Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Amateur Hour in Foreign Policy

The massacre continues in Syria.

Given its deep concerns for the people of Syria the United States just threw its diplomatic muscle behind the Arab League’s resolution imposing sanctions against the Assad regime.

Led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice America brought the resolution to the United Nations Security Council.

China and Russia vetoed the resolution, ostensibly angering the Europeans, the Americans, and the Arab League. Clinton and Rice took the opportunity to vent their anger.

According to the Democracy in America blog at The Economist: “this is what foreign-policy success looks like.”

Perhaps the blogger is shilling for the Obama administration. Perhaps his head is so far in the sand that he cannot see reality. But, God help us, if this is what success looks like, we should prefer failure.

Allow the blogger to have his say:

…  nothing has made me as optimistic recently about the prospects for a broadly international, pro-human-rights, anti-authoritarian foreign policy that brings together America, the democratic world, and many of the emerging-market/non-aligned countries as what's happening right now around the Syria question. The complete isolation of Russia and China in the Security Council vote on sanctions last week is a watershed moment.

Didn’t you know, foreign policy success involves what happens in the United Nations?

The coalition that toppled Qaddhafi and installed God knows what in his place has now reunited to express its heartfelt feelings about Syria. For now it’s not going to do anything at all about it.

A coalition that felt compelled to take immediate action in Libya in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster is reduced to empty rhetoric while a humanitarian disaster is taking place in Syria.

Consistency, anyone?

Bashar Assad may not have many friends but he is still on great terms with Russia, China, Iran, and Hezbollah.

Here’s some more crack foreign policy analysis from The Economist:

For the past three years America has been walking softly, and it's working very, very well. Ten years back, America often found itself isolated, struggling to pull together "coalitions of the willing" packed with small client states. Lately, we have been finding ourselves in the majority, along with the democratic world, while Russia and China front a dwindling coalition of the unwilling. To some extent, this reflects a smart, subtle foreign-policy presence in which we have done a vastly better job of looking at what other countries actually want, and seeing where our interests align, rather than trying to bully other countries into supporting our goals. To some extent, it's luck: the Arab spring happened.

Why miss an opportunity to trash the Bush administration?

Let’s count the administration’s foreign policy successes, especially in the Middle East.

As of now it has helped hand over three North African countries to Islamist parties. The Saudis and the Emirates feel that we betrayed Mubarak. They are barely speaking to us.

In recent days we have also seen Americans taken hostage in Egypt. The government of Egypt, filled full of good feeling toward our president, decided to indict nineteen Americans, among them the son of cabinet secretary Ray LaHood, on charges of fomenting democracy.

The administration has been sending warm greetings toward the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brothers have responded with a slap in the face. It’s amateur hour in foreign policy land.

Surely, theEgyptians are not as blind as the Economist blogger. They know weakness and indecision when they see it. Seeing the opportunity to establish themselves as the masters of false pride they humiliate America. I am guessing that they do not fear the wrath of Obama.

Somehow or other the Muslim Brothers missed the latest Economist blog post. Apparently, they do not understand how popular our president is around the world.

If Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice just want us to be liked, that can only mean that they graduated from the Sally Field School of foreign policy. They do not care about whether anyone fears or respects us. They do not care about how well we advance our national interest.

The Economist defends them: what matters is how popular our president is. You would think that they are all still in high school.

If you think I’m exaggerating, read this from The Economist:

When Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice try to win backing for American positions at the UN, the exceptional popularity of the president they represent in other countries is obviously a factor. Commentators who envision Barack Obama running on his foreign-policy successes in this year's campaign generally adduce examples like the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the crippling of al-Qaeda. Perhaps these are the examples that figure most clearly in the American voter's imagination. It would be nice, though, if voters evaluated presidents' foreign policies on the basis of whether they had won the respect of the world and advanced American interests internationally. The evidence of recent American foreign-policy effectiveness isn't that we've shot a lot of bad guys. It's that when our UN ambassador calls the Chinese and Russian vetoes of action on Syria "disgusting", she's speaking for the overwhelming majority of the world, and they are in the isolated minority.

One day The Economist should try to figure out how the overwhelming majority of the world is supporting you when the world’s most populous country, a country that is also the world’s second leading economic power, has just told you to go take a hike.

I don’t want to leave this on a sour note.

So, let’s counterbalance this blog post with Caroline Glick’s analysis of the debacle at the U.N. Writing in the Jerusalem Post Glick offered her take on what the administration amateurs really accomplished.  

Glick also shows us the difference between those who conduct  foreign policy on the basis of ideals and those who base it on reality:

The Obama administration is absolutely furious at Russia and China. The two UN Security Council permanent members' move on Saturday to veto a resolution on Syria utterly infuriated  US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. And they want us all to know just how piping mad they really are.

Rice called the vetoes "unforgivable," and said that "any further blood that flows will be on their hands." She said the US was "disgusted."

Clinton called the move by Moscow and Beijing a "travesty." She then said that the US will take action outside the UN, "with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people's right to have a better future."

The rhetoric employed by Obama's top officials is striking for what it reveals about how the Obama administration perceives the purpose of rhetoric in foreign policy.

Most US leaders have used rhetoric to explain their policies. But if you take the Obama administration's statements at face value you are left scratching your head in wonder. Specifically on Syria, if you take these statements literally, you are left wondering if Obama and his advisers are simply clueless. Because if they are serious, their indignation bespeaks a remarkable ignorance about how decisions are made at the Security Council.

Is it possible that Obama believed that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would betray Bashar Assad, his most important strategic ally in the Middle East? Is it possible that he believed that the same Chinese regime that systematically tramples the human rights of its people would agree to intervene in another country's domestic affairs? 

Outside the intellectual universe of the Obama administration - where stalwart US allies such as Hosni Mubarak are discarded like garbage and foes such as Hugo Chavez are wooed like Hollywood celebrities - national governments tend to base their foreign policies on their national interests.

In light of this basic reality, Security Council actions generally reflect the national interests of its member states. This is how it has always been. This is how it will always be. And it is hard to believe that the Obama administration was unaware of this basic fact.

In fact, it is impossible to believe that the administration was unaware that its plan to pass a Security Council resolution opposing Assad's massacre of his people - and so jeopardize Russian and Chinese interests - had no chance of success. The fact that they had to know the resolution would never pass leads to the conclusion that Obama and his advisers weren't trying to pass the resolution on Syria at all.

What is the administration trying to accomplish in Syria? Glick makes it clear: they are trying to get away with doing nothing. That’s what they have been doing all along. Now they can, as she says, shift the blame to Russia and China.

Already they have convinced one Economist blogger.

On top of it all, Glick notes, the vetoed resolution was, in the words of Rep. Iliana Ros-Lehtinen, toothless.

Glick reports:

As Ros-Lehtinen put it, the draft resolution "contains no sanctions, no restrictions on weapons transfers, and no calls for Assad to go, but supports the failed Arab League observer mission," and so isn't "worth the paper it's printed on."

She continued, "The Obama administration should not support this weak, counterproductive resolution, and should also reconsider the legitimacy that it provides to the Arab League - an organization that continues to boycott Israel - when it comes to the regime in Damascus."

Over what, exactly, was all the sound and the fury at the U. N?

While the Economist blogger thrills to our close ties with the Arab League, Ros-Lehtinen reminds us that it continues to boycott Israel.

At least it’s consistent with a policy that has reached out a hand of friendship to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

To the liberal mind that’s what foreign policy success looks like: legitimizing the enemies of Israel.

1 comment:

n.n said...

Assad's faction will not voluntary relinquish power to the "rebel" descendents of their former oppressors. The "Arab Spring" has proven to be a revival of Islamic imperial ambitions conducted through retributive change. They would be insane to submit to their rivals.