Another Perspective

Obama Foreign Policy Fiascoes Reveal Liberalism’s Fatal Flaws

American exceptionalism beats liberal relativism every time.

By 8.5.14

WhiteHouse.gov
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The administration’s foreign policy fiascoes also expose the failure of liberal relativism. Hard as it may be to see now, there is a possible silver lining to the growing gray cloud hovering over the White House’s handling of foreign affairs. Failure abroad is providing a more readily discernible outcome of the approach liberals are pursuing here at home. 

Just when it appeared the administration had fallen as far as it could before November, foreign policy has lowered it further. In results released on June 23, a CBS News/NY Times nationwide poll showed Obama’s handling of foreign policy rated significantly lower (36% approval, 58% disapproval) than his handling of the economy (41%-54%). A nationwide Quinnipiac poll released on July 2 showed the same with Obama’s handling of foreign policy (37% approval, 57% disapproval), polling lower than his handling of the economy (40%-55%) or health care (40%-58%).

With the White House hurting so badly, for so long, and on so many important domestic fronts — and with these problems so much more salient to Americans’ daily lives — how is foreign policy having such an impact? The answer is that sometimes we can see at a distance what we cannot discern up close. 

Americans’ ability to get the full measure of Obama’s failures abroad is due to their failures’ ideological aspect. While failure is assuredly sticking to the White House, it is also redounding to the liberal relativism by which it has been achieved. 

Few areas so starkly juxtapose good and evil as does the global community. Devoid of the political correctness permeating America — and often even civilized behavior itself — international relations often offer a no-holds-barred quest for self-interest that disregards the costs to others. Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Russia all meet this low standard. 

At home, many are unaware that liberals advance relativism in self-defense against their positions’ weaknesses. Liberalism’s positions frequently go beyond mainstream values of commonsense, workability, and fairness. By refuting that there is a “right” approach, liberals insulate themselves from having theirs branded “wrong.” By so doing, they advance incrementally through compromise, while their positions become acceptable through familiarity.

This relativistic approach, that what is not “right” is not necessarily “wrong,” is laid bare in its absurdity when exposed to the reality of the broad global community. Encountering those who do not play by civilized rules, liberalism’s relativism is not simply defenseless, but naked. 

Domestically, the flaw in compromise between “right” and “wrong” positions can be difficult for many to see. Take a choice between much higher taxes and people keeping their own money. This is especially true when much higher taxes are justified to fund “worthy” programs — and further obscured by having others pay those much higher taxes. The compromise of having others pay somewhat higher taxes — rather than much higher taxes, and just this once for these worthy programs — seems acceptable.

The fallacy of compromise between good and evil, so often and blatantly exposed abroad, is entirely transparent. The compromise between good and evil is still obviously “bad.” And it is unacceptably so. Americans have quickly discerned this abroad and the weakness, not just in the administration’s results, but in its approach. 

As much as liberals are wont to deny it, America is exceptional and therefore a beacon to the world. Other nations are cognizant of our exceptional nature — even if they resent and fear it. We are different in origins, philosophy, size, economic development, military might, and more. Other nations recognize this exceptional aspect in at least some facet of America. They do so even if they preferred it did not exist and if liberals here seek to refute America’s exceptionalism. 

Like a lighthouse, when its beacon is extinguished, chaos ensues. When Obama accentuates his intention to avoid military conflict at all costs, aggressors take advantage. When it is clear that our southern border is no longer being enforced, it is going to be tested. When Obama stresses that the U.S. is no different from other nations, rogue states need only calculate what “other states” will do in response to their aggression: nothing. 

America’s current foreign policy is demonstrating a failure well beyond the administration’s alone. It is highlighting liberalism’s failure. What we clearly see and reject in the international arena, we have been too willing to ignore and compromise with in the domestic. Yet the consequences in the domestic, while not as rapidly or readily visible, are if anything more dangerous.

In a world of growing uncertainty, one certainty remains. There is no surer way of erasing America’s “exceptionalism” than to follow liberalism’s relativism — both at home and abroad. And doing so will be to both our own and the world’s detriment.

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About the Author

J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.