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Reading a piece by Bill Kristol over at The Weekly Standard about the Iranian deal — or lack thereof — got me to thinking that President Obama and his administration could be considered the first Millennial Presidency. While it is true that millennial enthusiasm for Obama has waned since 2008, if you look at how Obama has governed — particularly in terms of foreign policy — Obama is acting exactly how Millennials would want elected officials to act. If you haven’t, read this paper published by the Cato Institute by A. Trevor Thrall. I listened to his presentation of the paper today while doing my yard work and it was rather eye opening.
For starters, Thrall informs us that Millennials are less likely to view the use of the military as a good thing and that they would much rather see the US act within the framework of cooperation with other states. Obama has that box checked, despite launching two air campaigns during his presidency, one in Libya and the other against ISIL. They are also less likely, by large margins, to say that the US is the greatest country in the world. This could indicate, on some level, a sentiment that the US is not worth defending against certain threats.
That leads us to the second important trait of this generation as explained by Thrall. Millennials do not view the threats the US faces the same way as previous generations, mainly the Baby Boomers and Generation X. On all but one strategic threat listed in a survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, Millennials lag behind when weighing the seriousness of these threats. The one threat listed where Millennials are in the lead? Global warming. They do not see international terrorism, a nuclear Iran, the rise of China, or Russian territorial gains as big a threat as global warming. Which brings me back to Obama.
What is the one global issue the Obama administration has taken great lengths to address since coming to office? If you said global warming or climate change, you are correct. Sure, Obama has launched air campaigns in the Middle East, as has been acknowledged above, and he has announced a pivot toward Asia strategically, but has he really done anything effective in these areas? If you ask our Asian allies about the pivot, they will counter with “when does it begin?” In the Middle East, the situation is no better. After having provided air cover to jihadists in Libya who wished to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi, the US has been relatively absent from the scene, even after one of our diplomats and three other Americans were killed there by Islamists. The rest of the Middle East and Gulf states are searching in earnest for partners to provide some sense of a security agreement. Just last week, the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, visited with Vladimir Putin to discuss, among other things, a security arrangement; this despite Putin being a strong supporter of Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, Bashar al-Asad in Syria and the Mullahs in Iran.
Obama has abandoned allies via unilateral channels, something that millennials would likely applaud. He has acted only slightly through cooperative organizations, although these actions addressed either climate change or something tertiary considering the great challenges in the world. The Iranian deal — or the lack thereof as it were — is another reflection of his governing with the mindset of a Millennial. The substance of the deal does not matter, so long as there is a deal, and so long as it is conducted through an international institution. Not being able to inspect Iranian military installations at the behest of a deal that is supposed to prevent the implementation of a military nuclear program is the height of pointlessness. Obama has demonstrated time and again that his foreign policy has been just that.