A top House Republican issued a stinging rebuke of President Obama’s foreign policy during a speech on Monday morning, criticizing it as weak, unclear and naive.
“American foreign policy should not be guided by hollow rhetoric, unwise or movable timelines, and unenforced red lines,” said Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at the Virginia Military Institute.
Cantor criticized a recent interim agreement with Iran that's supported by the Obama administration, saying it relieved pressure on Iran to change course on developing a nuclear program it claims is peaceful but could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
“Like all Americans, I hope to see Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations through peaceful negotiations, but hope is not a strategy,” he said.
He also criticized the administration’s “light footprint” approach in post-revolution Libya, saying the administration ignored a worsening security situation that led to the deaths of four Americans.
“The catastrophic result of inaction is obvious. Four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, are dead, victims of a terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
“Since that deadly day no one has paid a price for this outrageous attack, no one has been brought to justice. What message does it send to the terrorists that an American Ambassador can be killed with apparent impunity?” he said.
Furthermore, Cantor said, the administration’s policy on Syria has signaled weaknesses to allies throughout the world.
“Threatening to act in Syria only to shrink back from the edge not only undermined our allies inside Syria and throughout the Middle East, it badly shook our allies in Asia.
“These allies have witnessed America’s retreat in the Middle East, and they are fearful that the U.S. will pull back in Asia as well, exposing previously secure free sea lanes of navigation to increasing territorial competition. As we have seen elsewhere, when America fails to lead, others are eager to fill the vacuum," he said.
Cantor said the United States must maintain a presence in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014, and said it would be a “terrible mistake” for the U.S. to withdraw troops completely as it did in Iraq.
“Our hasty and total withdrawal squandered the hard-fought gains won by the military at such great cost,” he said.
Cantor called for investment in military spending and criticized “blindly” reducing defense spending, but stopped short of calling for an increase.
“The president and leaders of Congress must also be honest with the American people that all of these efforts cannot be done on the cheap, and they cannot be accomplished without risks,” he said.
“This must be a part of a renewed effort to ensure each defense dollar is well spent and that we are ready for threats of the future.”
Yet, Cantor said the president “is right" to seek a new free trade agreement in Asia, saying it would bolster economic growth on both sides and give Asian nations an incentive to play by international trade rules.
“Expanding free trade and free markets and speaking out against socialistic populist economic policies that lead to economic and social ruin is perhaps our best course of action to produce meaningful stability in Latin and South America,” he said.
The U.S. must maintain its leadership role in the world, Cantor said, or else leave a vacuum to be filled by adversaries.
“Many Americans, and politicians from both parties, want to believe the tide of war has receded. As was the case in the wake of World War I, many want to believe the costly foreign interventions of recent years can simply be put behind us. That we can simply choose not to be involved,” he said.