Saturday, August 31, 2013

Foreign Policy Follies

In principle, Barack Obama is not an amateur on the world stage. Having been president for well over four years, he is now, we might say, a seasoned player. In his case it means that he is reaping what he sowed.

Yesterday, the British House of Commons decided that it did not want to line up behind Obama as he conducts his police action in Syria. The American press immediately denounced the faithless British and declared that Prime Minister Cameron had suffered a grievous defeat.

In truth, the vote was a rebuke to President Obama. Nile Gardiner explained that, in the conduct of foreign policy, Obama has been making George Bush look good. Would that not be a crushing irony?

When your allies refuse to follow your lead, it means that they do not trust your leadership.

Gardiner explained it:

There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s defeat in the House of Commons was a huge blow to President Obama, and has dominated the US news networks this morning. The absence of Britain in any American-led military action significantly weakens Obama’s position on the world stage, and dramatically undercuts the Obama administration. The vote reflected not only a lack of confidence in the Commons in the prime minister’s Syria strategy, it also demonstrated a striking lack of confidence in Barack Obama and US leadership.

Drawing out the comparison, he continued:

In marked contrast to Obama, President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain. The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. …  Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.

As I said, you reap what you sow.

In fairness, the administration has not touted its forthcoming strike as a military action. It has defined it as a police action. Remember when we weren’t going to be “the world’s policeman?”

Obama has noted that Bashar Assad has gassed his own people. Assad did it even after Obama told him not to do it. So, Assad has committed a genocidal crime and he must be punished.

This is what you get when your foreign policy guru is Samantha Power. Now, American military power can only be used to exact justice, to punish people who do very, very bad things. By implication, it cannot be used to defend American interests or to advance American goals. We are citizens of the world before we are citizens of the USA.

Obviously, the policy is incoherent. It makes our nation look like an adolescent bumbler with an identity crisis.

Mark Steyn points out that when you see the world as a courtroom you follow the rules of “discovery” and announce what you are going to do before you do it.

Steyn writes:

In the world’s most legalistic culture, it was perhaps inevitable that battle plans would eventually be treated under courtroom discovery rules and have to be disclosed to the other side in your pre-war statement. But in this case it doesn’t seem to be impressing anyone. Like his patrons in Tehran and Moscow, Assad’s reaction to American threats is to double up with laughter and say, “Bring it, twerkypants.” Headline from Friday’s Guardian in London: “Syria: ‘Napalm’ Bomb Dropped on School Playground, BBC Claims” — which, if true, suggests that even a blood-soaked mass murderer is not without a sense of humor. Napalm, eh? There’s a word I haven’t heard since, oh, 40 years ago or thereabouts, somewhere in the general vicinity of southeast Asia.

You know and I know and everyone else knows that Assad is now filling his important military sites with political prisoners and other innocent souls. In the pursuit of criminal justice Obama will be punishing the people he wants to be helping.

I didn’t think it possible, but he has gone beyond intellectual incoherence.

The amazing thing, Steyn adds, is that the administration’s stated goal in Syria is … not to be mocked. Having made itself an international joke the administration is now worried that the world will start laughing at it.

Naturally, the people who want to punish Assad did not in any way want to punish Saddam Hussein for gassing a far larger number of Kurds. It’s what happens when you run policy by the seat of your ego.

Steyn explains:

I see the Obama “reset” is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against. The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax. The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”

Excepting the French, the whole world is laughing.


Anonymous said...

1. Islam is having a religious/territorial/ethnic conflict comparable to our Wars of Religion. 1517 to 1648 w/up to 1/3 of Europe dead. W/Civ cannot change Islam's course.

2. Sarah Palin: "He's gonna bomb Syria because Syria bombed Syria? And they say I'M stupid???" (Love me some Sarah). -- Rich Lara

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Now that you remind me, she also said: Let Allah sort it out!

Anonymous said...

I agree, it does make liberals look like a bunch of hypocrites for criticizing Bush and supporting Obama for essentially wanting to do the same thing.

But then, it makes you a hypocrite, too. If you're going to attack Obama for trying to be a "policeman" and letting "Samantha Power" determine his foreign policy, then what about Bush and Saddam? Power, as I recall, was nowhere around then.

So which is it? It kind of makes you a double hypocrite.