without the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the city would be a barren outcropping on a hilltop. To dismiss Jewish claims to Jerusalem and Israel is to undermine the basis of both Christianity and Islam, which are based on their historic predecessors.
Given the Jews’ unchallengeable historic claims to the land of Israel — and given the fact that no other people has ever independently tied itself to the land of Israel — Israel has every historic right to build on land that is historically Jewish. That right is fully acknowledged under international law.
The countervailing notion of an independent Palestinian people with equal and opposite claims to Israel is an entirely modern invention (there is no historic Arab Palestine, no historic Palestinian language, no historic Palestinian religion, and all Palestinians’ grandparents are either Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Lebanese, or Syrian). The British Mandate was originally supposed to cede Trans-Jordan to the Jews as well, but sliced it off for an Arab state instead. Then, in 1947, the UN attempted to slice off another state for the Arabs — and the Arabs rejected that plan and began a war. At no time was settlement barred for Jews inside the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
On any human rights basis, expansion of Israeli control would be a win for Western civilization, it is true. That’s why Israel’s 1.2 million Arabs overwhelmingly prefer to remain under Israel’s control rather than moving to Palestinian areas, while Palestinians forbid any Jews from living under their rule.
Myth 5: Obama’s military policy made us safer.
Fact: Obama’s military policy made our enemies more powerful.
When it comes to the navy, a large, powerful navy prevents war from breaking out and ensures that global trade routes are open. That’s been true since the time of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, who posited in the late 19th century that a powerful naval strategy could project power without engaging in war. As Seth Cropsey, former Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy, writes, “Strategic projection of force at a distance shapes a competitor’s behavior without war. . . . Maritime strategy has the power to reverse the benefits of geography in the service of strategic interests.”
Thanks to the Obama administration’s dedication to the principle of weakening America’s influence abroad, the American military bore the brunt of budget cuts. In 2011, the House Republicans agreed on a program of budget cuts called sequestration, which would have put off specific cuts to the future, when a bipartisan committee could hash them out; if the bipartisan committee failed, President Obama insisted that half of all the cuts come from the military. Republicans failed to realize that Obama wanted such military budget cuts and would deliberately undermine negotiations and force the automatic cuts.
That wasn’t what Obama had originally promised. In Duty, Gates wrote that in early 2011, Obama had promised military cuts would clock in at $1 for every $10 in domestic spending. Instead, he forced through the 50/50 deal.
In 2011, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that if budget cuts were to occur, the navy would be crippled. “Facing such large reductions, we would have to reduce the size of the military sharply,” said Panetta. “Rough estimates suggest after 10 years of these cuts, we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.”
That’s precisely what happened. In 2012, Panetta announced that budget cuts necessitated an entirely different defense strategy based on the notion that America could not fight two wars simultaneously. Instead, the United States would be able to handle one war, and provide a mere “spoiler” role in a second war. As former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated at the time, “For years, the US defense planning and requirements were based on preparing to fight two major conventional wars at the same time. … The department’s leadership now recognizes that we must prepare for a much broader range of security challenges on the horizon.” Specifically, the United States would have a tough time fighting Iran and China simultaneously.
But the Obama administration continued to live in fantasy land. Isolationist Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel created a report that stated that the military could fulfill its mission if the Army decreased to 420,000 soldiers; the White House announced that 40,000 layoffs would still be “consistent with the view of our civilian and uniform military leadership about the threats that the country faces.”
But military leadership knew better: General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that the military cuts would mean that America “would no longer be a global power.” The army chief of staff, General Ray Odierno, said that Hagel’s notions were fantastical: his cuts would “put at substantial risk our ability to conduct even one sustained major combat operation.” Mark Moyar, visiting scholar at the Foreign Policy Initiative, summed it up: “With Islamic State, Iran, Russia and China on the march, it is doubtful that America can afford a lightweight military for long.”
Myth 6: Obama stopped the Iranian nuclear development.
Fact: Obama allowed Iran to further aggressively grow into a regional terror power.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been the greatest global sponsor of terrorism for two generations. But thanks to the tender, loving care of the Obama administration, it moved from the brink of revolution in 2009 to renewed regional power under the tutelage of its jihadist mullahs.
President Obama came into office desperately hoping to make Iran a regional counterweight to Israel. In July 2007, Obama openly stated that it was a “disgrace” that the United States had not reached out to the would-be genocidal imams. Before Obama was even elected, he sent a secret emissary to the Iranian leadership — Ambassador William G. Miller — to tell the mullahs to hold on until he could take the White House. As Michael Ledeen reported, “Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies.”
In March 2009, shortly after taking office, Obama sent a message to the people “and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” in which he said he was “committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us. . . . This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”
After Ayatollah Khamenei scoffed at Obama, Obama sent him a letter directly to reach out.
As President, Obama moved quickly to support the Iranian terror state supporting terror entities from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to Palestinians’ Hamas, a country responsible for terror attacks from the Middle East to South America. And he lied about that support the entire time.
Understanding that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons put the Islamic Republic on a collision course with the Zionist Entity Iran routinely declared its desire to obliterate, Obama moved quickly to craft a pro-Iran narrative. To write that story, he brought in failed novelist Ben Rhodes as National Security Advisor. Rhodes quickly concocted a work of staggering genius: he would pretend that the election of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran in 2013 opened a doorway for negotiations, and that the new moderate Rouhani wanted to make a deal. But as The New York Times reported,
Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of the presidency. . . . [T]he most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration.
Rhodes later admitted, “we created an echo chamber” among the media. And he was right. The media parroted the administration’s lies. They claimed that Iran was now moderate, that anyone in America who opposed a deal was the real extremist, and that the nuclear deal prevented Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry even came out and warned that Israel might be “blamed” if the deal didn’t go forward; Obama began casting aspersions against unnamed “lobbyists” and “money” trying to kill the Iran deal.
Every element of this was false. But when caught in their lies, the administration simply deleted the evidence — the State Department actually chopped out evidence of their prevarications from tape.
The result: Iran is ready to go nuclear. After lying to the American people for years to ram through the Iran deal, it now turns out that the Obama administration stacked the deal to allow Iran to go nuclear. Their chief goal in pressing forward the deal was obvious: forestall an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And they were willing to trade Israel’s security away to do that. According to the Associated Press, a secret document demonstrates that “after a period between 11 and 13 years, Iran can replace its 5,060 inefficient centrifuges with up to 3,500 advanced machines.” In effect, once Iran restarts its nuclear program — free of sanctions and consequences — it will take less than six months to develop a nuke.
Iran’s preparing its military for regional action. In 2015, Khamenei ordered that at least 5 percent of the budget be allocated for military spending, and that military technology be upgraded. Even the Obama deal allows Iran to openly develop nuclear weapons after ten years — by 2026.
And Iran doesn’t even need to go nuclear in order to thrive. The Obama deal puts hundreds of billions of dollars on the table for the terror state. As Secretary of State John Kerry admitted, “I think that some of [the money] will end up in the hands of the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a terror entity] or of other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists.”
The Iranians know that no matter what they do, the United States that legitimized their fading regime has a stake in pretending they’re good guys. That’s why the Iranians were able to capture American sailors, force them to their knees, disarm them, and take pictures of them — and why Kerry thanked the Iranians for their help like Kevin Bacon in Animal House asking for another. That’s why the Iranians have attempted several missile tests, including a medium-range ballistic missile capable of hitting Israel and American troops regionally in violation of UN resolutions — and the Obama administration looked the other way.
Thanks to the Obama administration’s disastrous pullout from Iraq, the Iranian government covertly overran the southern half of Iraq. And they used the rise of ISIS as a rationale for their takeover. As columnist Michael Pregent lamented,
After so many years of American investment in trying to build a stable Iraq, the United States has effectively enabled an Iranian takeover of the country. I know, because I was there and saw it with my own eyes. . . . Iran appears to believe that the U.S. is essentially standing behind them on the ISIS issue. This, in turn, is seen as a tacit endorsement of Iranian influence in Iraq.
In June 2016, John Kerry actually deemed Iranian involvement in Iraq “helpful,” adding, “I can tell you that Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually.” US special envoy for defeating ISIS Brent McGurk seemed less sanguine: “those groups are a fundamental problem.”
Iran’s regional power is growing:
- they’ve cut trade deals with Turkey, once a quasi-enemy;
- they largely control the Assad regime in Syria, with the help of the Russians;
- they fully control Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon;
- they fund the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
- they’re flexing their muscle in Yemen utilizing the Houthis, an offshoot of Shiite Islam allied with Iran.
Thanks to Iran’s burgeoning youth bulge — by 2030, the Iranian population will have jumped to 84.4 million, an increase of nearly 12 percent since 2012 — means that Iran will continue to expand its reach. And because the mullahs are deathly afraid of the possibility of an internal rebellion, they will crack down on dissent and direct their energies outward.
Thanks to the rise of Iran, America’s former allies in the Middle East are in serious trouble. Iran has been arming and equipping terror groups on Israel’s northern, eastern, and southern borders. Those heavily armed terror groups could cause havoc for the Jewish State, particularly since the world seems determined to pretend that opposition to Israel doesn’t spring from ideology or religion, but from mere territorial disagreements. Imagine a world in which Iran arms Hezbollah with a nuclear weapon, then watches as they fire rockets at Haifa. Would Israel respond against Hezbollah? If so, would that curb the threat? Even if it would, what happens when Iran equips Hezbollah and Hamas with such weapons, then uses the presence of additional weapons to prevent Israel from effective retaliation? What happens as Israel loses its tourist industry, as the rest of the world threatens sanctions against Israel for refusing to bow before Iranian pressure?
Myth 7: Obama’s handling of Russia made us safer.
Fact: Russia is an aggressive geopolitical enemy and Obama empowered it.
Like China, Russia has serious internal problems. Demographically, the state is in full-scale decline. Its economy, highly praised under Vladimir Putin for years, is built on sand: the economic strength of the nation relies heavily on petrodollars, and with the price of oil plummeting, the Putin leadership has been forced into expansionism to satiate its desire for loot and plunder. As William Browder of Hermitage Capital told CNBC in January, “I don’t think you can underestimate how bad the situation in Russia is right now, you’ve got oil below any measure where the budget can survive and you’ve got sanctions from the West. Russia is in what I’d call a real serious economic crisis.” The IMF fully predicts that the economy will begin spiraling down the drain.
All of which acts as a spur, not a check, on Russia’s territorial ambitions. Putin is a full-scale thug, a former KGB official who believes that Russia’s historic greatness can only be assured through conquest. The Kremlin currently claims, two decades after the demise of the Soviet Union, that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory.”
After Obama ascended to the presidency, Russia rapidly expanded its military capacities. They increased defense spending by 7.5 percent in 2015, amounting to fully 4.5 percent of their GDP — the third highest figure in the world after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
And they got aggressive. After the 2011 protests against the Putin government, Putin expended his energies abroad, attempting to create a constant rally-around-the-flag effect:
- In 2008, Russia invaded neighboring Georgia.
- In 2014, they invaded Ukraine, ignoring imprecations from the international community, including the United States — and staying in Crimea permanently.
There’s more territory on Putin’s docket, too: he feels the historic pull toward a warm-water port, as well as the desire to grab more natural resources. To do so, he’ll likely invoke the presence of a Russian ethnic population in surrounding states. From waiting for Moldova to go “independent” to consolidating his hold in Georgia and Belarus, Putin has movement on the mind. And he’s got other countries, including oil-rich Kazakhstan, on his list, too.
Putin’s first task will undoubtedly be to break NATO once and for all — gradually occupying a NATO country and demonstrating that the historic alliance means virtually nothing in action. Of course, we already know that: Turkey’s devolution from a secular democracy into an Islamist state under the auspices of thug quasi-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all with the approval of the West, shows that NATO has no fangs.
Meanwhile, Putin focused on creating a Russian sphere of influence in the Middle East. As America’s power in the region waned, Putin stepped in. Russia secured nuclear deals with Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey.
But it’s in Syria where Russia has truly flexed its muscle. The drama began in 2011, when President Obama announced delightedly that he had withdrawn the last troops from Iraq. The country quickly devolved into chaos, exacerbated by the chaos next door, where a terrorist group called Islamic State was growing radically. They invaded Iraq with just a few thousand soldiers and carved out a swath of territory. Obama simply ignored that nasty truth; as late as January 2014, he was calling ISIS a “jayvee” squad.
At the same time, President Obama announced in 2012 that should Syrian dictator Bashar Assad use weapons of mass destruction, that would be a red line the United States could not tolerate. One year later, Assad used sarin gas in Damascus against Syrian rebels. Over 1,400 men, women, and children died horrific deaths of paralysis and suffocation. And Barack Obama did nothing. Instead, he seized on an offer by Vladimir Putin to take a lead role in Syria; Assad would remain in power, but would turn over chemical weapons to Putin. That turnover never really happened — in 2016, Assad used chemical weapons again. But it ensured that Obama could engage in his preferred policy of “leading from behind.”
And it gave Russia a leadership role in the region. Despite the fact that the United States had, as of May 2016, “significantly more military capability in the Middle East” than Russia, according to Ambassador Dennis Ross, “Middle Eastern leaders are making pilgrimages to Moscow to see Vladimir Putin these days, not rushing to Washington.” Why? Because, as Ross says, “The Russians are seen as willing to use power to affect the balance of power in the region, and we are not.”
In the face of Russian expansionism, Obama’s administration cowered in the corner. Early on, President Obama deployed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Russia to deliver a “reset” button to the Russians. Then, in September 2009, Obama trashed a missile defense agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic which would have posed a threat to Russian and Iranian missiles. In 2012, facing re-election, President Obama was caught on a hot mic telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to back off: if Putin just waited until after the election, then Obama would have “more flexibility” to deal with missile defense and other hot-button issues.
The Obama administration provided the flexibility. And Russia took advantage.
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 Kevin Williamson, “What’s Happening in China Is Happening Here,” NationalReview.com, August 13, 2015 http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422473/china-u.s.-both-malinvesting-kevin-d-williamson
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