Saturday, August 10, 2013

Foreign Policy Follies

The news hasn’t really reached the public, but Obama-supporting media outlets are starting to see the mess that the Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy has produced.

It is so bad that columnists are not even trying to moderate their negative judgments.

From Frida Ghitis on the CNN site:

America's foreign policy has gone into a tailspin. Almost every major initiative from the Obama administration has run into sharp, sometimes embarrassing, reverses. The U.S. looks weak and confused on the global stage.

This might come as happy news to some opponents of the administration who enjoy seeing Barack Obama fail, but it shouldn't.

America's failure in international strategy is a disaster-in-the-making for its allies and for the people who see the U.S. model of liberal democracy as one worth emulating in their own nations.

On Russia, she continues, the verdict is clear:

Relations with Russia have fallen off a cliff, making the theatrical "reset" of 2009 look, frankly, cringe-worthy. 

Syria, of course, is even worse:

Obama dramatically warned Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, as he slaughtered his people by the thousands, that if he used chemical or biological weapons, he would cross a "red line." The line was crossed and not much happened. Syria is crumbling, self-destructing in a civil war that I, for one, believe could have turned out quite differently if Washington had offered material and diplomatic support for moderates in the opposition. Fears that the opposition would be dominated by extremists became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The centerpiece of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy initiative was Egypt. You know how that has worked out:

But it is Egypt where America's foreign policy fiasco is most visible.

It was in Cairo in 2009, where the newly elected Obama, still reflecting the glow of sky-high expectations, launched his campaign to repair relations with the so-called "Muslim World."…

Nobody knew what would happen in Cairo's Tahrir Square a few years later. But today, the same people who yearned for democracy despise Washington. When Egyptians elected a Muslim Brotherhood president, Washington tried to act respectfully, but it showed a degree of deference to the Muslim Brotherhood that ignored the ways in which the group violated not only Egyptians' but America's own standards of decency and rule of law.

As tensions in Egypt grow between Islamists on one side and the military and anti-Islamists on the other, there is one sentiment shared by all: Both sides feel betrayed by Washington.

Egypt's most powerful man, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, said, "You [the U.S.] left the Egyptians; you turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that."

It’s gotten so bad that the New York Times cannot even defend the administration. It offers a harshly negative commentary on the Obama administration decision to shut down its embassies in the Islamic world and to evacuate the personnel—though, to be fair, the administration refused to call it an evacuation. You would think this comes from the National Review:

The gloating among jihadists and their sympathizers began last week, right after the United States shut down almost two dozen diplomatic posts across the Middle East in response to a terrorist threat.

“God is great! America is in a condition of terror and fear from Al Qaeda,” wrote one jihadist in an online forum. Another one rejoiced: “The mobilization and security precautions are costing them billions of dollars. We hope to hear more of such psychological warfare, even if there are no actual jihadi operations on the ground.”

The jihadists are not the only ones who see the new terrorist alert in a caustic light.

The Obama administration’s decision to evacuate so many diplomats on such short notice — however justified by the seriousness of the threat — has upset some of its foreign partners, who say the gesture contributes to a sense of panic and perceived weakness that plays into the hands of the United States’ enemies, and impedes their efforts to engage with people in their countries.

It’s amateur hour in American foreign policy.

And then, there’s Libya. You remember Libya. You remember that NATO, spurred on by a French philosopher, intervened in a civil war. America, in Obama’s immortal words, was leading from behind.

Libya was the test case of the Obama doctrine of hands-off warfare. Our president wanted to show that we could exercise influence over the outcome of a war—you know, nudge the parties in the right direction—without involving American troops.

We may not have known exactly who we were supporting, but our guys won the war.

While no one is paying very much attention to Libya—certainly French philosophers aren’t—the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

So says The New Yorker. Yes, The New Yorker, another pillar of the mainstream media, paints a bleak picture of Libya:

With no further need for war and with Western powers fussing over what was being vaunted as the oil-rich nation’s new democracy, Libya should have once again achieved peace and stability. Instead, the country, of more than six million people, seems to have been fatally destabilized by the war to remove its dictator, and it is increasingly out of control. Militias that arose on various regional battlefronts found themselves in possession of vast arsenals and large swaths of territory. Despite the orchestration of parliamentary elections and the assumption of nominal rule by civilian politicians in Tripoli, those militias have not stood down; instead, they have used their force and their firepower to try to effect change in the capital, even, on several occasions, besieging government buildings. They have also fought one another over long-held regional enmities; the most recent such battle occurred last month.

You recall that when America invaded Iraq, Colin Powell said something like: You broke it; you own it. How many Obama supporters, Gen. Powell included, will accept that we own the situation in Libya:

In June and July, dozens of Libyans were killed in separate clashes between militias in Benghazi and Tripoli. The past week or so has been particularly bad. On Friday, July 26th, a prominent lawyer in Benghazi, Abdelsalam al-Mismari, was shotkilled as he left a mosque after Friday prayers. Mismari was a prominent leader of the 2011 rebellion against Qaddafi, and, more recently, he had emerged as a vocal opponent of the country’s second-largest political group, the Justice and Construction Party, a conservative faction allied with the Muslim Brotherhood. The suspicion is that extremists assassinated him. Two security officials were also killed in the city that day. Then, on July 27th, more than a thousand inmates broke out of a prison outside Benghazi, in still murky circumstances. (This mass jailbreak coincided with others, linked to Al Qaeda, in Baghdad, and to the Taliban, in Pakistan.)

By now, we know how that Arab Spring has been working out. The New Yorker continues:

Libya lacks the ability to police its borders, not to mention its armories, and Al Qaeda thrives in any vacuum of influence. The bloody hostage crisis at the oil field in southern Algeria, in January, was linked to French intervention in Mali; in April, the French Embassy in Tripoli was bombed; and in May, in Niger (another weak state that shares a border with Libya), bombers killed nearly thirty people. This year, two prominent secular politicians have been assassinated in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began. In a separate incident last week, terrorists apparently operating from the Algerian border killed eight Tunisian soldiers. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of Tunisians took to the streets of Tunis to demand the resignation of the governing Islamists. With post-Mubarak and, now, post-Morsi Egypt under increasingly assertive military control, the Arab Spring appears to have been replaced by spreading chaos.

Given the Obama administration’s foreign policy follies, you would think that the Republican Party would be bringing it all to the attention of the American people. You would be wrong.

The Republican responset has been pathetically weak. Last week the doddering John McCain and his sidekick, Lindsey Graham allowed themselves to represent the president on a trip to Egypt. .

At a time when the Egyptian military is tamping down the influence of one of the world’s leading terrorist incubators, the Muslim Brotherhood, and when the same military has begun cooperating with the Israeli government in the fight against Sinai terrorists, the Obama administration, aided and abetted by McCain and Graham have been out there supporting… you guessed it… the Muslim Brotherhood.

Raymond Ibrahim reports on the Egyptian reaction:

In the eyes of tens of millions of Egyptians, Senators John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s recent words and deeds in Egypt — which have the “blessing” of President Obama — have unequivocally proven that U.S. leadership is aligning with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian media is awash with stories of the growing anger regarding this policy.

A top advisor to Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour formally accused McCain of distorting facts to the benefit of the Brotherhood. He dismissed McCain’s recent remarks as “irrational” and “moronic.” Ahmed al-Zind, head of the Egyptian Judge Club, has called for the arrest and trial of McCain for “trying to destroy Egypt.” The leader of the youth movement Tamarod (meaning “Rebellion,” against the Brotherhood), which played a major role in mobilizing the June 30 revolution, said: “We reject John McCain and call on the international community to let the [Egyptian] people decide their own fate.”

As for the typically empty McCain claim that he is upholding principle, Ibraham debunks the notion:

If he considers the ouster of the Brotherhood government to be a military coup, why didn’t he extend that distinction at the fall of Mubarak’s more moderate government, which was also removed by the military in response to popular protests? If McCain’s argument is that Morsi was democratically elected and Mubarak was not, then why was the U.S. giving Egypt billions in aid for decades? Did not this aid legitimize Mubarak’s government no less than Morsi’s?

Further angering Egyptians is McCain’s insistence that all arrested Brotherhood members and other Islamists be released from prison. As Musa said, McCain’s stance does not address that Brotherhood leadership is awaiting trial on serious charges: inciting terrorism, causing the murder of Egyptians, and grand treason by conspiring with foreign powers against Egypt’s interests.

McCain claims he is simply interested in the human rights of the incarcerated Brotherhood members, a statement that is additionally curious. If human rights are at issue, why has McCain and the U.S. administration been ambivalent regarding the fate of Hosni Mubarak? Morsi faces perhaps more serious charges than Mubarak does, yet McCain calls for his release.

I suspect that McCain is channeling his idiot daughter.

But, there is something that Republicans can do about the situation. Lindsey Graham is up for re-election next year. He is going to be challenged in the South Carolina Republican primary. Let’s hope that voters in the Palmetto State retire him. 


Anonymous said...

McCain's juvenile intransigence is only matched by his juvenile desire to be liked by the "right people." I suspect the Muslim Brotherhood fits the bill, just like the mainstream American press before they turned on him upon his disastrous presidential run. Detect a pattern?


Lastango said...

I'm not surprised by McCain's reference to "human rights". That's been the fig leaf for the Obama administration's Machiavellian realpolitik across the Mideast as it joined the Europeans in placing all bets on what they considered to the team that will win in the end: the Islamists.

In the news the other day it was reported that the US will take several thousand "refugees" from Syria. A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece cautioning that all this would accomplish would be to import a new cohort of hardcore Islamist radicals and terrorists into the US. But it's going to happen because it's part of the humanitarian fig leaf needed to excuse away the Administration's disastrous exercise in self-interested foreign adventuring.

It should be said that, except of the naked military involvement in Libya to overthrow the old regime, none of this is thematically new. The Bush administration did the same, reaching out to Islamists across North Africa and undermining our allies and non-enemies there.

Sam L. said...

See also here for a discussion on Ghitis:

Anonymous said...

And what about Snowdengate?