The standard critique of President Obama’s foreign policy is now generally well-known—mercurial, paradoxical, and passive. “Leading from behind” seems at odds with the traditional American commitment to ensure—preferably with allies or, if need be, alone—the continuance of the postwar global system of sovereign borders, free trade, safe commerce, and open communications.
Many of Obama’s recent foreign policy initiatives have resulted in a diminished United States and they have found little success. The reset with Russia earned us a strange sort of contempt from Vladimir Putin. Moscow almost gratuitously thwarts the U.S., gloating that we offer loud self-righteous sermons to others that are not backed by consequences.
“I will concede that you are almost always right (no joke). However, I don’t agree that a year from now the “American public will have a vague idea that about a year earlier something happened sometime to someone in Syria, but what and when and where and why they are not quite sure.” Continue reading “Angry Reader #9 — A Facebook Comment”→
The Syrian fiasco arose from two mutually contradictory desires. Barack Obama sincerely wanted Bashar Assad to stop killing his own people. Barack Obama also really was not willing to use force to ensure that Assad would stop killing his own people. At Harvard, those desires would not be antithetical. Elsewhere they are.
The desire to avoid the use of force was understandable. Obama ran for president as an anti-war candidate. He damned Bush’s “bad war” in Iraq, while critiquing the conduct of the “good war” in Afghanistan. He had no success with his own bombing in Libya. And he was embarrassed by even a rhetorical entry into the Egyptian quagmire. The president sensed rightly that the country was “tired” after Afghanistan and Iraq. Continue reading “Obama’s Box Canyon”→
We are contemplating going to war in Syria to help the opposition a lot and to hurt Assad some, or to help the opposition some and hurt Assad a lot, or to hurt Assad some and help the opposition some, or to force Assad to stop or to leave, or to stop but stay, or to stop and leave; or to restore the word of the president, or the word of the United States, or the word of the international community by bombing, or by threatening to bomb but not bombing, or by neither threatening to bomb nor bombing; or to warn the Russians to stay out, or to welcome the Russians to come in, or to warn the Russians to stay out and welcome the Russians to come in. Message? We are planning to do all kinds of things by not doing anything. Continue reading “Syria in a Nutshell”→
On the eve of the 12thanniversary of the terrorist strikes on 9/11, President Obama last night addressed the nation and reprised every delusional and bankrupt internationalist idea that contributed to that disaster. The current Syrian crisis––merely the latest Middle Eastern example of Obama’s incompetence––exemplifies more thoroughly than the rest just how politicized, incoherent, hypocritical, and dangerous to this country’s security and interests Obama’s foreign policy has been. Continue reading “Fifteen Minutes of Foreign Policy Malfeasance”→
“It was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire woke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers.
If it were regrettable that Vladimir Putin’s formidable diplomatic skills were wasted squashing rather than ensuring freedom inside Russia, it seems even more lamentable that his impressive prose likewise is not put to better use. Putin’s letter to us, the American people, is brilliant sophistry. The best rhetoric is always that which blends truth with half-truth and occasional fiction. In Putin’s case, he did all that—while offering the dessert of channeling Obama back to Obama.
Of course, as Putin reminds us, we fought together in WWII and should agree that such cooperation should be emulated. Russia suffered enormous losses for the Allied cause. Without such heroic sacrifices, the Anglo-American alliance may well have lost the war.
Yet Putin forgets to remind us that Russia’s war with Germany was prompted by betrayal. Russia was a de facto ally of Hitler. It kept sending him enormous amounts of material to help defeat France and Continue reading “Putin — Saruman Come Alive”→
To support the president’s enforcement of his red line in Syria requires suspensions of disbelief. Here are several.
I wish it were not true, but there is scant evidence that the world, led by the U.S., went to war in the past over the use of weapons of mass destruction — whether by Gamel Nasser in Yemen or by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds and the Iranians. Understandably, the current West’s reaction, including Obama’s, to possible Syrian WMD use is calibrated mostly on the dangers of intervention, not the use of WMD per se. Thus Obama is now focusing on Syria in a way he is not, at least overtly, on Iran, the far greater WMD threat, because he believes the former could be handled with two days’ worth of Tomahawks and the latter could not. That would be understandable pragmatism if it were not dressed up in the current humanitarian bluster about red lines and the “international community.”
There are lots of reasons why many of us who would like to punish the Assad-family regime for its long history of anti-American and savage and genocidal conduct fear the present course is unwise, not in America’s interest, and dangerous — at least as it has so far been articulated. Continue reading “On Poking Animals and Other Stupid Things”→