“There were shortcomings.”
So said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in October, trying to explain how two Dallas hospital workers tested positive for Ebola. That indecisive and ambivalent response encapsulates the Obama presidency in a nutshell.
In so many different areas of foreign policy—from “leading from behind” to “there were shortcomings”—this administration’s actions have shown how managerial failures have made America, and Americans, less safe.
On Ebola, our nation faced a fight against not one, but two, diseases simultaneously: Ebola itself, and incompetence from Washington. The symptoms: Hospital staff in Dallas not given the proper protective equipment to treat an Ebola patient for days—exposing potentially dozens of workers to contracting the virus. A slow and ineffective response from the CDC once the first Dallas case of Ebola appeared. Hours-long waits for individuals calling into the CDC’s Ebola hotline.
In Iraq, the president ignored the advice of his own Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, failing to maintain a military presence in the country. The American leadership vacuum created a void that ISIS stepped in to fill; thanks to our indecisiveness, the American people now face a fight against a stronger ISIS—one that even President Obama admits will take years to win.
Mind you, America can, and will, destroy these heinous terrorists—but the fight will take longer, and cost more in blood and treasure, because President Obama once again chose to “lead from behind.”
When it comes to Russia, the president’s failed “reset” telegraphed weakness, and encouraged Vladimir Putin to invade the Crimean peninsula. When the invasion came, rather than deciding on a course of action himself, the president dithered, waiting for allies instead of showing strong leadership.
In July, Hillary Clinton tried to defend this abysmal track record by claiming “the reset worked.” She’s right: It did work wonderfully—for Vladimir Putin, who managed to “reset” Russia’s borders after his Crimean land grab.
The Iran nuclear talks continue with no agreement in sight, while the president has taken the absurd position of threatening to veto additional sanctions against a radical regime seemingly hellbent on developing nuclear weapons.
Doubtless the mullahs in Tehran, seeing the fecklessness of Barack Obama’s Russian response, believe they can extract more concessions from this administration.
Ditto Kim Jong Un in North Korea, who has already flouted the international community to obtain and develop nuclear weapons.
As this administration has careened from crisis to crisis over the past several months, a bigger crisis has emerged: one of competence—in President Obama’s leadership, and in Washington’s ability to get things done.
For a president who came into office promising to restore competence to the White House, his marked indifference towards governing has harmed the American people.
In the past six years, we’ve gone from believing the rise of the oceans would begin to slow, which President Obama claimed he would do, to wondering if the federal government can construct a functioning website.
Now, when it comes to the most basic function of the government—keeping Americans safe from invasion and pestilence—this administration has time and again come up woefully short.
So much for our planet beginning to heal.
Fixing these crises of competence will require decisive leadership by the administration. More importantly, it will also require the maturity to adapt a change in leadership style.
To date, President Obama has governed as if he does not believe in two critical foreign policy concepts: American exceptionalism, and peace through strength.
The former highlights the dramatically positive impact American ideals have had on nations through our history, and the latter recognizes what had been a bipartisan consensus throughout the Cold War: That a strong American military prevents war, and that America never lost a battle because it was too strong.
In the end, I have every confidence that the strength and determination of the American people will see us through tough times. But only strong leadership by President Obama—by adopting the principles of American exceptionalism and peace through strength—can help restore our image abroad, keep Americans secure, and ensure our brave fighting men and women have the tools they need to succeed. For their sake, I hope that leadership arrives soon.
Republican Bobby Jindal is governor of Louisiana and a former Republican candidate for president of the United States.