O'Sullivan: Foreign Policy Not a Priority for Obama

Monday, 28 Jan 2013 02:45 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald and Kathleen Walter

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Foreign policy is not a major priority of President Barack Obama's second term and he has no internal strategy in place to deal with problems as they erupt, says National Review Editor at Large John O'Sullivan.

"He would probably even agree with that himself," said O'Sullivan, once a policy adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "He knows, however, that there are certain problems which he’s going to have to deal with whether he wants to or not."

O'Sullivan, who also is co-founder of Twenty-First Century Initiatives, a Washington, D.C. think tank, made the comments in an interview with Newsmax TV in which he said one of the biggest issues facing Obama on the foreign front is how to prevent Iran from finally acquiring nuclear weapons.

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"He doesn’t know how he’s going to come down on that," O Sullivan said of the president. "He’s hoping he can persuade the Iranians voluntarily and in a sense verifiably not to proceed, but he can’t be sure of that."

But without an internal strategy "in which the different bits on the chess board fit," O'Sullivan added, Obama "is going to respond as events arrive, rather than driving events."

Another important issue the Obama administration will have to continue to deal with, he said, are the dangers associated with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Islamist extremist throughout the Middle East. The administration has no plan to deal with those problems either because it underestimated how the Arab Spring would progress.

“First of all, [the administration] believed that the Arab Spring was going to produce a more democratic, a more liberal, a more relaxed, and therefore a more pro-American Middle East,” said O'Sullivan. “Of course, that hasn’t happened as things have moved in a more Islamist direction as the Muslim Brotherhood has taken more and more power into its own hands."

He said the United States needs a new policy that combines military efforts and alliances to combat Islamic supremacy in Mali, Algeria, Liberia, and elsewhere.

“The French are already playing a major role but one has the impression, I’m afraid, there’s too much spasmodic response,” O'Sullivan said. “People have not sat down seriously and worked out how to deal with this over a five-to-10-year period, what alliances to make, what military investments to make, [or] what intelligence investments to make, and we’re lagging behind here.”

The first step toward a new policy, he said, is the simple recognition that the West is engaged in a worldwide war with a "a political perversion of Islam which equips itself and fights by terrorist methods.”

"Until we accept that reality, we’re not going to win," he said.

O'Sullivan also noted the United States should be concerned about the increasing authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia, and the Obama administration should tell the truth about it.

“Telling the truth is a very important part of American foreign policy,” he said. “People need to know where we stand on things. There are a lot of people in Russia, not a majority, but a lot, who are both hostile to Putin and look to America with some kind of moral leadership.”

The Putin regime should be told, he added, that it can't expect more help and favors from the United States until it starts to behave “in a more neighborly way to everyone.”

Noting that Russia still occupies parts of Georgia and has uneasy relations with much of Central Europe, he said Obama should "make clear to Central and Eastern Europe, 'look, we’re back in your camp, we’re allies in NATO, and you can absolutely rely on us.'

"We have to do that because the Eastern and Central Europeans have begun to think they can’t rely on us," he continued.

O'Sullivan also criticized the U.S. lack of a strong policy on the Euro, and suggested that it would be best to withdraw backing for the current Brussels policy, which is built on the idea the European Union and its common currency of the Euro can be sustained indefinitely.

"It can't," he said. "If it can be sustained, it can be sustained only at the cost of no growth, very high unemployment, and an atmosphere of economic stagnation and, ultimately, a political upheaval in all of the countries in Mediterranean Europe. So this is a crazy policy."

He said the United States should take European leaders quietly aside and tell them the system turned out to be a mistake and it's time to move on.

He said European countries should be allowed to reduce exchange rates and begin growing out of the current distress.

"If they don’t do that, the future of Europe can be very easily expressed," O'Sullivan said. "It will be a future in which the northerners will continually tax to send subsidies down to the southerners who are continually depressed, and that is no recipe for a long term successful Europe."

O'Sullivan said he also believes Britain's relationship to the union will change.

"There might be a new arrangement whereby Britain and, let’s say, several other countries, like Norway and Switzerland, became a kind of European free trade area attached to the EU," he said.

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