DE GRACIA: How Obama’s scandals weaken U.S. diplomacy and security

America enjoys world leadership only because of perceptions of strength. Photo: America's military might is nothing compared to diplomatic perception. (U.S. Navy File Photo)

HONOLULU, June 12, 2013 ― Once a bright light among nations for freedom, innovation and prosperity, the United States of America is now in its death throes as a collapsing empire. Even as large stars that burn out in space often transform into black holes, America’s burdensome government is turning the entire nation into a swirling gyre of political darkness, scandal and public discontent.

Nations that are prosperous are seldom paranoid. The emphasis on razor-wire defined borders guarded by assault rifle toting paramilitaries and internal security maintained by armies of secret police is a mark of third world scarcity rather than first world prosperity.

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When a nation is prosperous, its emphasis is on advancing commerce, science, exploration, philosophy and the arts. When a nation is weak, the apparatus of the state is directed towards counterinsurgency, anti-terrorism, border security and internal suppression.

Since all states are at their core a compulsory jurisdictional monopoly for determining the “price” of justice and security, the worse an economy gets, the more a state’s security apparatus is deployed as a pretext for revenue collection. As Thucydides famously wrote in History of the Peloponnesian War, “the revenues of the state increasing, tyrannies were by their means established almost everywhere.

The problem that President Barack Obama faces in this state of decline is that America’s allies and enemies alike are carefully observing the health of the United States. What political scientists call high politics ― the realm of decision-making that involves matters of national survival ― is very much a game of perception.

Foreign leaders constantly ponder whether it is in their nation’s best interest to continue to side with the United States or whether they should develop their own regional alliances and security agreements. As an example, the question of whether to side with the United States on matters involving Syria or to side with Russia and China increasingly hinges on whether the U.S. is perceived as a reliable power.

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The message that Obama’s wave of scandals projects to the world is that the United States is becoming increasingly unstable and her leadership’s diplomatic assurances may not be at all sincere or enforceable. This ultimately restricts our future diplomatic credibility and national security.

When it is exposed to the world that the Obama Administration changed the Benghazi story some twelve times before releasing the “official” truth, foreign leaders take note of that ― even if America’s voters do not.

When America implements new, sweeping domestic mandates such as the so-called Affordable Care Act, foreign nations know that these decisions will have long-term economic and security implications for the United States ― even if America’s voters do not.

The American public should be cautious to avoid mistaking the temporary benefits of the current world order as a permanent privilege. Democrats and Republicans alike should stop their narcissistic bickering over party preservation and work at once to restore America ― before it is truly too late.

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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