President Symbolism Real World Consequences be Damned
President Obama unilaterally killed the Keystone XL pipeline which would have transported oil from Canada down to the Gulf Coast refineries and on to the world market. He downplayed the importance of the pipeline in providing both thousands of American jobs, and bolstering national and global energy security by having refined oil from a friendly and stable neighbor. It did not matter to the rational of this decision that the pipeline passed various environmental reviews. It did not matter that Canadian oil can still make its way via another pipeline to export to China which will not use in as environmentally way as the US It did not matter that using the pipeline results in less carbon emissions than transporting oil by trucks. It did not matter that the pipeline would have been privately funded and have the rippling effect of incentivizing indirect business growth and jobs along the path of the pipeline.
This is just another ill-fated move by the President to pander to a symbolic interest in lieu of the broader and tangible interests of the country. The timing coincides with the up coming Paris Global warming summit, and as he admits killing Keystone is symbolic to promote his ambitions to make the U.S a global leader on climate change. Too bad Mr. Obama has mis-interpreted his role to be a true global leader as President and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S to instead use his office to promote symbolic 'feel goodism'. Real world consequences be damned.
Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry think the biggest threats to U.S national security is climate change. Not ISIS, not al Qaeda, not Iran the chief sponsor of terrorism, not an emerging and de-stabilizing Russia who is using energy as a weapon and leverage against our allies, and not China who is also de-stabilizing regions of the world and trying undermine U.S influence near and far.
It was symbolism when President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in Russia with a supposed re-set in relations even using an actual 're-set' like button. Ironically the word that was supposed to have been the translated Russian word for 're-set' actually translated to 'recharge'. The symbolic 're-set' which led to a flawed strategic weapons treaty (START) diminished U.S capability to upgrade its nuclear deterrence while allowing Russia to upgrade theirs. The symbolic outreach to Russia also led to the canceling of commitments with European and freedom aspiring allies Poland and the Czech Republics for missile defense. Now Russia is selling advanced missiles to Iran that can carry nuclear warheads. Emboldened by the act of symbolism, Russia now threatens eastern and former Soviet bloc European countries, and has annexed Crimea from Ukraine. When Ukraine asked for U.S help, it received the symbolic meals ready to eat RMEs.
It was symbolism when President Obama declared he would not weaponize space during his 08 campaign, thinking this symbolic measure would inspire Russia and China to follow better behaved players. China and Russia has increased their weaponization of space. The Chinese has even gone further in developing missiles than can take out U.S communication and military satellites.
It was symbolism when President went on an apology tour to the Middle East and chastised previous U.S policies in an effort as outreach to the Muslim World. The gesture undermined the sacrifice made in blood by the American military and the treasure of American taxpayers to save and protect millions of Muslims from terrorism and tyranny, while diminishing terrorist threats from al Qaeda to attack the U.S homeland.
It was symbolism when the Obama administration refused to use the words 'Radical Islam' to refer to any group or people who practice terrorism based on a radical interpretation of Islam. The belief was that the term would offend Muslims. It hasn't matter to this gesture of symbolism that most of the victims of radical Islam have been Muslims. It hasn't matter either that leaders of at least two Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan have acknowledged that the spread of Radial Islam is not just a terrorist threat, but a threat to the religion of Islam itself. Failure to acknowledge the real threat of radical Islam has only hastened it's metastasizing impact.
It was symbolism when President Obama drew fictitious red line to warn of U.S retaliation if Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons, and then did nothing when these weapons where used on Syrian villages. Russia then capitalized on this toothless symbolism to become more involved in the Syrian crisis and use the opportunity to simultaneously support Assad and to attack U.S backed groups who were actually fighting ISIS. Meanwhile, Assad chemical attacks continue and the death toll of the civil war is now over 200,000.
It was symbolism that drove the Iran nuclear deal which naively hinged on the belief that Iran would cease its sponsor of terrorism, reduce its aggressive anti-West behavior and end its quest for nuclear weapons. By all measures non of this behavior has stopped, but instead only amplified by relaxed sanctions, empty expectations and supported by a wind fall of cash which it is using to bolster its military programs.
It was symbolism when President Obama decided to change U.S policy towards Cuba and the Castros in particular with no significant actions in return that would advance the freedom of the island's residents and the political dissidents which the regime has brutally punished since the Castro dictatorship began. It hasn't mattered that the Castros continue to be a de-stabilizing force in the region by promoting socialism and aiding to curb political dissent in countries such as in Venezuela, and Bolivia while helping to facilitate bad actors such as the interests of the Iranian Quds force in the Latin America.
It is due to a dual act of symbolism that President Obama is threatening to use executive actions to close the Guantanamo terrorist detention facility in Cuba (Gitmo). It is symbolic in his appeasement to the Castro brothers who still rule Cuba. It is also a symbolic gesture to the talking points (also repeated by terrorists) which suggest that the existence of this facility is a terrorist recruiting tool. It does not matter that Radical Islam in its various forms will still maintain its war against America and free people whether the prison exists or not. It does not matter that the multi million facility still serves a critical role of detaining and interrogating terrorists. It does not matter that the rush to empty prison by sending some detainees back to Middle east countries have resulted in many returning to terrorism, thus in that way has inadvertently served as a supplier of recruits.
It was symbolic to placate to the racial and sometimes false narratives of tensions that arise when a black person is killed by the police such as when the Obama White House sent representatives to Mike Brown's funeral. This was before the facts regarding the investigation of his shooting death by policeman Darren Wilson were resolved. Those facts later revealed that after Mike Brown robbed a store, and was shot when he aggressively attacked Darren Wilson after the officer stopped him. Symbolic gestures before facts are known by the president when these tensions arise has not only stoked them, it played a role in the animosity towards law enforcement. It has been a missed opportunity of the first black President to help heal racial tensions rather than to aid the emotions that make them worse.
It was symbolic for President to support higher taxes on the rich because of his concept of 'fairness' (as he told one interviewer) even if higher taxes doesn't raise revenues and actually affect growth.
The reality of President Obama's symbolic actions has not invited reciprocal symbolic actions in return. Rather, it has invited consequential responses that challenge international stability, stoke tensions, undermined the interests of the U.S and its allies, while setting the stage for his successor to face the challenge of a major global conflict. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in commenting on Obama's dream of a world without nuclear weapons and believing that if the U.S set the example of reducing it's nuclear capability others would follow, said of President Obama, "We live in a real world not a virtual one".
In trying to create a virtual world with acts of symbolism and establish that legacy for himself, the real world will face the consequences of Mr. Obama's experiments carried out as President long after he leaves office.