These excerpts are taken from a speech given to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 20, 2010, by AEI senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton.
On Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama was not qualified to be President of the United States. Today, actually 13 months later, Barack Obama is still not qualified to be President of the United States.
Let’s look at where the President derives his foreign policy. First, he doesn’t care that much about foreign and national security policy. It’s not what energizes him when he gets up in morning. . . . That makes him very different from almost every other American President since Franklin Roosevelt, but it’s a fundamental fact. He’d rather talk about restructuring our healthcare system, restructuring our financial system, restructuring our energy system.
The President does not really see the rest of the world as dangerous or threatening to America. He made that clear during the campaign. He’s made it clear in any number of his actions since then. . . .
I believe he sees the inevitability of American decline as a kind of natural phenomenon. And this combination of views: He doesn’t care that much about national security to begin with and he doesn’t think the world is a very threatening place ties directly into the next characteristic: . . . He brings to the presidency a belief in multilateralism unequaled since Woodrow Wilson.
Listen to what the President said in September at the United Nations: “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 more than any point in human history . . . the interests of nations and peoples are shared. In an era where our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group or people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.”
Now listen to Woodrow Wilson. “The interest of all nations are also are own.” He advocated in WWI “peace without victory” Sounding familiar? President Wilson said “there must be not a balance of power but a community of power. Not organized rivalries but an organized common peace founded on the moral force of the public opinion of the world.”
This fits in with the final defining characteristic of President Obama: He is what I have called the first post-American President. Now let’s be clear: Not un-American. Not anti-American. Post-American. Beyond all that patriotism stuff. I think it’s clear because fundamentally the President doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. But we’ve believed in the exceptionalism of America right from the founding government.
John Winthrop of the Plymouth Bay Colony said, “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill.” Ronald Reagan in his amenable way amended that to say the “shining city on a hill.” . . .
The President was asked on his first trip to Europe if he believed in American exceptionalism and he gave a classic answer. He said in the first third of his answer “Yes, I believe in American exceptionalism.” And in the second two-thirds of his answer he contradicted himself by saying, “Just as I believe the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism.”
Now there are 192 members of the United Nations. He could have gone on, just as the Ecuadorians believe in Ecuadorian exceptionalism. . . . Just as the Papua New Guineans believe in Papua New Guinean exceptionalism. Obviously, the real answer that he gives is that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism . . .
Reagan was all about America. Obama is “we are above that now. We’re not just parochial. We’re not just chauvinistic. We’re not just provincial. We stand for something,” says [Newsweek senior editor] Evan Thomas. “In a way, Obama is standing above the country, above the world. He is sort of God. He’s going to bring all the different sides together.”
Now leaving aside the reference to God, which is a little over the top, even for our establishment media, the description of Obama’s view of himself is I think very much on point. . . . His philosophy represents a pretty deep-seated strain inside the left of the Democratic Party. . . .
Let’s look at some of the specific examples of the failure of the Obama Administration today . . . And let’s start with Iran.
We have seen over the past 13 months in many respects a continuation of the failed Bush Administration policy of believing we could negotiate Iran out of its nuclear weapons program. . . . Iran is well on their way to nuclear weapons. They’re not going to be talked out of that program. Sanctions that are being proposed are not going to be adopted by the UN Security Council. Iran will continue to make progress just as it continues to be the world’s largest financier of terrorism.
And yet the President says . . . that the possibility is still open for Iran to come back to negotiations. If you’re the regime in Iran, if you’re Mahmoud Ahmadinejad working your way toward a nuclear capacity to fulfill your dream of wiping Israel off the face of the map, what conclusion do you draw from an American President who keeps saying “I want to negotiate with you”? The conclusion is you’ve got no difficulty at all.
In the face of this policy, the president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy has been heard to say several times, “Why is Obama so weak?” Now when the president of France criticizes an American President, you know we’re in trouble. Even where the President takes decisions that I think are sensible, as in the case of increasing our troop levels in Afghanistan and as in recognizing that we need more Pakistani involvement in the struggle against the Taliban. . . he couples it with the promise that he’s going to begin withdrawing American forces by the summer of 2011, conveniently right at the beginning of the 2012 election cycle.
This is another signal to al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to terrorists around the world, that if you just wait long enough, this administration will run out of patience and find something else to do . . . We have a similar problem in Iraq where the President seems wedded to a withdrawal timetable rather than to a continuing assessment of U.S. strategic interest in Iraq. And if people think that you’re going to withdraw pursuant to a timetable, they’re going to let you do it and wait till the American forces have withdrawn. . . .
Let me conclude with the Middle East peace process where 13 months of fruitless effort by the administration have actually left the United States in a weaker position in the Middle East and left Israel more in jeopardy than when we first started. When the U.S. expends its political prestige in a negotiating effort and fails, we do not end in the same position that we started. We end up in a worse position because everyone concludes that we’ve made this effort and couldn’t succeed. That’s exactly what the President did. . . . The efforts in the Arab-Israeli circumstance certainly have complicated America’s national security not just in the Middle East but also around the world.
Now the President has three years left. . . . As difficult as this first year has been, I think there’s worse ahead.
No 1: The President will announce, any day now, a new arms control agreement with Russia that will substantially reduce both our operationally deployed strategic nuclear capabilities and our delivery systems. I think that this is something that will reduce the American deterrent around the world. It will trouble our allies—Japan, Europe, and others who depend on the American nuclear umbrella. I think it’s consistent with the President’s unbelievably naive idea that if we could just get to a world without nuclear weapons, if the U.S. could somehow dispose of its nuclear weapons, Iran and North Korea would give up their nuclear weapons and peace would break out all over.
This treaty that he is negotiating is something that we need to draw a line in the sand over in the Senate when he sends it up and defeat it if we have the chance. Even worse, there are reports that the President in this treaty will agree to limitations on our ability to construct national missile defenses. . . .
But the President isn’t going to stop there. Vice President Biden announced that the administration will resubmit the comprehensive test ban treaty which would prevent us from testing the safety and reliability of our existing nuclear weapons, prevent us from testing to develop new nuclear weapons. This treaty was defeated in the Senate during the Clinton Administration, the first major treaty defeated since Versailles. . . . When that treaty comes to the Senate, it should be defeated again.
This is an administration that believes in arms control as if it were an element of theology. We’re going to see a fusion material cutoff treaty, a treaty on the prevention of the arms race in outer space, efforts to strengthen . . . the non-proliferation treaty. . . . America’s national security rests on a strong nuclear umbrella, it rests on defenses. We cannot give in on any of these points.
Second major thing coming from the Obama Administration is the continued pursuit of what today is euphemistically called global governance. . . Many of these proposals will result in palpable reductions in American sovereignty and need to be resisted. . . .
We’re going to see more efforts on climate change. The collapse in Copenhagen has not discouraged the advocates. . . The people who support the sort of state controlled, state regulation, and international taxation that were being talked about in Copenhagen would advocate those same policies whether the problem was global warming, global cooling, or the Earth’s temperature wasn’t changing at all. This is a statist agenda that we have to reject.
The threats to American sovereignty are going to come in a variety of other areas. I foresee at some point that the President will find in some way to once again sign the treaty creating the International Criminal Court. . . Again, in the Bush Administration, we took the U.S. signature off that treaty, which was a direct threat to American sovereignty… We obviously can’t stop the President if he resigns the treaty. But if he submits it to the Senate, this is another die-in-the-ditch issue for conservatives. That treaty needs to be defeated by the biggest majority we can make.
The President has made it clear he wants to see a lot more of American foreign policy run through the United Nations system. And he also wants to see the U.S. perceived as more engaged internationally. So there are a lot of treaties out there that have withered for a long time. I think at the appropriate moment, the administration will make another effort to get them ratified by the Senate. . . As Americans, we are capable of passing our own laws on these subjects. . .
One that I know is important is the threat of international taxes. The UN and other international bureaucracies despise the American system where Congress has to appropriate money to pay our assessments and pay expenses to these organizations because Congress is so uncooperative. So they have looked for years to find ways to fund international organizations without having democratically elected representatives make decisions.
Prime Minister Brown of the United Kingdom is proposing an international bank tax. The French are proposing taxes on international airline tickets. The whole point is, banks and airlines don’t pay taxes, you pay taxes and you would on bank transactions and the purchase of these tickets.
It’s a way to get a way of funding whether it’s the climate-change organizations, the International Monetary Fund, the UN itself. These various taxes come in complex guises. They’re often hidden. Whenever anybody identifies, it doesn’t matter what the purpose is, it doesn’t matter how grave the situation . . . once the American people lose the ability to determine where they will be taxed, we have lost the revolution my friends. . . .
What we need to do is keep up the debate for the next three years, not be distracted by other issues. We need a sustained, unremitted effort until 2012 when we can evaluate our presidential candidates based on their ability to defend our national security and our message to President Obama in the meantime should be this: We will not let you reduce American sovereignty. We will not let you make America vulnerable. . .