Former DoD spokesman J.D. Gordon: Obama could use field guide to friends, enemies

Wildlife enthusiasts, park rangers and environmental scientists are accustomed to using field guides in identifying thousands of plant and animal species. Such invaluable booklets are essential to better understanding the harmful and helpful characteristics of living things they might find in nature.

While we don’t usually associate field guides with people, perhaps President Obama could use one. He clearly needs help in distinguishing between friends and enemies of the United States. After all, he’s continued to extend olive branches to our fiercest adversaries, while throwing natural allies, both foreign and domestic, under the bus.

Over Obama’s nearly five years in the White House, he has created a “bizarro-world” in which up is down and down is up. His policies in reaction to the Arab Spring have helped usher in anti-U.S. Islamist governments across North Africa and the Middle East, while he’s been soft on Russia, Iran and Syria, plus any al Qaeda, Taliban or affiliate terrorists detained by U.S. forces. At the same time, he’s ruled domestic issues with an iron fist, punishing the opposition so bitterly that even the Chicago political machine would blush.


Yet determining national friends and enemies must be about serving America’s interests, not the president’s personal agenda. And let’s be honest, it’s an agenda that has weakened us in foreign policy and pushed us closer to financial ruin at home.

So here’s a quick look at his suggested field guide:


Members of Congress – Elected by the American people, they took the exact same oath to support and defend the Constitution. Though political parties have seen spirited debates since the Founding Fathers, the current nastiness hasn’t been this acute since the Civil War era. It’s time to respect the Congress as an equal branch of government, regardless of political affiliation. Sure, it’s a two-way street. But the president was elected as our national leader and should always remain above the fray. It’s time to live up to the campaign slogan: “A uniter, not a divider.”

Veterans – They put their lives on the line to defend America and they deserve our unwavering support. Holding them hostage to partisan politics related to the government shutdown, such as blocking compensation claims and possibly payments to 3.8 million vets, is unconscionable, as is denying WWII Veterans access to their memorial in Washington — it actually cost money for police to cordon off the open air monument with bicycle racks.


Military – Of all the government functions to fund, the military should top the list — it’s spelled out in the Constitution. If the $1 trillion in defense cuts targeted at the military over the next decade isn’t bad enough, the denial of death benefits, including burial reimbursements to family members of those killed in Afghanistan since the shutdown, adds insult to injury.


Iran’s regime – Though newly elected President Hassan Rouhani has signaled a fresh approach to Iran’s relations with the West, it’s most likely all for show. The real boss remains Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has waged a low-level war against the U.S. for decades. It seems more likely that Iran is merely adjusting its public diplomacy strategy so that a war weary and cash-strapped U.S. and Europe will ease up on tough economic sanctions, thus allowing Iran to recover economically, and then will continue with its clandestine nuclear program until it gets the bomb. Remember, Iran invited chess. We’ve got to advance beyond checkers.

Gitmo detainees – Though the 164 al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists there have collectively killed tens of thousands of civilians — including on Sept. 11, 2001, and via scores of mass casualty terror attacks worldwide, plus Afghanistan’s civil war — the international left has waged history’s largest and most dishonest propaganda campaign to paint them as the victims. It’s time to stop advocacy on their behalf, as full constitutional rights will guarantee more can be freed — and then kill more Americans. Already nearly 30 percent of those released have returned to terrorism.

Vladimir Putin – The Russian “reset button” was a colossal failure, as the Russian president continues to outmaneuver his rivals daily. The New START agreement led to Russia’s 10-1 advantage in tactical nukes and did nothing to address rogue state North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs. Granting asylum to America’s worst spy in decades, Edward Snowden, was an embarrassment to Washington. Putin’s diplomatic solution on Syria’s chemical weapons sounded nice, but now comes the hard part: extracting them from a civil war against al Qaeda-backed rebels that’s already killed more than 100,000 people.

At every turn, it seems Obama has made dubious choices when it comes to America’s friends and enemies.

Gordon is a retired Navy commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the secretary of Defense from 2005-2009. He is a senior adviser to several think tanks in Washington, D.C.