Sun, 05 Apr 2009 17:46:51 +0000 – By Mark JosephProducer/Author/Editor, Bullypulpit.com
Diehard fans of President George W. Bush make a habit of reminding the rest of us that his presidency was successful because America was never attacked on our soil after 9/11. This is a smart argument to make of course, since, absent omniscience, it's impossible to refute. But a successful foreign policy is often difficult to analyze since it's nearly impossible to judge what evil was prevented from happening by the way America postured itself.
Reagan also understood that his invasion of the tiny island of Grenada which had fallen prey to communist Cuba would have no significance in and of itself, but could nonetheless send a powerful message to the rest of the world and make it clear to America's enemies that they might be next on the list were they to similarly misbehave.
I have no way of proving this, but I have a strong suspicion that the Chinese government would never have cracked down on freedom-loving Chinese students at Tiananmen square had Reagan still been in office. Reagan was a wildcard, the Chinese would likely have reasoned, and it wasn't clear how he would respond at such an affront to American values.
But with George Herbert Walker Bush, a moderate fellow who had once been ambassador to their country, they were likely to have predicted what he offered up after their brutal crackdown: a muted response that was of little help to the dissidents or any harm to those who perpetrated the crackdown on them.
In a similar way, the world has been watching President Obama carefully in the weeks leading to this current North Korean crisis and in the weak response that has followed it. Japan has been one of the U.S.'s most loyal partners in the Pacific, and they have little comfort this morning of American resolve as they watched North Korea fire a missile over their nation with seeming impunity. The message they, and other countries who depend on the U.S., like Israel and Taiwan, have received is clear: You are on your own. The U.S. lacks the resolve and iron-will to defend you and stare down your enemies.
This lack of U.S. leadership will likely have other severe consequences as Japan, unable to depend on its unsteady ally, will likely respond with a military buildup of its own and Israel will decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, and the world will slowly but surely spiral out of control -- all because a lack of resolve on the part of an American president who doesn't seem to understand that the world takes its cues from the resolve -- or lack of it -- shown by America's leadeship before and during moments of crisis.