Updated: March 3, 2014 4:40PM
Foreign affairs got a perfunctorily light touch in President Barack Obama’s latest state of the union speech. What he said sounded like he was looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.
Obama declared “the United States is more secure.” A day later, his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told a Senate committee he couldn’t say the threat from the al-Qaida web of terrorism “is any less” than a decade ago. Clapper further said the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, aspires to attack America and trains fanatics from Europe, the Middle East and the United States to go back home with the goal to wreak havoc.
Obama boasted that all U.S. troops are out of Iraq. But critics reasonably argue that his failure to negotiate an agreement to keep a small contingent of soldiers there removed U.S. influence and restraint on Iraq’s Shiite-led government. The result was the Baghdad regime felt free to persecute Sunnis, which escalated into bloody sectarian strife.
The president cited progress in Afghanistan but glossed over the ever-widening rift with Hamid Karzai. The Afghan president refuses to sign an agreement to keep a small U.S. force there to safeguard the victories won over al-Qaida. Worse, Karzai echoes the Taliban in accusing American forces of atrocities against Afghan civilians. Corruption is so rife that a special auditor of U.S. aid said delivering more direct assistance is “the biggest gamble with taxpayer money” that U.S. Agency for International Development has ever made, reports the New York Times.
America is working “to usher in the future that the Syrian people deserve,” Obama asserted. Yet, it’s obvious that his policies have only strengthened the hand of dictator Bashar al-Assad. As for peace talks in Geneva, the chief U.N. mediator says, “To be blunt, I don’t think we will achieve anything substantive.”
Obama spoke cautiously about negotiations to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, saying talks “may not succeed.” It’s troubling the administration won’t release to the public the full text of the agreement with Iran keeping the negotiations going. That only feeds worry that Iran got the better end of the deal. Iran’s supposedly moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, told CNN no centrifuges will be destroyed, heavy-water reactor work will continue, and Iran “will not accept any limitations” on its “peaceful nuclear technology.”
Obama made no direct mention of Russia, which is just as well since the famous reset in relations is in the tank. New published reports say Russia is cheating on a Reagan-era treaty banning medium-range missiles, the type that would be a threat to Moscow’s European neighbors.
One sentence was devoted to the controversy over the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone records. Obama said he would work to reform the program to ensure public confidence that “the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.” In fact there’s been no abuse of the program. Obama would have been better advised to spend a good portion of his speech defending this program, which virtually all the intelligence experts say is vital to hopes of preventing terror attacks. But that would have required Obama to set aside his rose-colored glasses.