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Price of appeasement: A world where our allies cannot trust us is dangerous indeed

A quick survey of current affairs around the globe illustrates the short-term costs of appeasement. A world where our allies cannot trust us, and our enemies do not fear us is a dangerous world indeed.
A quick survey of current affairs around the globe illustrates the short-term costs of appeasement. A world where our allies cannot trust us, and our enemies do not fear us is a dangerous world indeed.
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Barack Obama’s unwillingness to lead on the international stage is projecting weakness abroad. U.S. allies are worried and our enemies are emboldened. A quick survey of current affairs around the globe illustrates the short-term costs of an Oval Office in retreat, but the long-term costs of appeasement should cause the gravest concern.

Americans are observing a president who is not only war-wary, but also war-weary. The burdens of the office take their toll on all those who occupy it, but this president entered the Oval Office that way. Obama ran in 2008 on the platform of ending U.S. involvement in Middle East conflicts, but his “No War” stance was more than just a campaign slogan. His actions as commander-in-chief show that he is a true believer that the role and influence of the U.S. around the world should be contracted. And where the U.S. has retreated, malevolent men have stepped in to fill the void.

The consequences are seen in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. And the reverberations are felt across the globe. The European refugee crisis is one example. Mainstream media outlets provide heartbreaking images of individuals, including women and children, streaming into Europe, but often fail to point out the direct connection between this humanitarian crisis and Obama’s failed foreign policies, which enabled the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan and the escalation of civil war in Syria.

Each world leader has two tools to influence international affairs — diplomacy and force. Diplomacy relies wholly on the legitimacy of the leader’s word. Obama lost this diplomatic tool in the Middle East when he erased his self-proclaimed “red line” in Syria with regards to using chemical weapons on civilians. Assad called his bluff and Obama’s red line vanished along with his ability to affect change with anything except real force.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse in the Middle East, the specter of a shirtless Vladimir Putin on horseback enters the Syrian scene. The geo-political dynamics of the region were upended as Russia began a rapid military buildup. Putin blithely claims that airstrikes are targeting ISIS insurgents, but reports from civilians and U.S. backed rebels indicate otherwise. The hubris only increased when Putin declared a no-fly zone, essentially shutting the U.S. and its NATO allies out of large swaths of the country. Putin’s activity in Syria follows on the heels of his annexing Crimea and invading Ukraine.

The image of Putin greeting the Syrian dictator Assad in the Kremlin could serve as the poster for diminishing U.S. influence in the Middle East. The handshakes and smiles belie the fact that Putin could care less about Assad personally or even Syria generally. What Putin does care about is projecting influence and establishing himself as the new power broker in this area of the world.

Putin’s partner in his Syrian efforts and the resulting realignment in the Middle East power structure is Iran. Yes, the very country that Obama just forged a nuclear deal with. Feeling at ease with the nuclear agreement, in light of Iranian attempts to defeat U.S. interests, requires putting on some big blinders. Still, when seen in context of Iran’s conviction of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and its violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions by testing nuclear-capable missiles, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when the Iranian Mullahs declared the nuclear deal will not change their policy towards the U.S.

Exactly 100 years ago, at the turn of the last century, nations experienced similar worldwide unrest. The resulting “war-to-end-all-wars” caused devastation and economic turmoil, and gave rise to a ruling-class that was also war-weary. So much so that world leaders retreated when permitted and gave into appeasement when forced. The reality of their situation was far from the “peace for our time,” declared by Neville Chamberlain. Instead they had inadvertently set the stage for madmen to wreak havoc across the globe.

Although the U.S. and Allied forces showed that democracy could prevail over despotism, they paid a dear price. Leaders of the free world today can learn much from this history lesson. A world where our allies cannot trust us, and our enemies do not fear us is a dangerous world indeed.

Derek B. Miller is the president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah. Previously he was chief of staff to Gov. Gary Herbert and managing director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.