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Weekly Column: Obama's Failed Foreign Policy Legacy

Since President Obama took office nearly eight years ago, the world has changed considerably. During his time in office, ISIL rose to prominence due to the administration’s determination to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. Iran has ascended as a regional destabilizing power, and it remains on a path to acquire nuclear weapons. The U.S. effort to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan faces potential under-resourcing. Russia has increased its nuclear arsenal and continues its aggression against Ukraine. In Libya, the administration half-heartedly led a U.S. military intervention, only to abandon the mission prematurely, which has created another destabilized country within which terrorists seek safe haven to plot attacks against our homeland. 

Recently, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), John Brennan, testified to Congress that “Despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” It is clear that the president’s current course to defeat ISIL and terrorism abroad is not working. We need more proactive efforts and not more delayed, reactionary half-steps if we are to truly defeat the terrorist organization, stop the terrorist group’s online radicalization and keep Americans safe from ISIL-inspired attacks here at home.

A side effect of the instability and chaos in the Middle East is a dramatic increase in refugees. In Syria alone, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that nearly 4.8 million Syrian refugees have fled the country and another 6.6 million are internally displaced within the country. In Libya, nearly 2.5 million are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN News Center. Russia, , recently indicated that it would not consider a humanitarian ceasefire to allow refugees, anti-government fighters and injured citizens to escape Syria safely, or allow aid vehicles to deliver food and medical supplies to those unable to flee. 

While most refugees are being relocated in Europe, many Americans are concerned about the prospect of a terrorist slipping into the United States, taking advantage of the refugee program. Refugees have been coming to America for generations seeking safety from war-torn regions of the world. I support efforts to help others seek shelter from persecution. However, we must be cautious to protect our own national security. While we as global leaders should take steps to assist in humanitarian efforts when possible, I believe our current refugee admission program needs further safeguards to make sure the refugees we admit have no ties to terror organizations and make sure refugees properly assimilate into American society.

As events continue to unfold around the world, many have wondered from where our foreign policy problems stem. I agree with other elected officials and experts that many foreign policy failures are a symptom of this administration’s “leading from behind” mentality. In less than three months, a new president, with the guidance of experts with new ideas as well as a new Congress, will have an opportunity to reset our foreign policy. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I look forward to working with the new administration and my colleagues on a new direction for our country which includes stronger leadership to protect our citizens, advance our global interests and support our allies abroad. 


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