This summer will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, and we should reflect on the “lessons” we have been taught so often on how to avoid another such devastating conflict. Chief among them seems to be the canard that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 that officially ended the war caused a far worse one just 20 years later — usually in the sense of an unnecessary harshness accorded a defeated Imperial Germany.
It’s often hard to determine whether a series of bad policies results from stupidity or malicious intent. Occam’s razor suggests that the former is the more likely explanation,
as conspiracies assume a high degree of intelligence, complex organization, and secrecy among a large number of people, qualities that usually are much less frequent than the simple stupidity, disorganization, and inability to keep a secret more typical of our species. Yet surveying the nearly 6 years of Obama’s disastrous foreign policy blunders, I’m starting to lean towards Goldfinger’s Chicago mob-wisdom: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.”
Obama’s ineptitude started with his general foreign policy philosophy. George Bush, so the narrative went, was a trigger-happy, unilateralist, blundering, “dead or alive” cowboy who rushed into an unnecessary war in Iraq after alienating our allies and insulting the Muslim world. Obama pledged to be different. As a Los Angeles Continue reading “Obama’s Foreign Policy: Enemy Action”→
Vladimir Putin has the world’s attention this week. The circumstances will remind everyone that reset with Russia is dead. Its
working hypothesis — that it was the George W. Bush administration, not the Putin regime, that had either inadvertently or provocatively offended the other’s sensibilities — was invented before the 2008 election on Obama’s partisan and political considerations, not empirical observation.
Under reset, the incoming Obama administration, more nuanced than the outgoing Bush administration and drawing on more enlightened thinking, would appeal to the better angels of Putin’s Russia. The more complex Obamaites would help enlighten the Putin autocracy to the fact that the U.S. and Russia had common interests in improving free trade. We really both wanted to calm world tensions while discouraging proliferation, combating terrorism, working with the United Nations, quelling international crises, and promoting human rights. Once Russians had been tutored about America’s good intentions, we could undo (“reset”) the damage done by the swaggering braggadocio of the interventionist prior administration. Misunderstanding and ill feelings, not ill intentions and malfeasance, were Russia’s sins.
And what is the result of reset? It is open Russian promotion of the Syria/Hezbollah/Iran axis that was active in Iraq and is now more so in Syria. It is Russian obstruction at the U.N. of most American initiatives. It is another round of strangulation of the former Soviet republics. It is satisfaction that a frustrated United States has been reduced to appeasement instead of taking serious steps to thwart Iranian nuclearization, as Putin eggs Iran on. It is more pressure on Eastern Europeans to look to the East, not to the West. It is humiliation of the European Union over Ukraine. It is more internal oppression of a brutal sort. And it is a gratuitous delight in exposing the Obama administration as sanctimonious and weak, while the U.S. lectures Russia on human rights, as if its tepid moral remonstrations de facto translate into shamed abidance. In sum, what the Obama administration is for, Putin is mostly against. Continue reading “The Value of Putin”→
In the last two weeks, we learned that Bashar Assad has dismantled only 5 percent of his WMD arsenal, despite President Obama’s soaring rhetoric to the contrary. Russia violated a long-observed agreement with the U.S. about testing missiles. Iran’s take on the negotiations over its bomb program bears no resemblance to our interpretation. Chinese officials now happily leak fantastic stories about using their military to punish Japan. All that is trumped by veiled threats from the Sunni Gulf monarchies, terrified of Iran, to buy a bomb or two from Pakistan. We hear other rumors that even China thinks the new leadership in North Korea is unhinged and is not worried about friendly warnings from Beijing.
Whether all these incidents are minor or serious, and whether they are random or interconnected and perceived as proof of the loss of U.S. deterrence, depends on which particular bad actor is studying them to try to guess whether the Obama administration will do anything should a provocateur start a war or attempt to redraw a regional map.
In short, our Icarus-in-Chief, without much foreign-policy experience but with youthful zeal and good intentions, soared far too high for his flimsy waxen wings. Now they are melting, and as the American commander-in-chief careens back to earth, lots of those below are wondering what will come next. Still, there is a lot of irony as Obama freefalls to earth. Continue reading “Our Icarus-in-Chief”→
Does Barack Obama have a strategy? He is often criticized for being adrift.
Nonetheless, while Obama has never articulated strategic aims in the manner of Ronald Reagan or the two Bushes, it is not therefore true that there is no “Obama Doctrine.” Indeed, now that he has been in office five years, we can see an overarching common objective in otherwise baffling foreign-policy misadventures.
Collate the following: large defense cuts, the president’s suspicions that he is being gamed by the military, the pullout from the anti-missile defense pact in Eastern Europe, the pressure on Israel to give new concessions to its neighbors, the sudden warming up with an increasingly Islamist Turkey, the failed reset with Russia, radical nuclear-arms-reduction talks, the abject withdrawal of all U.S. peacekeeping forces in Iraq, the timetable withdrawals in Afghanistan, the new worries of our Asian and Middle Eastern allies, the constant euphemisms on the war on terror, the stepped-up drone attacks, the lead-from-behind removal of Moammar Qaddafi, the pullaway from Mubarak in Egypt, the support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the pink lines in Syria, the Iranian missile deal, the declaration that al-Qaeda was on the run and the war on terror essentially ending, the Benghazi coverup, and on and on. Continue reading “Obama’s Recessional”→
In the old postwar, pre-Obama world, the United States accepted a 65-year burden of defeating Soviet communism. It led the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. The American fleet and overseas bases ensured that global commerce, communications, and travel were largely free and uninterrupted. Globalization was a sort of synonym for Americanization. Continue reading “Obama’s Ironic Foreign Policy”→
The gangster state of North Korea became a nuclear power in 2006–07, despite lots of foreign aid aimed at precluding just such proliferation — help usually not otherwise accorded such a loony dictatorship. Apparently the civilized world rightly suspected that, if nuclear, Pyongyang would either export nuclear material and expertise to other unstable countries, or bully its successful but non-nuclear neighbors — or both.
The United States has given billions of dollars in foreign aid to Pakistan, whose Islamist gangs have spearheaded radical anti-American terrorism. Ever since a corrupt Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, it has been able to extort such foreign-aid payouts — on fears that one of its nukes might end up in the hands of terrorists.
By any measure of economic success or political stability, without nuclear weapons Pakistan would not warrant either the cash or the attention it wins.
An observant Iran appreciates three laws of current nuclear gangbanging:
1. Nuclear weapons earn a reputation.
2. The more loco a nuclear nation sounds, the more likely it is that civilized states will fear that it is not subject to nuclear deterrence, and so the more likely that they will pay bribes for it to behave. Gangbangers always claim they have nothing to lose; their more responsible intended targets have everything to lose.
3. As of yet there are no 100 percent effective nuclear-defense systems that can guarantee non-nuclear powers absolute safety from a sudden attack. The nuclear gangbanger, not the global police, currently has Continue reading “Nuclear Gangbangers”→
The American custodianship of the postwar world for the last 70 years is receding. Give it its due: The American super-presence ensured the destruction of Axis fascism, led to the eventual defeat of Soviet-led global Communism, and spearheaded the effort to thwart the ability of radical Islam to disrupt global commerce in general and Western life in particular. Continue reading “The World’s New Outlaws”→
While many were fixated on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent letter to the American people, another letter from another Russian leader—this one directly addressed to the U.S. president—was missed.
On September 10, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill issued a letter addressed to “His Excellency Mr. Barack Obama, President, United States.” Whether one wishes to interpret this communique as a product of politics or sincerity, it accurately highlights the plight of Syria’s Christians, especially in the broader context of a larger civilizational struggle.
I repost major portions of the letter below, interspersed with my observations for added context:
Deportation has become a near-taboo word. Yet the recent Boston bombings inevitably rekindle old questions about the way the US admits, or at times deports, foreign nationals. Continue reading “The D-word”→