Welcome to the new Book Reviews section of the Doctor Tales blog! Dr. Patti and I are avid readers and from time to time, we will offer book reviews on topics of interest. For example, I like to understand different areas of public policy, including foreign policy.
As a policy wonk, I’ll kick off our new series with a review of a book on American foreign policy called A Perilous Path: The Misguided Foreign Policy of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry by Dr. Anne R. Pierce.
About the Author
Anne R. Pierce is a PhD, author and scholar in the areas of American presidents, American foreign policy, and American society. She combines historical perspective with a current analysis of forces that shape our world.
Her foreign policy work emphasizes both moral and strategic concerns, stressing human rights and political freedom, and national security and global stability. Dr. Pierce has written three books and published articles in print (USA Today, The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner) and online (USEmbassy.gov, Society, Ricochet.com, WorldandIJournal.com).
A Perilous Path is a book worth reading. If you don’t know much about American foreign policy, Dr. Pierce will guide you through a murky world of unknowns and uncertainties. Foreign policy is a landscape full of conflicting agendas, manipulation, and negotiation, with an undercurrent of mystery.
“Co-existing” with Indifference
Dr. Pierce offers an analysis of the Obama years and its efforts to move American foreign policy in a different direction. America’s new policy was one of “co-existing” with other countries.
“Co-existing” was an open-ended ideal where oppressive governments could inflict violence, commit human rights violations, and dominate their citizens. Obama’s response was muted: America’s new policy was indifference to violence against people in other countries and in the US.
The author’s main argument was that during the Obama years, American foreign policies became weak and indecisive. Under Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry, US policies focused on alliances with terrorists and Muslim extremists, while rejecting the needs of longtime allies around the world.
The impact of these policies included:
- Feelings of uncertainty about national security and safety within US borders.
- Growing fear and discontent between US citizens.
- Ignoring human rights violations in China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Iran.
- Promoting “globalism” (one world government) over individual rights.
- Recreating America’s image as powerless and ineffective on the world stage.
Foreign Policy Past and Present
The book opens with a historical look at Hitler’s rise and the lessons we should have learned from WWII. These lessons were based on America’s foundation of moral and strategic goals and the importance of individual rights.
The 20th century was the “American Century” – a time when communist countries and ruling dictators were challenged by strong US foreign policy.
With a strong American policy, people were hopeful that Hitler would not rule the world. This hope has continued over time: When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, people worldwide looked to the US for inspiration of the human spirit. And the Declaration of Independence remains the foundation for that inspiration.
But during the Obama years, US foreign policy shifted away from the foundation of democracy and individual rights. Obama developed friendly relationships with terrorists and dictators like Syrian dictator Assad.
Weak in the Face of Oppression
Obama sent a clear message that democracy, oppression and human rights violations were not important in US foreign policy. The message continues even today as academics and politicians want people to ignore atrocities around the world.
While “co-existing” sounds benign, in reality it was a signal that US foreign policy was muddled. Without an American response to human rights violations and other oppressive atrocities, the US was condoning violence against people around the world. “Co-existing” was Obama’s plan to make the US look weak in the eyes of allies and enemies alike.
Disturbing American Foreign Policy
In each chapter, Dr. Pierce discussed a specific example of American foreign policy. Comparing policies from the past, the Obama years favored a theme of American “arrogance” of the past administrations: the Kennedy, Reagan and Bush administrations described a new world vision based on the rights and political freedoms of each person.
Obama wanted to “reset” foreign policies to diminish democracy and use “outreach” and diplomacy to engage extreme governments including North Korea, Syria and Iran. For example the fall of the Berlin wall was not considered a sign of hope, but rather, a danger sign. It seems that democracy was bad for the world and outreach to US enemies was Obama’s new world vision.
This “new world order” included economic development and “working” with hostile governments to let them dictate how people should live. Obama’s pattern of placating anti-US governments opened the door for outside influences on US policies at home and abroad.
A “smarter” US foreign policy smoothed the path for other nations to dictate what the US should do – placating enemies was Obama’s plan to “reset” foreign policy.
Dr. Pierce outlined several examples:
- Obama’s search for common interests with Russia despite Putin’s ongoing human rights violations and failure to honor treaties to reduce nuclear weapons.
- US negotiations with Iran, open relationships with Cuba, and turning a blind eye to human rights violations.
- Obama’s second term included more outreach while Iran continued to develop its nuclear weapons program.
- Obama withdraws US troops from Iran which allowed Al Qaeda to gain more power in the region.
- Human rights violations by the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood continued with oppression against Christians, Muslim youth, women, the educated class, and people fed up with no political freedom. The US had no response.
- Corruption in Syria created a humanitarian crisis. The State Department avoided opportunities to influence events that could have blocked terrorists from moving across Syria’s borders or set up a no-fly zone over the region. Obama even turned down an invitation from the Middle Eastern Christians to discuss the Syrian crisis.
- Obama blamed “wealthy nations” for problems in the world – in reality, powerful leaders and big government were the cause of these problems.
- The US continued its relationship and negotiations with North Korea in spite of ongoing nuclear weapons production and recurring human rights violations. Totalitarian nations became Obama’s new allies.
- China-US policy was a disaster. Obama assured the world that America is a paper tiger – an appearance of power and strength, but a country of little action. China continued to imprison, torture, intimidate and threaten anyone who criticized the government. The people of Tibet are under ethnic and religious oppression from the Chinese.
- Cultural relativism (right/wrong as defined by each society) socialism and communism were the driving ideologies of the Obama years. Big power China-US agreements were part of that strategy.
Dr. Pierce concluded that the “reset” in American foreign policy is counterproductive. US support for communism and “co-existing” with enemy nations harms people everywhere. Obama made a strong effort to push aside the US as a world leader and downplayed the foundation of the Constitution: democracy and individual rights.
Universal rights were not important. Weaken the US military, increase rhetoric, and promote loathing for the US was Obama’s divisive strategy. For many people, his efforts to ignore human rights violations and “understand” cultures that thrive on oppression, were signs of weak leadership.
Obama ignored atrocities in China, North Korea and the Middle East. A blind eye is a strategy to rewrite history based on lies about the true harm from communism, fascism and dictatorships.
Dr. Pierce suggested that the world needs America to be strong and vigilant. We have to be strong to reassert our primary principles: individual rights, the human spirit, and the power of political freedom.
A Perilous Path is a powerful book. It was easy to read, free of most public policy jargon, has a good flow between chapters, and has an extensive list of references.
Dr. Pierce emphasized a recurring theme about the importance of human rights and democracy in American foreign policy. Each chapter painted a picture of a specific foreign policy.
This book is heavy on the details needed to tell the story of the Obama years. If you have even a small interest in American foreign policy, I recommend this book.
But for me, this was a very hard book to read. It’s hard to think about a president working to destroy America in the eyes of the world. It feels like betrayal to the people of this country.
My hope is that there are enough people with good will and strong hearts to truly make the world a better place.
In Lak’ech Ala K’in – We’re all in this together.