Aylon Berger

A High School Student’s View of Obama’s Foreign Policy

In year six of the Obama Administration, it is clear that the President’s foreign policy has failed. The failure of Obama’s foreign policy is derived in large part because the President often speaks first, and later retreats from the threats he has made. This gives the impression that the President and US are weak and uncertain about what actions to take, and because of this the US’s standing in the world has diminished. Among the principal examples of these actions and inactions are the handling of the situation in Iraq with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the crisis in Syria, and the situation with Russia invading Crimea. The truth is, America’s standing on the world stage is a key factor of our national security. Certainly both our allies, and our enemies are taking notice of the President’s public indecisiveness.

Since he was elected, Obama announced the date US troops would withdraw from Iraq. While this might have scored some political points here at home, the announcement rendered the impression that the US wasn’t committed to accomplishing the war’s mission, sent the message to ISIL that they could wait us out. Today, 13 years after 9/11 the US finds itself in another war in Iraq. This time the threat is posed by ISIL. Along the same lines, in August, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said ISIL was “beyond anything the US had ever seen” and “the US must get ready.” Later when asked at a White House press conference Obama said that regarding ISIL, that he “doesn’t have a strategy yet.” It doesn’t take a diplomatic or military expert to understand what kind of message this sent to our enemies abroad.

In the summer of 2012, Obama stated in regards to Syria, that use of its chemical weapons would be a “red line” for him. When the UN reported Syrian President Bashar al Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people, Obama retreated from what he had said. Assad continues to butcher his people, and recently the UN death toll topped 190,000 people. So much for “Assad must go.”

When Russia protected Edward Snowden (former National Security Administration contractor who leaked thousands of classified documents) last summer, what were the costs? Secretary Kerry, at the urging of the president said there would be “consequences” for Russia. What were those consequences? None. Today, Russia is invading parts of Ukraine, and already has invaded Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin has even supported nationalists that were responsible for killing 298 passengers on a Malaysian Airlines flight this summer. Putin thinks that no matter what Obama says about his actions, very few consequences will go into effect. Is there any reason for Vladimir Putin to think our President means business?

Indeed in foreign policy, the President has been acting like a teacher who doesn’t follow through on his threats. As any student knows, if a teacher doesn’t follow through, all respect for that teacher’s authority will be lost. Time, and time again we have seen how the President’s mishaps when it comes to foreign policy have resulted in the weakening of the national security of the US and our allies and interests abroad. I fear for what will happen if the President doesn’t bring back American global leadership. Indeed, a nuclear-armed Iran will make ISIL seem like a walk in the park.

About the Author
Aylon Berger is a New Jersey native and student at Livingston Senior High School. A self described politico, he served as an aide on a recent U.S. democratic congressional campaign. In 2014, he was selected to attend the AIPAC Schusterman Advocacy Institute High School Summit.