Epitaph for a Foreign Policy

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

If you still doubt that Barack Obama has disastrously bungled our foreign policy, check out this video. In it Egyptian singer Salma Elmasry brutally insults Obama for supporting the Muslim Brothers and Islamists in general, her vulgar insults laced with an image of our President sporting a bin Laden cap and beard, and another of him with thickened nose and lips, no surprise to anyone familiar with traditional Arab racism. Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin is on his way to Cairo. According to Debka, “Putin hopes to come away from Cairo as champion of the war on radical Islam in two important Arab countries and the most reliable ally of forces for moderation.” Next on his itinerary is Tehran, where “the Russian leader will use the double exposure to underscore Moscow’s solid presence at the power centers of the Middle East – in striking contrast to Washington.”

Things are pretty bad internationally when Putin, the butcher of Muslim Cechnyans, is seen as a “moderate,” and the enabler of genocidal Iran and Syria a stauncher warrior against jihadist terror than the land of the free that lost 3000 citizens and billions of dollars on 9/11. That’s how badly Obama has damaged our interests and security, squandered the capital of our international prestige, and in general made everything worse.

How far this debacle is from the foreign policy “hope and change” rhetoric when he took office in 2009. Like the Dems and their flacks in the media, Obama had exploited the false narrative that the trigger-happy “cowboy” George Bush had scorned diplomacy and alienated our allies. Typical is this editorial from the Los Angeles Times in January 2009: “The Bush administration’s hubris and relentless disregard for our allies abroad shredded the fabric of multilateralism . . . The Bush years, defined by ultimatums and unilateral actions around the world, must be brought to a swift close with a renewed emphasis on diplomacy, consultation and the forging abroad of broad international coalitions.”

And Barack Obama was their man. In 2007 he had pledged to “reinvigorate American diplomacy” and “rebuild the alliances, partnerships, and institutions necessary to confront common threats and enhance common security.” His first years in office he told the U.N. that he would “embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interests and mutual respect.” He followed through on these pledges, “reaching out” to our rivals and enemies. He bowed to the Saudi king Abdullah, and in Cairo he flattered Islam and apologized for America’s sins while Muslim Brotherhood officials sat beaming in the front row.

He pushed the “reset button” with Russia and “bent over backwards,” as he put it, extending the hand of friendship to Iran. As the mullahs spun their centrifuges and their henchmen slaughtered our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he told them, “We are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.” He begged the Ayatollah Khamenei for “co-operation in regional and bilateral relations,” and even after being contemptuously rebuffed, said, “We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran.” And don’t forget, he helped the Europeans bring down a freshly denuclearized Gaddafi in Libya, turning that country into international jihadism’s favorite arms bazaar, ushered Mubarak out the door in Egypt and ushered the Muslim Brotherhood in, got our ambassador and three other brave Americans murdered in Benghazi, and routinely insulted and berated Israel.

And what does he have to show for this diplomatic outreach, flattery, wheedling, and cringing? An insulting video from the people he claimed to help liberate; only 24% of people in Muslim countries possessing confidence in him personally and 15% approving of his policies, according to Pew; and Russia now the dominant power in the region, adding insult to the injury of granting asylum to national-security leaker Edward Snowden. As for al Qaeda, which Obama assured us was “on its heels,” it remains an expanding threat potent enough to compel the closure of 19 U.S. embassies in Muslim countries until Saturday. Everywhere America is viewed with contempt, her prestige in tatters, her deterrent power nil.

All that should be obvious, but the larger lesson is that the two-centuries-long dream of internationalist idealism has been once again exposed as a dangerous illusion. The whole international order has moved from being useless for American security and interests, to malignant and dangerous. NATO, the best of the bunch, is nothing but an American-financed fig leaf for Europe’s unwillingness to spend the money necessary to back up its pretentions to being a global power rather than a glorified Switzerland or Luxembourg, all the while knowing that the U.S will do the dirty work needed to keep the global economy moving.

We recently had a graphic example of Europe’s weakness when France sent troops into Mali to drive out the jihadists ravaging that country. In The American Spectator, Joseph Harriss writes of the French intervention, “French troops debarking in Mali desperately needed much more support than [the handful of aircraft from England and Belgium], but France simply did not have enough military transport aircraft to ferry in promised reinforcements, including those from African nations like Chad and Togo. Nor did it have the aerial refueling capacity to allow its Mirage F-1 jets to make planned bombing runs against insurgent convoys and cells. And when it came to that weapon of choice for today’s proliferating asymmetrical wars, the drone, it had virtually nothing.” (In fact, Harriss points out, the French have three out-of-date surveillance drones, compared to America’s 6000 of all types.) In the end, American aerial refueling and transport and cargo aircraft made the French mission succeed. Given that pathetic lack of matériel and troops, how could European nations ever back up its NATO obligation to come to our aid if attacked, or contribute meaningfully to support for our common foreign policy interests––like keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons–– without us doing all the heavy lifting?

And NATO is a roaring success compared to the U.N., or the E.U., or the various international “courts of justice”  and “human rights” that supposedly punish international malefactors and uphold the rule of law. As the Spanish proverb has it, these bloated bureaucracies are like spider webs that catch flies but let the hawks fly through. They nab the stray Serbian butcher while the murderers of millions walk around free and sit on human rights commissions. And the reason has been obvious ever since the hapless League of Nations crashed and burned. They are all political entities that member states use to pursue their national interests. Just look at the despicable hounding of Israel on the part of all these institutions, most recently in the E.U.’s support in the U.N. of the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in violation of the Oslo Accords, the cut-off of grants to entities in the so-called West Bank, and the continuing divestment movement going strong in Europe with governmental support. Anti-Semitism and mindless left-wing faddishness partly account for this outrage, but so does the calculation of European countries that angering tiny Israel is a safer bet than riling up Muslim countries and Europe’s own disgruntled Muslim immigrants.

The bankrupt internationalism that has elevated diplomacy into a fetish does not serve American interests or security. As a card-carrying member of the academic left, Obama came into office with all the unthinking, ancient prejudices of that tribe: a dislike of military power, a distaste for their own country, a sentimental third-worldism that makes our enemies victims of “imperialism” deserving of our guilt and cash, a commitment to ideology and power that trumps the obligation to defend our security and tend to our interests, and a preference for lofty talk rather than grim action. This vulgar, raucous Egyptian video should serve as the epitaph of those bankrupt notions.

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