Obama's foreign policy: How not to lead the U.S. in world affairs


Conducted by professors in politics at The King's College, Dr. David Corbin and Dr. Matthew Parks, The Federalist Today is a discussion of modern politics through the lens of the Federalist Papers. Each week, Corbin and Parks examine one of these historic papers, and contrast Federalist beliefs with those of modern Progressives in order to spark discussion on American politics and its current trajectory.

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President Barack Obama made the case for a war of sorts against ISIS in his prime time address last week, asking Congress and the American people to support his announced plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group.”

If nothing else, the speech demonstrated the first principle of the president’s foreign policy: make the facts abroad fit your political narrative at home.

The president led with the most important claim in that narrative: that the US is safer today than when he took office. Now, there would have been no need to give the speech if that were as clear to everyone else as it is to Mr. Obama. If ISIS were just a “small group of killers” with the “capacity to do great harm,” it would be indistinguishable from other terrorist groups against which the president has used lethal force in the last six years–without announcing it in a national address. If ISIS were only a threat to people in the Middle East, with the ability, “if unchecked,” to harm Americans at home, it would, likewise, be relatively unremarkable.

So it seems that either the threat is bigger than the president’s words suggest, or it isn’t, but the American people have imagined it to be so. If the president believes the latter, he might have made an extended case that ISIS, despite the high profile beheadings of two American journalists, poses no critical threat to Americans at home or American interests abroad. The first part of the speech seemed headed in that direction.

But then President Obama introduced a “broad coalition” of partners and a four-point plan to destroy ISIS–in keeping, he said, with his “core commitment” to deny those who “threaten America” a “safe haven” and demonstrating “American leadership at its best: we stand with people who fight for their own freedom; and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.”

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