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 8:01 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT