During Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama had an opportunity to engage in the debate about America's role in the world. Unfortunately, he failed to do so.
He speaks eloquently of America's role as a "beacon to all who seek freedom," but stood idly by as protesters took to the streets in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere, pleading for American support, only to be rebuffed.
He seeks a world without nuclear weapons even as rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran have advanced their nuclear programs on his watch.
The president talks of a "pivot" to Asia, while overseeing massive defense cuts that won't leave us with naval assets to pivot with.
America's free enterprise system has given us the means to protect our people and advance the goals of global liberty, prosperity, and safeguarding human rights. Unfortunately, our weak economy has not only made it difficult for people to find well-paying jobs; it has made it easier to give in to the temptation of disengaging from the world.
The biggest foreign policy problem facing the United States right now is not too much U.S. engagement, but the danger of a world in which we increasingly refuse to lead. There are few global challenges that can be solved without decisive American leadership.
What happens in Syria, where more than 70,000 people are dead after almost two years of fighting, is integral to our interests. The specter of chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and being used against U.S. personnel in the region or against U.S. allies should move us toward action even if the humanitarian toll does not.
The president spoke on Tuesday about ending the war in Afghanistan. But he failed to discuss why Afghanistan's stability is important to America and why we must ensure that this country -- in which we have invested so many American lives and so much support -- does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists who seek to attack us.
Similarly, potential instability in East Asia, caused by China's rise and North Korea's ongoing provocations, will directly impact our economic security and the system of alliances we have constructed in that region. That is why this week I urged the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a series of hearings examining these challenges and cosponsored legislation that calls for new sanctions and enhancements to the U.S. military posture in the region in response to North Korea's nuclear test.
A crisis in East Asia or the Middle East will impact the bottom lines of many American households. It's not an exaggeration to say that what happens in faraway places such as Yemen and Mali might be felt by those living in the heartland of America -- and if not today, then very soon.