Provocative Weakness Defined: Obama’s Apology Tour

George Washington warned against “the reputation of weakness.” 

by Scott L. Vanatter

Who can doubt that weakness is provocative? Offensive coordinators and their quarterbacks don’t doubt it – neither do the defenses they exploit. Championship boxers don’t doubt it – neither do those they knock out. Playground bullies don’t doubt it – neither do their victims. Gang leaders don’t doubt it – neither do those they control.

Third-world dictators have no doubt. They live — and die — by it. Sadly, their victims also have no doubt of it.

Donald Rumsfeld, in his farewell speech as Secretary of Defense, explained how this principle plays out on a world stage,

“Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative as well. A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power.”

Recently Rumsfeld reiterated the same principles,

“I believe, and I believe history shows, that weakness is provocative. To the extent that the United States is seen as healthy and capable from an economic standpoint, to the extent the United States is seen as capable from a military standpoint, the world will be a more stable and a safer place. To the extent the United States is seen as a weak country from an economic standpoint or from a military standpoint, the world will be less safe. People will be encouraged to do things they wouldn’t even think of doing if they saw the United States playing a responsible role in contributing to peace and stability.”

If you don’t want to take his word for it, take it from George Washington. In his Fifth State of the Union Washington warned,

“There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

In the final presidential debate on foreign policy, moderator Bob Schieffer, asked about Iran’s nuclear program. Yes, Romney did declare that he had some areas of agreement with the President. But he did hit Obama hard in at least one area. Romney said that Iran’s leaders had detected weakness as far back as the 2008 campaign when Obama said that he would be willing to meet with some of the most intransigent foreign leaders during his first year in office. Obama said he would meet with leaders from Cuba, Venezuela and Iran.

Romney criticized Obama’s stated policy to meet with “all the world’s worst actors.” Romney went on, “I think they looked and thought, well, that’s an unusual honor to receive from the president of the United States.”

In a pointed area of disagreement, Romney accused the president of weakness,

“And then the president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness. . . .

Romney repeated his previous accusation of going on an “apology tour.”

“Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And, by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region. But you went to the other nations. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive.

Romney then hit even harder and more pointedly,

“You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”

Let’s review a few of the implied apologies. See related piece on how Obama was careful not to use the word terror in his September 12, 2012 description of the actual terrorist attack in Benghazi.

Apology Tour

In France Obama apologized that America has been arrogant, dismissive, and derisive.

“In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” (Speech by President Obama, Rhenus Sports Arena, Strasbourg, France, April 3, 2009)

In an interview with an Arab news organization he apologized that America made mistakes, and was not perfect.

“We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect.” (President Obama, interview with Al Arabiya, January 27, 2009)

In Spain he apologized that America had unfulfilled promises, had dictated terms, and for past errors.

“I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. . . . The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.” (President Obama, address to the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony, Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009)

In London he apologized that America had dictated solutions.

“I just think in a world that is as complex as it is, that it is very important for us to be able to forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions.” (G-20 news conference by President Obama, ExCel Center, London, United Kingdom, April 2, 2009.)

He criticized and apologized that America acted out of fear, had ideological predispositions, and that have we set aside our principles.

“But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us–Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens–fell silent.

“In other words, we went off course.” (President Obama, speech at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009)

He apologized that America had not engaged with our Latin American neighbors.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas.” (Opinion editorial by President Obama: “Choosing a Better Future in the Americas,” April 16, 2009)

He criticized American polity and the CIA, says we had to “acknowledge” that we made mistakes.

“Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn.” (Remarks by the President to CIA employees, CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia, April 20, 2009)


It should go without saying, but for those left-liberal True Believers, let’s lay out the purpose of being and speaking from a position of strength. The purpose is not to go to war at the drop of a hat. No president would go to war “for light and transient causes.” The purpose of being strong and speaking from a position of strength is to avoid war. Not to wage war, but to negotiate peace.

Time, experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts have already proven that George Washington’s strategy in this regard is the only efficacious path. Not Obama’s approach of tactic appeasement. European, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and especially terrorist leaders see Obama’s original policy statements and actions as inherent weakness. Worse than this, they now see his post-Benghazi approach as confirming this weakness.

One can only imagine how emboldened terrorist leaders are when they watch Obama’s denials and non-response to the obvious terrorist attack of September 11, 2012. One would hate to imagine what “acts of terror” are now being planned because of the provocative weakness which the current president displays through his words, actions, and non-actions.

Obama’s chutzpa in violating such tried and true basic policies shows he was pressed into service without the world experience or world view necessary to “provide for the common defence.”


Click here to read my piece deconstructing Obama’s September 12, 2012 Rose Garden statement.