The United States elected 43 presidents before the current occupant graced the office with his presence. We fought, and won, two world wars, liberated millions of people worldwide from tyranny, and worked cooperatively with other sovereign nations to rebuild entire continents. Some might even say the character of our nation is well established considering we have been a democracy for just over 230 years now.
Not President Barack Obama, who told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, “For those who question the character and cause of my nation, I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.” 230 years versus just nine months. No wonder, the New York Times reports, were UN delegates not only applauding Obama, but snapping photos of their hero like tourists.
But the audacity of self-promotion was not the most troubling part of Obama’s speech. No, what most threatens America’s security is what Obama didn’t say. On March 27th of this year, while announcing his “New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan”, President Barack Obama said:
Al Qaeda and its allies — the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks — are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban — or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged — that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.
But yesterday at the United Nations, the Taliban magically disappeared from this formulation. Instead, all we got was this: “We will permit no safe haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks from Afghanistan or any other nation. We will stand by our friends on the front lines, as we and many nations will do in pledging support for the Pakistani people tomorrow.” This was no slip of the tongue. On the morning talk shows this past Sunday, Obama openly questioned whether fighting the Taliban insurgency is necessary to stopping al-Qaeda.
We do not know what new intelligence the Obama administration has that leads it to believe that the Taliban is now irrelevant in the fight against al Qaeda. We do know this though: At a time when the President is desperate to keep his base unified for his domestic priorities, polls show that, for the first time since the war began, majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels. Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Stephen Biddle explains: “Surely a big piece of the declining poll numbers for support for Afghanistan is that the public does not yet see the connection between Afghanistan and al-Qaida today.”
But people in the region sure do. A recent public opinion poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 69 percent of Pakistanis worry that extremists could take control of their country. The poll further indicated that 70 percent of Pakistanis now rate the Taliban unfavorably compared to only 33 percent a year ago. The Taliban/al-Qaeda threat spans the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan; thus, failure in one country will contribute to failure in the other—just as success in one country will breed success in the other.
According to media reports, President Obama is considering implementing a plan supported by Vice President Joe Biden to scale back the American military presence in Afghanistan and focus on targeting al-Qaeda cells primarily in western Pakistan. This strategy would be insufficient to curb the terrorist threat emanating from the region. Ceding territory to the Taliban in Afghanistan would embolden international terrorists in the region, including in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
In their combined 16 years as President, neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush ever felt the need to say they were not naive. For that matter, neither did President Clinton. But for some reason, President Obama feels the need to reassure the world in every foreign policy speech that he is no naïve. He did it again yesterday (”Now, I am not naïve”). How might Shakespeare put it today? “The President doth protest too much, methinks.”