Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Obama has bungled foreign policy

By Richard Williamson, Special to CNN
updated 6:56 PM EDT, Mon October 8, 2012
Richard Williamson says President Obama resisted imposing crippling new sanctions on Iran.
Richard Williamson says President Obama resisted imposing crippling new sanctions on Iran.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard Williamson: Despite criticism of Romney on foreign policy, Obama's record flawed
  • He says Obama took too long to push crippling sanctions for Iran; Romney would have sooner
  • Writers cited bin Laden's death on Obama's watch, but that's hubris, Williamson says
  • He says administration let guard down on al Qaeda; Libya killings are tragic consequence

Editor's note: Richard S. Williamson is a senior foreign policy advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign. He is a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and served as ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

(CNN) -- In this space, Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense under President Barack Obama, and some of her colleagues attacked a recent Mitt Romney opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

In their piece, entitled "Romney's empty foreign policy agenda," they hurl all sorts of tired accusations at the Republican nominee. They even recycle a trope used by Democrats against Ronald Reagan and other successful Republican presidents, that Romney employs "cowboy rhetoric." Yet even as they condemn the Republican nominee for wrapping himself in "platitudes and falsehoods," they offer a remarkable demonstration of some of the serious problems afflicting Obama's stewardship of America's role in the world.

Advisor: Romney offers 'bold leadership'
Romney: Hope is not a strategy
Foreign policy emerges in election

Let us scrutinize some of their points.

Opinion: Romney's empty foreign policy agenda

On Iran, they assert that there are "zero actual policy differences" between Obama and Romney, citing the president's policy of sanctions.

But what they neglect to say is that Obama resisted imposing the kind of new, crippling sanctions that are necessary to stop Iranian nuclear efforts for much of his presidency. Today, Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than ever before.

What they also conveniently forget is that Obama, saying he did not want to "be seen as meddling," at first issued no more than cursory objections during the Iranian spring of 2009, when dissidents took to the streets of Tehran and other cities to protest a stolen election.

A President Romney would never abandon our basic principles of supporting freedom and democracy in this way.

Flournoy and company point proudly to the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead "on the president's watch." They are right to be proud of this, as are all Americans. But when they say that "more al Qaeda senior leaders have been taken off the battlefield than at any time since 9/11," they run the danger of hubris. And hubris has been one of the defining characteristics of the president's foreign policy.

Alas, we saw a tragic demonstration of the consequences of hubris just this past September 11, when four Americans -- including our ambassador -- were murdered in a terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Perhaps believing its own rhetoric about the decimation of al Qaeda, the Obama administration let down its guard about the significant striking power of al Qaeda's remnants, affiliated and otherwise.

Certainly, the inadequate protection given to our diplomatic personnel on September 11 -- the anniversary of the terrible attack -- is a spectacular piece of evidence that their judgment was skewed. Even worse, after the attack on Benghazi, the Obama administration appeared to be so desperate to believe that al Qaeda was not responsible that it pinned the entire episode on the spontaneous rage of a crowd provoked by an obscure video on the Internet. It clung to this version past the point of decency. But it was false. American intelligence agencies have made it clear that our citizens were killed in a terrorist attack launched by an al Qaeda affiliate.

Flournoy's assertion that Obama "has effectively managed the tumult of the Arab Spring" would be laughable if the consequences of his lack of effective management were not so tragic.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Richard Williamson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT