When President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate in West Germany and famously demanded that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev “Tear down this wall!” he brought to Europe—and indeed the world—America’s conviction that freedom and democracy are a powerful liberating force whose time had come for those living under communist oppression.
By contrast, as President Barack Obama travels throughout Europe this week and meets with U.S. allies, including the United Kingdom and Poland, he brings with him the baggage of his presidency—more than two years of a foreign policy that has neglected America’s friends in Europe. Though the President has embarked on a worldwide “apology tour” for what he believes are America’s transgressions, he now truly has something to apologize for.
First and foremost on the President’s list of apologies should be his foreign policy decisions that have led to a weakening of the “Special Relationship” between the United States and Great Britain. That relationship is an alliance based on shared ideals and interests in the broader world, and its strength is not to be taken for granted. The Special Relationship rests on a mutual desire to play a leading role in the world, embracing the classically liberal values on which America was founded, and maintaining relations with other nations that are compatible with that relationship.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ted Bromund explains how the President’s policies have weakened that relationship:
[The Obama Administration] does not regard Europe as the most important region in the world or Britain, the leading power in Europe, as America’s most important ally. It has emphasized its desire to win better relations with undemocratic regimes and has therefore played down America’s traditional alliance relationships. Finally, by “leading from behind,” it has further devalued all of its alliance relationships, especially its relationship with the U.K.
The U.K. is not the only place in Europe where the President has gone wrong. When he travels to Poland, he owes an apology for his 2009 decision to bow to Russia and abandon the U.S. missile defense shield in Poland, thereby reducing NATO’s security and effectively stabbing that ally in the back, after it made the difficult decision to support the United States. The President also slapped Poland in the face when he passed on paying his respects to Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Polish First Lady and 94 senior officials who perished in a plane crash.
And make no mistake, it is the President’s responsibility to maintain these relationships. In The Heritage Foundation’s “Understanding America” series, Baker Spring writes that though the Senate has a key constitutional role in foreign policy (via its power of “Advice and Consent”), the Constitution makes clear that it is up to the President to make and conduct foreign policy. And the first priority of foreign policy “is to preserve and strengthen the position of the United States as an independent and sovereign nation.”
Unfortunately, President Obama has made it his first priority to apologize for America’s exceptionalism and its position as a leader in the world. His apology tour has taken him around the world from Turkey to France, from the G-20 Summit to the Summit of the Americas, and he has issued mea culpas for everything from early American history to the war on terrorists. Along the way, President Obama has weakened the United States abroad and made the job of U.S. leadership even harder.
It’s time for President Obama’s apology tour to take a new direction. And he can start by righting his wrongs in Poland and the U.K.