Ukraine, Venezuela and the folly of Obama's 'no war' doctrine

FILE: Feb. 23, 2014: President Obama and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., in the White House, in Washington, D.C.

FILE: Feb. 23, 2014: President Obama and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., in the White House, in Washington, D.C.  (AP)

Editor's note: The following op-ed originally appeared on the Spanish language site www.elmed.io.

President Obama’s rationale for not getting involved in conflicts around the world has been a consistent political argument: the American people are tired of war, he says.  

In fact, candidate Obama campaigned on the fact that he would end the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and not start any new wars.  

His unequivocal promises of ‘no war’ and ‘Americans are tired of international conflicts,’ however, are dangerous and expedient political calculations, not national security strategies.  


More On This...

While it may be momentarily popular for a U.S. president to ignore international crises, it is a political scheme that is diminishing America’s power and influence.

While U.S. political reporters gleefully accept the partisan pendulum swinging back as a natural reaction to the perceived meddling of George W. Bush, foreign policy experts see the dangers of a White House deciding America’s national security thru political and popular opinions as a real and growing problem.   

The president's own former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said of him, “I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as [Hillary] Clinton, [then-CIA Director Leon] Panetta, and others) saw as the president’s determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations.  His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.”

Last fall, it was the White House that took the lead in making sure the U.S. government didn’t get involved in Ukraine’s power struggle between communism and capitalism.  President Obama purposefully ignored the warning signs when pro-Russian Ukrainian government officials, including President Viktor Yanukovych, abruptly cancelled a European Union integration pact and lurched toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

While outraged students, capitalists and other Ukrainians, who had for years struggled to move Ukraine away from Russia’s control, took to the streets in protests, the Obama team let reliably weak Europeans handle the issue. 

Instead of jumping at the opportunity to engage the Ukrainian leaders and people on the merits of capitalism and liberty, Obama let the socialists argue with the communists as to which direction was best to turn around the battered economy of Ukraine. Yanukovych accepted a generous aid package from Putin while America stood back and watched.    

In Venezuela, similar unrest is unfolding now. Years of stagnant growth, government corruption and socialism have finally moved Venezuelans to challenge the status quo and cry out for an alternative form of government.  

With tempers boiling over and frustration mounting in a country hostile to America, our president should relish the debate unfolding in Venezuela.  The Speech-Giver-in-Chief should be rushing to the discussion.  The State Department should be in over-drive and our diplomats should be organizing.  This is the moment many have waited for in Venezuela.  

But the Obama political philosophy of "See No Evil" has purposefully missed every world crisis by refusing to read the unfolding events. 

Whether it was an issue directly impacting America’s security (Iran and Egypt) or confronting America’s morality (Syria) or challenging capitalism (Ukraine and Venezuela), Obama has willfully squandered the chance to forcefully debate and showcase capitalism and liberty.

The Obama team is so naïve about what robust U.S. action is, that they think they have two options in foreign crises: send in U.S. troops or ignore the problem.  

The political argument that Americans don’t want another war is a non sequitur.  If you don’t want war then you had better be an advocate for diplomacy with muscle.     

It’s why the Hillary Clinton "reset" on Russian-U.S. relations and Obama’s cancelling of the eastern European missile defense shield were such pivotal turning points. She miscalculated her ability to bring Russian leaders to a greater appreciation for our way of life and he acquiesced to Russian demands to alter America’s power.  

Their naivete encouraged the Russians to fill the void by asserting and peddling their world view in Syria, with Iran and now in Ukraine.   

When foreigners struggle for their freedoms, they’ve long expected the U.S. government to be the first to stand with them. It’s more than speaking out via social media, it’s about aggressively winning the debate.  

After all, liberty and democracy are morally superior ways of life and Obama should be looking for opportunities around the world to push for both.

Richard Grenell is a  Fox News Contributor. He served as the spokesman for four U.S. Ambassadors to the U.N. including John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad.