Foreign Policy Lessons from the Nation’s Founders

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

July Fourth offers us the chance for reflection on both our founding and our future. “We are at War.” These four words hung in the air after the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 started the American Revolution. Similar words hang in the air in 2013 at the dawn of an American crossroads.

This crossroads is bookended by the “shot heard round the world” on Lexington Green and “a second plane hit the second tower” in 2001. America was forged in a crucible of fire and that same genesis fire burns again. Of all the articles, books and speeches concerning 9/11, one missing theme has been and is the most vital – natural law. In the numerous observances of Independence Day, this most fundamental keystone will likely be missed, but our revolutionary past provides the lodestar for our future.

The entire legitimacy of the American Revolution rested on natural law; the entire legitimacy of contemporary American foreign policy is the same. Without the American founders’ conception of natural law, our revolution would be nothing more than part of a laundry list of petty rebellions and insurgencies that changed one government for another. Without the same concept of natural law, our foreign policy would be nothing more than part of the cynical realism that dominates all other great powers.

This is what differentiates Americans, American foreign policy and our reaction to 9/11. This Americanism was at the core of the Bush Doctrine and is the ultimate legacy that will dominate American discussion of foreign policy for this entire century.

It is easy to suggest, and convenient to believe, that President Bush’s adherence to natural law principles in foreign policy was merely an expedient fig leaf to pursue cold hard realism and national interests. It is easier to merely caricature them. The overwhelming evidence points to a complete national security strategy that grounded itself in the founding of the republic and used as its touchstone the values of the American Revolution.

The four precepts of the Bush Doctrine – preemption, prevention, primacy and democracy promotion – all rested on the legitimacy of that foundational event. Rooted in beliefs of American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, liberation, rollback and anticommunism, the Bush Doctrine anchored all of these concepts in a belief in the absolute values of liberty. Bush posed a clear choice to the world between tyranny and the “nonnegotiable demand of human dignity” for all people, which is the Bush Doctrine’s prominent theme.

It is at this crossroads that America finds itself. The Bush Doctrine created a zero hour in American foreign policy, liberating us from the chains of scornful realism and fantasy liberalism. The ultimate legacy of the Bush administration rested here.

We are now in the second decade of the 21st century. We must move beyond the legacy of the Bush years and the disappointments of the Obama administration. It is at this crucial juncture in American history that liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans can forge common ground. It is the clarion call not to turn back from the strong melding of American values and American foreign policy forged into the sword and shield of universal natural law.

It is the American belief in the inherent dignity of the human spirit, where all humankind is allowed the freedom to practice their God given liberties of life, liberty and estate, free from the fear created by the tyranny of extremist groups like al-Qaida or from rogue regimes like Iran. The rising star of American independence rested on the foundation that liberty under law was the natural extension of the creator’s wishes, and that those who oppose liberty oppose the natural order itself.

This is the view that America represents: a universal nation – the actual manifestation of natural law and natural rights – of freedom under the law. This legacy bequeathed by our founders, fundamentally resting on the beliefs of the Declaration of Independence, can and should be the basis of American foreign policy in perpetuity. 10 Reasons the War on Terror Must Continue

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Earlier this month, this column addressed the lack of grand strategy to combat terrorism from the Obama administration by stating that there are 10 issues that illustrate the need for such a strategy, now more than ever. The administration has continuously avoided the rhetoric and policies of the Global War on Terror, and American interests and lives have paid the price.

1) Democracy feeds terrorism. This is the supposed consternation that many raise about how democracy feeds the terrorists. This boils down to an argument that our very liberties allow the terrorist to exploit our societies, and we are thus at their mercy or must revert to authoritarian means. This canard is absurd, and always has been.

It might be true in some abstract form of democracy, where all liberties are actually freedoms with no government or societal restraint; but the United States is a constitutional republic. Those that seek the destruction of liberty are by definition the enemies of liberty, and the Constitution does not protect them. As the famous American Nuremberg magistrate, Justice Robert Jackson, famously said, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” There is no dichotomy. Republican liberty can be maintained and we can prosecute the War on Terror to the fullest. This view should be shared by all who believe in the grand tenets of western civilization. A recent conversation with a German diplomat shocked me when he seemed to attack this view by suggesting that the “rule of law can exist without democracy.” I did not want to teach basic American civics, but there can never be the legitimacy of law without democracy; it is an impossibility.

2) Iran is the number one threat. Iran is an immediate national security threat. It is not only a terror state (terrorizing its own populace), but also the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Qods Force-Hezbollah axis is active worldwide, maintaining cells in the United States and Western Europe, bombing synagogues in South America, undermining the governments of Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and operating to seriously destabilize the government of Yemen, the importance of which was succinctly stated by Jonathan Paris of King’s College: “If Yemen is set on fire, the gulf will burn.”

One of the strange arguments that many make about the Iranians is that we lost some chance with them since they were fighting al-Qaida as well. Those in the counterterrorist field have known for years that Iran plays both sides against the middle. In the past, they have supported al-Qaida when they felt their interests have merited it, they have given some sanctuary in Iran, they have allowed transit of Iran, they back a Sunni extremist movement Hamas in Palestine and, as Amos Gilad of the Israeli Ministry of Defense stated, they “continue to support al-Qaida.” It does not mean they are in control of al-Qaida or the reverse, but it means what is commons sense: when Sunni extremism and Shiite extremism mesh, namely to fight the United States, Europe and Israel, they will work together and are thus a combined threat.

The debate about whether Iranian leaders are “rational” or “apocalyptic” may also be a false choice. They may be both, as stated plainly by the Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, Alex Mintz: “Iran may be willing to sacrifice, in a rational way, one to two million Iranians to eliminate Israel and control the Gulf.” This is made worse by many who argue that Iran’s supreme leader does not fully appreciate Israel’s second strike capability and may make assumptions about their ability to destroy Israel in one blow. All of this is exacerbated by Iran’s cozy relationship with the regime of Venezuela. Many national security experts report a story of a weekly aircraft that leaves Tehran and arrives in Caracas, where it is exempt from customs inspections. Iran’s quest for a Pax Iranica, stretching from the Levant to Persia, poses a threat from both the War on Terror and traditional state aggression.

3) Terror state organizations pose problems for international law. A number of terrorist organizations are essentially running quasi states; this is especially true in Gaza with Hamas and in Lebanon with Hezbollah. However, even though both are fed by the Iranian trough, they are not individuals or states. They are not criminals or soldiers. They are terrorists who are neither protected by the sovereignty of states nor the laws of war. The west has yet to come to terms with this new classification and is mired in classical definitions of international relations.

Twelve years after 9/11 we still vigorously debate whether or not Osama Bin Laden should have been captured or should have received a criminal trial. Terrorists are not criminals, they are not soldiers (as defined by the Geneva Convention) and they are not states, regardless of their appearance. The definition for terrorism is not “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist,” a phrase that is the refuge of scoundrels. Terrorists are those who are motivated by political goals and use violence to instill fear, primarily against non-combatants. If the west fails to fully understand this, and wallows in a false narcissistic debate about criminality versus the laws of war, the west is defeated before it begins.

4) The most basic human right in the War on Terror is to live. We in the west have obsessed over the rights of detainees and terrorists. We have forgotten that the real destroyers of human rights were the evildoers who have killed thousands of men, women and children. They have killed them in the Twin Towers, cafes and school buses. I was once struck by an impassioned speech by Professor Asa Kasher, Chair of the Ethics and Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, at a conference on counterterrorism. At one salient point he said, “For citizens to be able to enjoy all human rights, they need to be alive.”

5) International law, multilateral organizations and treaties work only when there is legitimacy. The inability of the west to successfully react to terrorism and its use of asymmetrical warfare has created another vacuum: that of international law. The United Nations is supposed to defend states from the exploitation of others, prevent harm to civilians and punish war crimes. However, the U.N. and international law in general fails to address the non-state actor. If legitimacy is lost due to legality, the legitimacy of protecting the innocent, then what happens to the usefulness of international law and agreements? If we willingly enter a quicksand of legality in order to avoid our legitimate responsibilities to defeat terrorism and extremism, we risk the entire house of civilization coming tumbling down.

6) The War on Terror is really a war on Islamic extremism, Islamic totalitarianism and salafism. We dance around terminology and ideas. We engage in mental and verbal gymnastics in order to avoid the actual terms of the war. The war is a war, not a police action and not the venue for negotiation. Anyone who studies jihadism knows this. Everyone knows that jihad, as the terrorists mean it, has nothing to do with personal struggle and everything to do with violence, death-dealing and martyrdom. It is a war that many in the media and academia tremble to discuss for fear of professional ostracism. A war where the jihadists openly state their contempt for the “religion of democracy” and proclaim that a “democratic Muslim is like someone calling themselves a Jewish Muslim.” A war where the jihadists view violence and martyrdom as a collective responsibility and obligation, where the only outcome is victory or annihilation.

7) The role of the Muslim Brotherhood is underestimated and hidden. With all the attention on al-Qaida, its affiliates and Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood operates in secret, but in a much vaster way. Blinded by the strategic largesse of al-Qaida and Hezbollah, the west has ignored or is scared into quietude about the Muslim Brotherhood. This salafist threat is active in over 70 countries and has taken over Gaza, and is an important player in Egypt, Algeria, Europe and the United States. They are a highly organized group that is not dependent on a single leader or personality; they preach a pan-Islamic return to the caliphate. They have successfully hidden their financing and activity by posing as charities, educational institutions, think tanks, ministries and social service providers. They were clearly behind the organized attacks concerning the Danish cartoons and the recent pro-Gaza demonstrations. Worse, they have successfully convinced many in the west that they have no political agenda, where in reality their only agenda is political, ranging in magnitude from the re-creation of the caliphate to establishing Muslim exclusive zones in Europe. Naturally, and most alarmingly, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt.

8) Western complacency and overconfidence. The trite assumption that the west will win, simply because it will, is rife. We won against fascism, Nazism, communism and militarism, so we must win against Islamic extremism. This, mixed with the inability to grasp the hatred for liberal democratic philosophy that the extremists have, creates the conditions for defeat. Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, goes further by suggesting that this has placed the west in the impossible position of being unable to stand for its own interests in the war by focusing on the interests of the enemy. If something is not really a threat, why concern yourself with winning?

9) Terrorism is a world wide network. The only way to measure the War on Terror is to do so worldwide, whether it is Sunni extremist and Shiite extremist collaboration such as the 1996 Hezbollah/Qods/al-Qaida bombing of the American military residence, the Kohbar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the bizarre terror links with the Columbian FARC and the IRA, to the Iranians giving safe haven to some in al-Qaida while publicly announcing the detention of others. It is the same evil. The network of terror is broader than one group, or even so-called ideological divides. This has been the case for decades, with Marxist-Leninist revolutionary terrorists training in Libya and Lebanon (especially the Bekka Valley), to Uighur extremists training in Afghanistan. They are not a monolith, but they do drink at the same iniquitous fountains that train, arm, finance and support this horror of the 21st century.

10) The War on Terror is a war of civilization versus barbarism. I, in my book on the Bush Doctrine, and others have named it such. Dr. Sergey Kurginyan, president of the International Public Foundation Experimental Creative Center, Russian Federation, believes there is a dichotomy in the world between those who see the conflict as a war, where the barbarian must be annihilated for civilization to survive, and those who see it as a game, where ultimately there is a union between “counter modern” forces and the barbarian to form a postmodern world. This issue strikes at the very heart of the War on Terror. If it is a war, and I believe it is, then there will ultimately be winner and vanquished. There will ultimately be victory for the side of light that sees hope and progress through the lenses of democracy, human rights and civil society or those in the dark who see the blackness through violence, regress and totalitarianism.

There is no compromise with terrorists. True as this statement is, the fact remains that the counter-terror community, diplomats and politicians alike, have failed to provide a strategic framework to deal with these 10 issues. These 10 “metrics” can provide a pathway to judging victory and defeat, the discussion of which is conspicuously lacking in media and academic circles. Many seem willing to backtrack on the issue of democracy if “stability” can be purchased.

This belies the whole twelve years since 9/11 and the eight years of the Bush administration, which clearly stated that true stability can never be achieved without draining the swamp that stability was purchased from. The endless lectures about American naiveté, namely, that we believe only elections equal democracy, do nothing to enhance the debate. This mantra grows wearisome if not rehearsed. America had the answer for the War on Terror which began in earnest twelve years ago. The fundamental promoting of civil society and democracy serves as the only strategic answer for a problem so evil, the answer must be found in man’s ultimate good. Obama’s Impossible Alternative to Bush’s War on Terror

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

The 9/11 attacks for Americans and Europeans have faded into memory; the very success of the counterterrorism policies of the United States has bred the belief that the threat no longer exists. Current victory in the war, from the perspective that the United States has not experienced a successful mass attack on American soil, has led many to conclude that the war is over. The domestic obsessions of recession and health care overshadow international crises. International crises are so many that the War on Terror is often forgotten.

The President’s speech at National Defense University on May 23 was an attempt at another pivot concerning counterterrorism. It, like everything the Obama administration does, avoids grand strategy and strategic thinking.

The speech has been dissected and autopsied in the mainstream media. The key points are known: The United States must adapt to a supposedly weakened al-Qaida and turn its back on the Global War on Terror. But this assumes, erroneously, that this administration believed that there was a strategic threat from al-Qaida or that there was a Global War on Terror to begin with. The very president that made drone war into the third rail of fighting announced that they should be more limited and with greater congressional oversight. Obama went on to promote the idea that America should address the “underlying grievances” of extremists, which include supporting democracy, but without any passion.

The most severe aspect to the speech, tough, was the president’s call to repeal the AUMF, the Authorization to Use Military Force. The AUMF was and is the cornerstone of America’s Global War on Terrorism. This is, so far, the pinnacle of the Obama Doctrine, something this column has devoted months to exploring.

Under Obama, the United States has announced the abandonment of Iraq, the premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, the acceptance of genocide in Syria, the acquiescence of chaos in Libya, the unwillingness to recognize Islamic extremism at home and abroad as organized or threatening, and now, as the height of fantasy, wishes to repeal the one major act that has kept the wolf at the gate, the one act that would allow a future president to pursue the strategic threat that transnational and state sponsored terrorism poses.

The speech resurrects the question: Does anyone have a reasonable alternative to the strategic counterterrorism policy of the Bush administration? There is always plenty of talk about operational and tactical counterterrorism, but very little about strategic counterterrorism. This is a national strategic direction that leads all aspects of the fight. For the Bush Doctrine, it was the belief that the only way to counter terrorism on a macro scale was to assist in the creation of democracy and civil society, especially the Middle East, to drain the toxic poison that fuels extremism, poverty and corruption. This view is often mutated to mean only elections.

But the Bush Doctrine was always about more than elections, because elections in and of themselves are only an end result to law, order, security and, most importantly, civil society, which protects rights and liberties for all. The old chestnut that the Bush Doctrine bred the victory of Hamas is both absurd and grotesque. It is definitely true that groups like Hamas believe in “one man, one vote, one time,” but that is hardly the American view of democracy and civil society; it is in fact, the opposite.

I did not find my answer to this question in the president’s recent speech and am led again to conclude that no one but the Bush administration had any real answer to the strategic question. It becomes therefore en vogue to spend considerable time in the media, conferences, journals and speeches to wax on about operational and tactical issues, which are meaningless without a strategic rudder. So what if you build roads and schools if al-Qaida or the Taliban blows up the food trucks and beheads the teachers? So what if you destroy a terrorist encampment with a predator drone, if that leads to no political or social sea change?

This is not to suggest the foolish conclusion that these activities aren’t necessary; it is that they are futile without a strategic blueprint. It was the Bush Doctrine that gave us that strategic blueprint of preemption, prevention, primacy and democracy promotion. If that is not the answer, then what is?

President Obama’s speech creates the need to reassess the very threat that he seeks to diminish. Here we are with a Sunni extremist global jihad and a Shiite extremist attempt at territorial expansion; we ask where does the war stand? I have identified ten grand issues in the War on Terror that need to be assessed eight years after 9/11. In my next column I will identify these ten issues concerning the Global War on Terror and expose much of the wrongheaded thinking that the war’s critics have created.

American Foreign Policy Council: South Asia and the Obama Doctrine

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There has been much talk about the “pivot to Asia” as if it is something novel or new. In truth, however, U.S. foreign policy has been engaged in a pivot to Asia ever since Commodore Perry sailed under orders given to him by President Millard Fillmore in 1853 to open up Japan. Missing in the current approach, however, has been discussion about South Asia, except when South Asian states (namely Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh) intersect with issues related to Central Asia and the war in Afghanistan.

That represents a serious error. The United States will need to successfully navigate long term interests in South Asia in order to successfully have a grand strategy in the 21st century. Although the smaller states of South Asia pose potential security concerns for the U.S. insofar as rampant poverty, corruption, and civil war threaten to turn them into failed states, the primary foreign policy and national security issues in South Asia are concerned with Pakistan and India. Issues between the United States and the region can be primarily divided into short to mid-term strategies and problems, and those related to long-term grand strategy that will last much of the century.

The national security strategy of the Obama administration has mixed and matched the weakest aspects of three past administrations. This new doctrine channels Nixon to achieve his burden- sharing, colloquially known today as “leading from behind.” It invokes Carter’s multilateralism for the sake of the same, and as a counter to charges of American Exceptionalism. From the Clinton years, the Obama administration has summoned a risk-averse policy, while placing its faith in globalization and its worship of technocracy over ideals. The key to the Obama Doctrine is the need to “rebalance American commitments,” code for managing our decline. The Obama doctrine is more about process than strategy.

Short to Midterm
In the short- to mid-term, America’s primary concerns relate to terrorism and religious extremism. The Obama administration has attempted “to advance regional security and stability” by supporting “… the development of sovereign, stable, democratic nations, integrated into the world economy and cooperating with one another.” Through programs like the Counterterrorism Finance (CTF) unit and The Regional Strategic Initiative (RSI), the Obama administration has attempted to assist both India and Pakistan in combating terrorism and enhancing cooperation among law enforcement and intelligence agencies. However, the real core issue is Islamic extremism in and around Pakistan. The Obama administration’s primary response to this has been drone strikes, which are designed to decimate high value terrorist targets and degrade their leadership and operational capability. According to the New America Foundation, there have been 428 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, killing up to 3,251 terrorists. The fantastical quality to this whole situation is the inability and unwillingness of the Pakistani government to crackdown on the myriad of Islamic extremist groups, such as the Haqqani network that aids and assists the Taliban and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Since 2007, these groups have formed an umbrella organization under the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and they are estimated to have thirty to thirty five thousand militant members. Moreover, as documented by veteran reporter Bob Woodward in his book, Obama’s Wars , there are 150 known terrorist training camps inside Pakistan that the United States has yet to destroy. The ability of the Taliban to find safe havens in Pakistan has blunted any gain that might have existed from the limited “surge” that President Obama ultimately agreed to in December of 2009, right at the time that he issued the date of withdrawal from the country.

A greater problem than perhaps even the Islamic Extremist groups is the scandal- ridden Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI. It would be difficult to find another intelligence service upon which the United States has had to rely that is more pernicious and duplicitous than the ISI. It is beyond the scope of this article to delve into all the intricacies of the ISI, but it is unquestionably part of the strategic equation for the United States in the region. In plain language, the ISI, the “state within a state” in Pakistan, is an intelligence service that has sponsored and continues to sponsor Islamic extremism to meet the goals of the Pakistani state. The U.S. has been forced into a partnership with this organization to fight the very extremists that elements of the ISI supports. Likewise, the ISI impedes democracy in Pakistan by exercising exponential power over the state that it is supposed to serve.

Long Term
The long term strategic problem for the United States in South Asia, by contrast, lies in two realms. The first concerns the nuclear arsenals of Pakistan and India, and the second is over great power conflict in and around the Indian Ocean. The Obama administration has failed to understand that successful foreign policy and national security can only be conducted with a comprehensive and long term approach to grand strategy. As a result, the Obama administration has sent two signals that may impede successful American grand strategy in South Asia. The first is the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Regardless of the debate about the invasion and counter- insurgency itself, there is a separate question of how the withdrawal affects great-power relations. America’s impending withdrawal indicates an unwillingness to see the problem toward its desired ending: stability in Afghanistan. This is particularly worrying to India, which has long been a victim of Pakistani-sponsored extremism. The second is great concern, in India in particular, is that the Obama administration has leaned too far toward China.

The strategic nuclear question is paramount. Pakistan possesses between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons and has likely been a nuclear state since the early 1990s thanks to the efforts of its most notorious nuclear scientist, AQ Khan. Khan was also responsible for nuclear proliferation to North Korea, Iran, and Libya.

The next long term issue concerns great power conflict. There are a multitude of scenarios that presage potential unrest. The unsettled border between China and India continues to be a source of skirmishes and tension between the two, with China being ever- more aggressive in its claims. Disputes over the Line of Control and tensions over Jammu and Kashmir between Pakistan and India make a South Asian solution to Islamic extremism unlikely. But the area where the United States could find itself in direct strategic conflict is the Indian Ocean. Some have even suggested that India may use its rise to naval greatness as a way to cut off China from oil supplies by creating a “metal chain” to lock shut the western entrance of the Strait of Malacca.

The military equation is complex—and troubling. India has five primary naval bases in the Indian Ocean region: Mumbai, Karwar, Kochi, Visakhapatnam, and Port Blair (Andaman Islands), and currently deploys one aircraft carrier with a plan for two more. Pakistan has one primary naval base in the Indian Ocean region near Karachi. There are several Chinese-built ports and refueling stations in the Indian Ocean region: Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Chittagong (Bangladesh), and Sittwe (Burma/ Myanmar). The United States, meanwhile, has one primary naval base in the Indian Ocean region: Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory). The U.S. Fifth and Seventh Fleets dominate this area of operations. The potential for conflict here is immeasurable, especially in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. This could prove even more dangerous should the Chinese become more aggressive in their claims in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Maritime strategy of 2007 states, “Credible combat power will be continuously postured in the Western Pacific and the Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean to protect our vital interests, assure our friends and allies of our continuing commitment to regional security, and deter and dissuade potential adversaries and peer competitors.” In order for this President Bush- era declaration to have teeth now and in the future, however, a series of micro and macro decisions need to be made, most of which are not in line with the Obama Doctrine.

These include deeper involvement on countering Islamic extremism in the region, and most of all greater coordination with South Asian states in maintaining security in the Indian Ocean, the geopolitics of which increasingly have become affected by China’s regional rise and associated instability.

The stakes are high. If South Asia becomes another in a series of Obama Doctrine failures, it will only be one of many, the legacy of which will be costly to repair. Obama’s Foreign Policy Dithering Proves Costly

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Charles Dickens’ famous novel starts out with one of the most poignant passages in the English language: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” As many know, the story revolved around the two cities of Paris and London and described both the absurdity and the honor of the humans involved.

One hundred and fifty four years after Dickens published “A Tale of Two Cities,” we again face both the absurdity and the honor of the humans involved. The two cities in this tale are Benghazi and Damascus. As the world and American press engage in mental gymnastics over minimalist arguments, the firestorm far above these issues rages violently.

These pygmy issues are myriad: Did the White House change the talking points? Were warnings over Islamic extremists’ terror ignored? What kind of chemical weapons did Syrian President Bashar Assad use? Is Assad truly interested in peace negotiations? This is not to suggest that these particular questions are unimportant; it is to suggest that these questions are far less important than the grand issues that caused these questions to begin with. In other words, there was a pathway that brought us to this fork in the road.

Once a Greek trading city, Benghazi has come to symbolize one edge of the worst aspect of the Obama foreign policy. Regardless of the attention paid to issues like the talking points, the real issue is the inaction and ultimately poor decisions concerning intervention in Libya and a failure to come to grips with the global War on Terror. This American side of the coin is ultimately represented by the tragic deaths of four Americans, and although there is plenty to investigate about that tactical situation, it begs the question of strategy over Libya, North Africa and Islamic extremism.

The failure of the Obama administration to manage the Libyan crisis from the beginning is the essence of the issue. It allowed the situation to spin so out of control that it would then use the excuse of a massacre in this very city (Benghazi) to intervene a day late and dollar short.

The other side of the coin is Syria. This illegitimate regime has been a rogue state for decades, a state that has pillaged and looted at the expense of Lebanon, threatened Israel, pursued weapons of mass destruction, supports and condones the most violent terrorist groups and faces extinction in the same manner as the insidious communist regimes of eastern Europe. Assad could have been the Middle Eastern Ceausescu. This is the other edge of the failure of the Obama foreign policy.

Here the tragedy is not American lives, but the lives of innocent civilians, Muslim and Christian. The administration made a colossal strategic failure, only dwarfed by the failure to assist the Green revolution in Iran. If ultimately, the United States makes good on its historical promise and intervenes against the regime in Syria, it will be more costly, more dangerous and more fraught with peril than had the Obama administration exercised its mandate to lead.

How many deaths are at the door of this White House over inaction and the inability to lead? There were multiple windows of opportunities when the United States could have chosen the right rebel groups and commanders, assisted them with tactics and strategies, pushed the Islamic extremists out early, established an early no fly zone and clearly indicated that American air and naval power would protect demarcated safe havens. In other words, the United States should have boldly stepped to the forefront and clearly told the Russians and other supporters of the Syrian regime to remove themselves from a losing cause.

These early actions would have reduced the costs and greatly diminished the number of those that died. It is the constant drumbeat from Washington that continues to be marginalized by media obsession with the minuscule. The ultimate problem is not the obsession over a particular email or type of weapon, but the failure to lead when chaos and violence are the obvious result.

St. Paul received the most important conversion in Christianity on the road to Damascus so he could do what was right; let us hope American leadership does as well. World Report The Obama Doctine: Inaction

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Seven days before the attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush issued NSPD–9, which called on the secretary of defense to plan for military operations against the Taliban and al–Qaida. It had three objectives: to eliminate the al–Qaida network, to use all elements of national power to do so – diplomatic, military, economic, intelligence, information and law enforcement – and to eliminate the sanctuaries of al–Qaida and related terrorist networks if other efforts failed.

In contrast, on August 11, 2011 President Obama issued PSD–10 creating the Atrocities Prevention Board, stating that, “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” The actual establishment of the board did not occur until April, 2012. There has been much made of the fact that the board has come into existence at a time when the death toll in Syria has climbed above 70,000 and, as reported by this author in February, chemical weapons have been used against the Syrian people.

The Atrocities Prevention Board includes representatives from multiple agencies, including State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Joint Chiefs and is chaired by the National Security Staff Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. They will monitor mass atrocities and genocide and will work to create “targeted sanctions.”

Supporters like Madeline Albright and William Cohen have stated that the president’s “initiative should not be viewed as a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention or global adventurism, as some might suggest. Rather, it is a clear eyed and pragmatic attempt to expand our government’s toolbox to meet the challenges posed by tyrants who pose an extraordinary threat to their civilian populations.” There also has been talk of issuing bans on visas for those involved in such atrocities.

Critics abound on all fronts. Renowned realist Stephen M. Walt writes that the board will do nothing to stop atrocities and “this new initiative suffers from the smug self–congratulation that is hallmark of the modern American Empire.” Sen. John McCain, R–Ariz., has joined the chorus asking why the board was set up when these exact atrocities are already occurring in Syria.

Reports indicate that the board is already looking at Syria, Congo and Sudan. It seems very keen on using words such as “monitoring,” “data collection,” and “analysis.” There is a raft of language that discusses the interagency process, committee creation and cross government communication.

But how is this prevention? The president has called for the United States to have a comprehensive approach to these atrocities. However, the key word is prevention, not bureaucracy or a place to wail and gnash teeth over the inhumanity of behavior.

The Atrocities Prevention Board seems to be the perfect example of the Obama doctrine in inaction. A committee is set up to study and monitor the worst evil known to mankind; it will then make recommendations about collecting information so that we can cease trade with countries that we don’t trade with, and stop visas from being issued to people who won’t come here. They will then cry rivers of tears for those who are suffering and promise that the new board will engage in “lessons learned” exercises for the future.

Is there anything worse in the pantheon of appeasement and moral cowardice than to justify both with bureaucracy and technocratic language? How will future historians view us when our reaction to the events in Syria is the creation of a working group?

In 1945, Justice of the Supreme Court Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials stated, “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.” This is the statement that should become policy, this is the cause to which the nation was founded upon, and this is the moral compass that must guide our future. The dead will not allow us a free passage to hypocrisy. As the World Watches, North Korean Atrocities Unfold

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

A common mistake of the mainstream media is their penchant for tunnel vision. The bombings in Boston are a clear case where the news media give Americans the impression that the world has stopped on its axis, as focus centers on the terrorist attack in Massachusetts.

This is also the case with stories concerning international affairs. The world media are so wrapped up in the nuclear question concerning North Korea, and worse, the potential for a “deal” with the boy dictator that we forget the horror inside that country.

George Orwell wrote, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The North Korean boot has been stamping on human faces since 1953, almost with impunity from the international community, craven for a deal, some deal, any deal, with the totalitarian leadership. The thinking among the establishment in the west is that any price is worth avoiding war, nuclear war in particular. The devil’s bargain runs along the lines that as long as we can maintain an armistice (not peace) with the North Koreans, we can slowly work on human rights from afar.

This “logic” has allowed a totalitarian nightmare to unfold that strikes at the very heart of western values, human rights, and human dignity.

The most heinous example of these abuses is the North Korean camp system. The North Korean red dynasty established a caste system referred to as songbun. This classification of people based on ideological trustworthiness determines a person’s fate from the time they are born.

Those with lower songbun status are more likely to end up in the North Korean gulag system. It is estimated that at least 200,000 people languish in the death and labor camps of North Korea; their names, like Auschwitz, and Cabanatuan, should resonate with everyone, but do not. These camps, with names like Kaechon, Yodok, Pukchang, and Hoeryong, should inspire revulsion, disgust, and condemnation. These are places where torture, infanticide, starvation, and executions are daily occurrences.

In an effort to outdo his Maoist and Leninist forebears, the Kim dynasty created a camp system whereby the so-called offender is not the only one condemned, not even the immediate family, but often the generation above and below. It is therefore common for those labeled with that totalitarian catch-all favorite of the Soviets and the Chinese, “enemies of the state,” to be small children and elderly grandparents. The existence of these camps is unacceptable to anyone whose faith in God, and whose belief in human rights and human liberty exist in any way, shape, or form.

A lesser known evil committed by the North Koreans are abductions. The North Korean state, in particular North Korean intelligence, is responsible for 180,000 abductions in at least 14 countries. The focus by North Korea has been South Korea and Japan. These men and women are kidnapped and forced into slavery by the communist regime. In what other context would the international community accept a situation where a nation is allowed to engage in the type of slavery through kidnapping not seen since the Middle Ages?

If there is a poster boy for a rouge regime, a regime of evil, it is North Korea. This “nation” committed to creating a totalitarian hell on earth has, in the 21st century, combined the malevolence of the Dark and Middle Ages to produce the most insidious and noxious conditions for humanity. The very fact that the world allows this to go almost unnoticed, unspoken, and without priority, is an indictment of every democratic state that holds the values of humanity on high altar.

If the UN and the concert of democratic nations have any credibility beyond bluster and protest, it must push the North Korean despotic regime on this issue and not use the military question as an excuse to cover the worst crime by any nation state in the contemporary period. The military hostility will continue to bedevil us, for a long as we allow the evil of the regime to continue. Where Pope Francis and the U.S. Can Work Together Globally

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

“Habemus Papam. We have a Pope,” was declared on March 13, 2013 proclaiming Francis I as the 266th pontiff. His Easter Message on Sunday, Urbi et Orbi, promoted peace and reconciliation in places like Syria and the Korean peninsula and also deplored world poverty, violence and selfishness. From St. Peter to today, the man in this office has influenced international relations and foreign policy almost like no other. From the ancient Roman Empire to the empire of liberty of the United States, the papacy has shaped, changed, and altered international affairs.

The role of the church has shifted in international affairs from high points, such as when Alexander VI (of HBO’s Borgia’s fame) in 1493 issued the Inter Caetera Papal Bull dividing the new world between Spain and Portugal, to the denigration of the Roman Catholic Church by Josef Stalin in 1944 when he sarcastically asked Prime Minister Winston Churchill “how many divisions does the Pope have?” as the Soviet leader plotted the subjugation of Poland. It must seem strange that an institution that is millennia old with over one billion members, which possesses the oldest diplomatic service in the world, struggles for relevancy in international relations. I recall a lunch where a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense was asked by a colleague of mine how much influence the church’s declarations concerning nuclear weapons had on U.S. policy, to which the former official bluntly responded, “none.”

Americans cannot take for granted the role that the papacy plays regarding U.S. foreign policy. U.S. diplomatic relations with the Vatican started in 1797 but ended in 1870 due to a combination of anti-Catholic feeling in the United States and the loss of the bulk of the papal territories by the Pope. Full relations weren’t restored until the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

In some ways the Vatican seems to oppose traditional U.S. foreign policy interests, such as a robust nuclear deterrent and certain aspects of economic development and trade. United States foreign policy would be complicated should Francis I allow himself to be embroiled in Argentine aggression regarding the Falklands. However, the papacy was a strong advocate for the allied cause during World War II and posed a dagger point against the communists globally, but especially Eastern Europe. The role of John Paul II contributing to the victory of the West against the Soviet Union should not be underestimated, nor the value of the papacy in that fight which promoted vital American foreign policy goals.

The areas that need the most work between the United States and the papacy are the global war on terror, and the future possibility of war with rogue regimes such as Iran. As much as the papacy is committed to peace, exemplified in the 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, the papacy needs to be reminded about the full ramifications and circumstances surrounding “just war,” and how modern threats combined with contemporary technology requires constant modernizing of just war doctrine. Neither the papacy nor the United States benefit from the hypersecularization of the West, and Francis’s most difficult task may be this, especially in Europe.

There are three areas where both Washington and Holy See can cooperate and campaign: Middle East peace between Israel and her neighbors, human rights in China and the plight of persecuted Christian minorities globally. Further, the pivotal role that Catholic theologians have played in the development of natural law and human rights is a shared value between the United States and the papacy that can only benefit from partnership. Just as the United States represents a moral force posed against tyranny, terrorism and extremism, so does the church writ large, and the Roman Catholic Church specifically.

Christendom may be dispersed through denominational arguments, but the message of the Church in international affairs should be united as one. God’s law is natural law, and from our founding to today, nothing makes America more exceptional than our adherence to this order.

The Washington Times: Is there an “Obama Doctrine”?

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Years from now, historians may well write that the decline or upswing in the American empire of liberty occurred during the Obama presidency. They will either write that the Obama administration’s self-fulfilling prophecy and rhetoric of decline was overcome by the overwhelming greatness of the United States or that the ultimate downfall was caused by the conditions created by this White House.

Today, the country’s expert and pundit classes are obsessed, first and foremost, with the absurd autopilot of sequestration designed to protect us from adult decision-making. As a distant second, media make some mention of the pressing national security issue of the day: The use of drones in fighting what was formerly known as the “war on terrorism.” Both issues describe this presidency writ large, highlighting the desire to avoid clear and direct decisions, mixed with an overreliance on a peculiar and unmanned technology. It is a White House on programmed reflex.

A question that I have been asked on more occasions than I care to remember is whether President Obama, in fact, has a national security doctrine. Three schools of thought exist on this matter.

The first view is, at first glance, quite glib: There is a doctrine, and it can be labeled ABB — Anything But Bush. However, before we completely dismiss this attitude, one should keep in mind that the Obama camp rejected unilateralism, pre-emption, democracy promotion, prevention and, generally, the global war on terrorism. These were the pillars of American grand strategy under President Bush and the administration has struggled mightily (often to the detriment to the country) to wrest itself from the Bush legacy.The second school of thought denies the existence of an Obama Doctrine altogether. His supporters have argued that he did not need one, so he could remain light and lethal, unconstrained by the prisons of declarations and pronouncements. The president’s detractors, meanwhile, state that mass confusion and anxiety over national security issues is evidence of absence.

The third school, and the one that seems to make the most sense, posits that an Obama Doctrine does exist, albeit in a form that is too messy and murky to detail fully. Rather, the Obama Doctrine represents a cobbled-together robot that issues platitudes and seeks penance. Like Presidents Carter and Clinton before him, Mr. Obama has exhibited a disdain or disinterest in this singularly important aspect of the presidency. The two campaigns that elected him president were ones where the media allowed national security and foreign policy to be pushed to the back burner, rearing their heads only sporadically.

There was a moment when this could have changed. Mr. Obama, comfortable with his electoral victory, could have proved the critics wrong and set the stage for real leadership in national security. This moment, of course, was the State of the Union address.

Instead, what did the American people receive? A laundry list, tacked on pro forma, made up of vague posturing: We heard that we “need” to end the war in Afghanistan by telegraphing our withdrawal worldwide. Mr. Obama blisteringly called on the totalitarians of Pyongyang to meet their international obligations. There was the continued declaration that Iran will face a serious coalition of negotiation. And finally, the strong desire to disarm our nuclear arsenal. The Anything But Bush School received a shot in the arm by the president’s inability to mention the global war on terrorism, the 60,000 Syrian dead or the aggressive moves made by China in the Pacific. If there was a grand strategy, it was the embrace of a sort of neo-isolationism. Yet this was countered by resurrecting the Bush team’s desire for more free-trade agreements, and Mr. Obama’s support of a trans-Pacific partnership.

What are we left with at the start of the president’s second term? We are where we started, with a disjointed doctrine, vague strategy and ambiguity held at high altar. Mr. Obama effectively has patched together four prior presidential doctrines to form his own. He channels Nixon to achieve his burden-sharing, colloquially known these days as “leading from behind.” He invokes Mr. Carter’s multilateralism for the sake of same, and as a counter to charges of American exceptionalism. Mr. Clinton’s vision is summoned for its risk-averse nature, its faith in globalization and its worship of technocracy over ideals.

Ironically, though, the only success that the president has had in national security and foreign policy is where he had been unable to shake the spirit of George W. Bush. The Bush years have granted the U.S. government now the breathing room to engage in greater counterterrorism operations and a chance to establish a permanent presence in the Arab world and Central Asia. But this “Bush Lite” strategy has been embraced only out of a sense of inertia and the harsh encroachment of reality.

The areas where one lets Obama be Obama demonstrate the most dangerous results for strategy. The goals seem to be tactical: more treaties, adherence to more international organizations, an emphasis on soft power and greater diplomatic “restraint.” We have seen a souring of relations with nations such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Poland and Israel, a blind eye to Russian, Chinese and Iranian aggression, obsequiousness before the United Nations, and a glossing over of the grossest human rights violations in places such as North Korea, Sudan, China and Syria. Simultaneously, Mr. Obama’s reversal of grand strategy regarding the use of nuclear forces has been nothing short of breathtaking, signaling a reluctance to use the very weapons that have kept enemies at bay.

The key to the Obama Doctrine is the need to “rebalance American commitments,” code for managing our decline. His doctrine is more about process than strategy. When he does speak on national security, the president likes to say that he would intervene if America’s vital or national interests were at stake. However, in more four years, he has never once fully articulated what he believes those to be.

If the United States is to continue to claim its exceptional place in the annals of humankind, it has no choice but to be the only sword and shield for these. A president who fails his duty here has failed not only Americans, but all mankind. The president could still turn this ship around and embrace both the pragmatic and idealist destiny of his country. It will be his choice how history reads his presidency and this crossroads in our American epic. Don’t Underestimate the al Qaeda Threat

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

There has been so much written about al Qaeda that yet another article is bound to generate a collective yawn. “The base” has become synonymous with terrorism in general, much to the detriment of counterterrorism efforts. It has become a catch-all term that fails to capture the shift created by this new form of terrorism. These Islamic fanatics were not like the terrorist organizations of the 19th and 20th century, primarily communist-inspired ethno national ventures such as the Irish Republican Army and Red Brigades. It was former CIA director Jim Woolsey’s quotation that was able to crystalize the change in a single, salient sentence. “Al Qaeda does not want a seat at the table; they want to blow the table up.” This was a movement that was even unlike other Islamic extremists groups, they were not merely content with attacking Israel. They wanted empire. They wanted, just as the Soviets did, a new man, Novus homo. This Islamo-Bolshevism wanted to remake the Middle East, and then the world.

The 9/11 Commission reports that “the base” or al Qaeda was established as the headquarters of future jihad in 1988, when the organization, whose foundation was Arabs in Afghanistan, was already talking about the political goal of a Pan-Islamic Caliphate, an Islamic empire that mirrored the medieval Caliphate. Ayman al-Zawahiri, often thought to be the operational commander of Al Qaeda, wrote in “Knights under the Prophet’s Banner” that “it is the hope of the Muslim nation to restore its fallen caliphate and regain its lost glory.”

The terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda emerged during the Clinton years. The first attack on Americans by the group known as al Qaeda was not the February 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, but rather the attempted bombing of American military forces in Aden, Yemen on Dec. 29, 1992, one month before Bill Clinton became president. The chronology of subsequent terror attacks can be readily divided into Clinton’s first and second terms. Under the first term, from inauguration in 1993 to the presidential election in 1996, al Qaeda geared up from a minor terror enterprise to a global terror network whose number one target would become the United States.

In 2005 Jordanian journalist Fouad Hussein published an account of Al Qaeda’s long-term strategic goals. Based in interviews with al Qaeda operatives Hussein portrays a seven phase plan that, if nothing else, shows the desires, regardless of how fantastical, of the world’s most infamous and evil terrorist group. It is a pathway to an Islamic empire:

  1. “The Awakening,” 2000-2003: Provoke the U.S. to attack the Islamic world
  2. “Opening Eyes,” 2003 through 2006: Recruitment and consolidation
  3. “Arming and Standing Up,” 2007-2009: A specific focus on Iraq, Syria, Jordan and motivate all Muslims to attack Israel
  4. “Collapse,” 2010-2013: Focus on the collapse of Middle Eastern regimes, conduct attacks on oil shipments to the U.S and the West, and engage in cyberterrorism
  5. “Establishment of the Caliphate,” 2013-2016: The U.S. has been pushed out of the Middle East and Israel is severely crippled or destroyed
  6. “Total Confrontation,” 2016-2020: A worldwide Islamic army will be ready for final battles with the believers versus nonbelievers
  7. “Victory,” 2020: completed goals, the empire is established

One can argue about the realism of al Qaeda’s goals, but not with their motivation or their intent. Thus, we understand the past and the future. What about the present? We have seen al Qaeda and allied groups mutate and transform as their needs and situations changed. The Bush administration decimated what many refer to as “al Qaeda prime”, or the core al Qaeda group that operated along the lines of a paramilitary hierarchy. The next transition was the growth of al Qaeda affiliates and franchises which had connection and obedience to al Qaeda prime. We are now witnessing a new transformation exemplified by a February 2013 trial in the United Kingdom which illustrates another dangerous mutation of the malevolence. This new phase, referred to as “teacher training,” involves select extremists traveling to lawless areas of Pakistan, such as Waziristan, to receive terrorist training with the goal of returning to whatever Western country they journeyed from to train local extremists. This greatly reduces the risk and need for transporting large numbers of extremists abroad. This is in large part due to the successful counterterrorists operations by the United States that have targeted training camps and groups of terrorists abroad. It also encourages the development of homegrown extremism. Further, al Qaeda has shifted from scoring catastrophic large scale attacks to more manageable, tactical operations that have focused on soft civilian targets. This situation exists because Pakistan is a failed state, or at least failing. Pakistan is either unwilling or unable to exert sovereignty over large areas of the country, making agreements with her almost useless. In 2013 the Henry Jackson Society published an excellent report entitled, “Al-Qaeda in the United States”, clearly illustrating that the future threat by al Qaeda in the United States is homegrown extremists, most of whom have U.S. citizenship.

America’s global war on terror initiated by President Bush, thwarted scores of 9/11 level attacks, and countless number of medium and small attacks were shut down. The very success of the United States has caused complacency. In many ways we have become victims of our own feats, culminating with the hunting down of Osama bin Laden. The death of bin Laden did not hasten the war’s end, but it may be used by many to justify a call to prematurely end the war itself. Al Qaeda and her confederates will continue to pose a grave national security threat to the United States and her allies, and they will continue to mutate and transform as long as we see the threat only in pure counterterrorism terms. The war will be won when the West makes a concerted strategic effort on all fronts to confront not only the terrorist groups themselves, but the Islamo-Bolshevik ideology and the rogue states that benefit from their existence.