International Brawn: America Increasingly Perceived as ‘Weak’

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As America’s foreign policy has changed and developed over Obama’s time in office — a less aggressive approach than his predecessor — it has become the subject of criticism for its strength, both from international opponents and allies. Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, most recently spoke in frustration on the U.S.’s “weakness,” angrily stating that Israel no longer feels that it can depend on it’s long time Western ally to take the lead when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. “We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran,” he said according to Reuters, claiming that Washington’s response to the Ukrainian conflict is another example of the U.S. “showing weakness.”

The sentiment is one that has been heard from within as well as without, with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) critical of Obama’s response to Russia’s advances on Ukraine as well. “There are no consequences when you defy what Obama’s telling you to do,” she said to the New York Times. “You can bet the Chinese are watching our every move. They want to know where the limits are, or if there are any,” said a senior official.

In 2002, then Senator Obama, had called the Iraq war a “dumb war,” and has, as a whole, taken a backseat to international conflict, likely cognizant that America was suffering from war fatigue by the time he reached office. However, this strategy may be growing old, at least for some. “We’re seeing the ‘light footprint‘ run out of gas,” said an ex-aide of Obama to the New York Times. “No one is arguing for military action, for bringing back George Bush’s chest-thumping,” he said, but voiced concerns that rhetoric to the effect that nations would be “isolated” or “pay a heavy price,” becoming “more like predictions over time, and less like imminent threats.”

Perhaps also influencing international opinion on America’s might is the size change possibly intended for its military, as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has outlined a plan to reduce the size of America’s military significantly, making the army its humblest size since pre-World War II; though capable, it wouldn’t be large enough to deal with drawn out overseas occupation. “You have to always keep your institution prepared,” said a senior Pentagon official to the New York Times, explaining that, “You have to always keep your institution prepared. You can’t carry a large land-war Defense Department when there is no large land war.”

As of February, this was an issue Americans were split on, at least according to a Gallup poll, which showed 37 percent believing that Washington spends too much on national defense and military purposes, and 28 percent of the opposite opinion. Democrats were more likely to believe the spending went overboard, and Republicans the least likely. In terms of its strength militarily, a majority of Americans still think the U.S. is the number one world military, at 53 percent, leaving 44 percent of the opinion that America is just one of several leading powers. Despite America opinion, international opinion is increasingly doubtful, with Iran and Russia placing more emphasis on these doubts.

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