Posts Tagged 'Foreign Policy'

Is the West Enabling Putin?

After reading the latest report suggesting President Obama “blasted” Russia over its actions in Ukraine, only to find out within the report that “blasting” meant telling Putin that he wasn’t being diplomatic and that the U.S. and Europe were thinking of new sanctions that wouldn’t harm Russia’s economy, it became even easier to see why Putin isn’t backing down. He’s largely getting token pressure from the West, and doesn’t seem deterred by it.

Max Boot argues that the lack of response from the West to Putin’s actions is enabling his behavior:

Alas the consequences of Western pusillanimity will be felt far outside Ukraine’s borders. Letting Ukraine be dismembered, even after the U.S., UK and Russia had guaranteed its territorial integrity, will send a signal to Putin that he can repeat the same stunt elsewhere. First Sevastopol, now Donetsk, next Tallinn? Likewise it will send a message to China’s leaders that they can act in similar fashion. If Putin can get away with aggression in Ukraine, why can’t China do the same in the South China Sea and East China Sea where it is locked in numerous territorial disputes with its neighbors?

It’s unclear just how far the West would have to go to stop Putin in Ukraine, but it’s clear that what has been done so far isn’t stopping him and is likely encouraging him and others to continue this type of aggression.

Senator Rubio on Venezuela and Cuba

If you’re looking for strong, clear foreign policy that differentiates between actual freedom and oppression, Senator Rubio’s recent speech on the Senate floor is for you. This is as honest as you will hear someone call out an oppressive regime and anyone who pretends that such a regime isn’t so bad.

If Rubio is looking for an angle in 2016, this might be a good one.

Former Obama Defense Secretary Rips Obama’s Leadership

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a new book coming out, and the early reports on it suggest it’s a must-read. Gates’ book Duty, as described by Bob Woodward – who has written quite a bit about President Obama’s leadership – seems to confirm a lot of criticism about the political, insular nature of President Obama and his team.

Specifically, Gates suggests that President Obama didn’t believe his own mission in Afghanistan despite sending 30,000 troops there, and didn’t believe his own military team, questioning General Petraeus’ loyalty and integrity in front of people. Gates adds, “I felt that agreements with the Obama White House were good for only as long as they were politically convenient.”

He reveals that President Obama blindsided the military with his decision on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and that Obama’s inner circle was debating military action in Libya without consulting the Department of Defense. And in case you were thinking Vice President Biden could one day be President, Gates accuses Biden of being “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

Perhaps the most damaging information revealed from the book so far, however, is the political nature of both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. From Woodward’s report:

[Gates] writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

What Gates – who is not known to be a partisan and who has praised President Obama on many occasions – seems to be revealing may not surprise many of President Obama’s critics who have accused his leadership of these very characteristics. But because Gates was a high-level Obama administration official with a very credible reputation among both Republicans and Democrats, his confirmation of those criticisms is a big deal.

That’s why Duty is a book you should read. I know I will. And as I read it and reports about the book, I’ll add more commentary, as this could be one of the more important books about the Obama administration so far.

Obama’s Incompetence and Failure on Display in Syria

The failure of President Obama’s foreign policy is on full display in Syria along with his incompetence. For two years, war in Syria has resulted in at least tens of thousands of deaths, many of them at the hands of the brutal Assad regime. Yet, like in several other missed opportunities during President Obama’s tenure (Iran, Honduras, Egypt), the United States has tried to mostly stay out of the fray. But a year ago, President Obama, going off script, drew a red line at the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.

Whether or not President Obama was bluffing or even meant to draw the red line, he apparently believed that there was something significant about using chemical weapons. Then reports showed that the Assad regime did so use chemical weapons (although there has been some debate about this). This put President Obama in a bad position, being called on his bluff and threatening to make the US look weak if it he nothing.

So the President began to contemplate a military response. The first problem was that polls showed strong opposition to any military action. Then, the British Parliament actually voted against military action in Syria. There would apparently be no international coalition of support as there was with Iraq, for example. So at the eleventh hour of contemplation, likely seeing the polls, President Obama opted to ask Congress for authorization to use force in Syria. But in so doing, he suggested he didn’t need their authorization. This was, quite clearly, an effort to cover and shift blame from the President.

After it became apparent that the administration was struggling to get enough support in Congress for a strike in Syria, the administration set up pitches from officials and political leaders. National Security Advisor Susan Rice gave a speech advocating intervention. On the same day, Secretary of State John Kerry made an off-script comment that Assad could simply turn over his chemical weapons, but that that couldn’t be done. The State Department then downplayed Kerry’s remarks as “rhetorical.” Then Russia made a shrewd move and took advantage, offering to oversee Assad’s transition of chemical weapons.

Russia is demanding that it will only help if the US promises not to use force against Assad. Assad is asking in return that the US abandon arms aid to the Syrian rebels. Assad has also reportedly offered a timeline of turning over the weapons, but Secretary Kerry doesn’t approve of this timeline. Then there is the difficulty of verifying that Syria has turned over its weapons. In other words, this is a win for Russia and Syria, and a loss for the US. Charles Krauthammer explains:

[Putin] cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

Why would President Obama take this deal? To save face after boxing himself into a situation he was never prepared to deal with. It’s one thing to find yourself in a situation with only bad choices, but it’s another to discuss a plausible situation (the use of chemical weapons) and not have a plan for dealing with that situation a full year later.

This administration’s foreign policy has failed. There will be no restoration of American stature in the world under this President, only a weaker America with emboldened enemies who know that real power matters more than one’s high opinion of himself.

Obama’s Berlin Speech Shows Detachment from Reality

President Obama delivered a speech from Berlin this past week, at the Brandenburg Gate, (probably not coincidentally) on the heels of the anniversary of President Reagan’s famous “Tear Down this Wall” speech and fifty years from JFK’s speech from the Gate.  The speech made it sound like President Obama was living on another planet, as it was full of calls for solutions that are only priorities among progressives, but not among the developing world. George Will blasted the speech and what it suggests about what is looking like it will be a pointless second term for President Obama.

With the global economy struggling, developing nations struggling to industrialize and grow more prosperous middle classes, and the world burning with riots and tyrannical rulers, President Obama advocated tackling climate change and reducing Russian nukes. Pardon me for asking, but I remember the Berlin Wall coming down and recently saw a big piece of it in a museum, and I wasn’t aware that Russian nukes were a top priority right now. George Will is also skeptical.

I also highly doubt that people living in developing nations who are finally climbing the ladder are all that concerned with the environmental impact of the developments allowing their socioeconomic climb out of poverty. President Reagan spoke at the Gate about liberating people so that they could have opportunity; President Obama is concerned that their liberation and opportunity will result in a less green planet. To each their own concerns, I suppose, but whatever attempt this speech was to elevate Obama to a comparison with Reagan or JFK failed miserably when you consider the message each one delivered.

And, of course, President Obama’s usual vanity was on display, and Will mocks President Obama for this:

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting nearby, Obama began his Berlin speech: ‘As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.’ . . .

His look is just not that interesting. And after being pointless in Berlin, neither is he, other than for the surrealism of his second term.

Will has it right. If this Berlin speech is any indication, we’re in for a “silly” second term “detach[ed] from reality.”


Senator Rubio on the Obama Administration’s Scandals and Intimidation

Let’s see, in the past week or so we have learned that Obama administration officials in Libya knew that a video had nothing to do with Benghazi, that the IRS has been targeting conservative political organizations, that the Health and Human Services Secretary has been asking private industry to pay for Obamacare, and that the Department of Justice has been tracking phones of journalists. Senator Rubio is calling this a culture of intimidation.

I’ll let him speak for himself, but his point is this: when a government administration is concerned primarily with politics and will divide people to win politically, it easily turns into an abusive operation that intimidates the people whom it represents.

Even David Axelrod had it right today when he admitted that it’s impossible for a President to be aware of what’s going on in a government this large. Too bad this large government is what this President has pushed for. Axelrod may not know it, but he made a very powerful defense of conservatism by accident.

House Oversight Hearing Strongly Suggests Benghazi Cover Up

It may be because we as a culture have become so desensitized that even true scandals do not surprise or offend us much, or that when one occurs, everyone rallies to whichever side they are on with little concern for the truth. Benghazi may be an example of this. No one would argue that it was not a tragedy, and only the most partisan of people would argue that the administration did not make any mistakes in failing to prevent the attack. What the House Oversight hearing this week revealed strongly suggests that the Obama administration knowingly misled the American public about what happened in Benghazi.

The testimonies of Mr. Hicks, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Nordstrom, all closely engaged with the situation in Benghazi, were truly heartbreaking and stunning. I submit that the people saying that those testimonies revealed nothing new were going to say that no matter what the witnesses revealed. Those willfully blind deniers are motivated only by their politics, trying to protect mostly Hillary Clinton and President Obama. As Guy Benson points out, there were at least a dozen revelations from the hearing.

Among the most important revelations from the hearing were that Hicks, who was on the ground in Libya, received a call from Hillary and her staff around 2 AM. According to Hicks, during that call–the transcript or recording or which we do not have and should try to obtain–Hicks and Hillary were on the same page about what was happening, and no one even mentioned a demonstration or a YouTube video. The folks on the ground in Libya all realized right away that they were being attacked by terrorists. Hicks testified that he was told that fighter planes were 2-3 hours away, yet never came, and that someone apparently gave a “stand down” order that prevented US forces in Tripoli from coming to help.

Mr. Nordstrom, the head of US security in Libya, testified that it was well-known that the US facility in Benghazi did not meet safety standards, and that Hillary would have known about the requests for additional security at the facility. Thompson, a former Marine, added more head-scratchers, recounting that his unit in the Counterterrorism Bureau was excluded from high level administration meetings and was cut out from the process. Thompson’s unit is supposedly trained and specialized for emergency situations like the one in Benghazi.

The cover up, which it almost certainly was, was confirmed when Hicks said that the YouTube video was a non-factor. Hicks testified that he was embarrassed when Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows and blamed a video that had nothing to do with what had happened. When Hicks asked his superiors on Hillary’s staff about why that false narrative was being offered by the Obama administration, he was excoriated and demoted after having received praise from his superiors in the administration for the way he had handled the situation. That this was a cover up was made even more clear by intelligence reports that initially mentioned terrorist attacks, were scrubbed to remove those mentions, and never talked about a video.

Any objective observer of the investigations into what happened in Benghazi who heard this week’s testimonies would conclude that the administration knowingly misled the American public. It is still not completely clear who made which decisions, but the testimonies in this past week’s House Oversight hearing confirm the cover up and other mistakes that were made. It would be a shame if we ignored this simply because we did not want to hurt our favorite political celebrities, which is surely a concern for many media outlets who would rather bury this story to protect their political interests.

UPDATE: Andy McCarthy adds commentary about the call between Hicks and Hillary, summarizing the situation concisely:

To sum up: State’s main guy on the ground in Libya tells Clinton in Washington that State’s people in Benghazi are under attack by the local al Qaeda franchise, Ansar al-Sharia, which might have captured the U.S. ambassador. Yet, over the next few days, with what we now know to be monumental input from the State Department, the Obama administration purges references to Ansar al-Sharia from the talking points that it uses to explain the attack to the American people. Instead, it concocts a story claiming the anti-Islamic Internet video was the culprit.

McCarthy interestingly notes that shortly after Hicks spoke to Hillary–a phone call that Hicks testified had them on the same page about the terrorist attack–President Obama called Hillary. Shortly after the President’s call, a statement was released for Hillary that blamed the video. It is not hard to come up with the subsequent question.

Rand Paul’s Important Drone Filibuster

What Senator Rand Paul did this week in a filibuster of the CIA Director nomination of John Brennan was unique, bipartisan, enlightening, and politically brilliant. Let’s not forget that it was also a risk, as Senator Paul talked for the better part of over half a day, something that a lot of members of Congress can’t and probably shouldn’t do, lest they say something really harmful to their reputations. No, Senator Paul was impressive, talking and facilitating discussion on the question of Executive branch war power in general, and specifically the use of drones on US citizens on American soil.

This was a rare display of intellectual discussion that was not at all partisan. Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee helped start a great discussion of Constitutional history and Executive power, and the GOP’s rising stars were on display. Eventually Democrat Senator Ron Wyden joined them and added to the discussion. By the end of the night, a large number of Republican Senators (including, notably, Rubio, Ron Johnson, Tim Scott, and Mitch McConnell) had shown their support for Paul’s efforts by taking the Senate floor to discuss the issue. It was a fascinating and refreshing display, especially because Paul made it clear that he wasn’t using the filibuster to block Brennan’s confirmation, but only to use the opportunity to generate some explanations from the Obama administration about when drones could be used against US citizens on American soil.

This discussion was politically wise, as Paul not only raised his credibility and public stature immensely, but it showed just how deep and diverse the new generation of Republican Senators is. Cruz and Lee are truly Constitutional law experts. Rubio clearly explained the Legislative branch’s role in the confirmation process for Executive appointees like Brennan. Several others explained the need to discuss the potential consequences of not limiting the circumstances under which the Commander-in-Chief could use drones on American soil. And Paul even distanced himself from many Bush-era war policies, helping himself and some of his colleagues gain more credibility, especially from younger voters who tend to be less hawkish in general.

Brennan was confirmed today, and Attorney General Holder also answered the original question about drone use that started the whole discussion. Life goes on. No one was hurt or offended. And the discussion about war powers with drones will continue in the public sphere.

Good for Senator Paul, who deserves much credit and respect for his efforts, regardless of whether or not one agrees with his positions on such issues.

Partisan President Delivers Partisan Inauguration Speech

The inauguration of American presidents is truly a special event. Historically, the peaceful transition of power has been rare, and the pageantry that provides the backdrop of this American tradition is both special and remarkable. The United States is a unique nation, but watching the second inauguration of President Obama, one can’t help but be concerned over what happened.

In some ways, Charles Krauthammer was correct that President Obama’s inauguration speech represented the end of the Reagan era. This is not to say that more people now identify as liberals rather than conservatives or that Reagan’s conservative policies no longer work; neither is the case. It is to say that President Obama has empowered those who do not believe that the individual liberty and markets created by our Constitutionally limited government are just and right for the country. The Reagan era was marked not only by success in the form of prosperity and strength, but by the widespread acceptance that government must be limited to provide the freedoms under which such prosperity and strength occur.

For a few decades, those who disagreed with those ideas (progressives, so to speak), had to accept the reality of an electorate that mostly espoused those limited government beliefs. Now, however, President Obama has not only empowered progressives to not have to cater to such an electorate, but to mock and insult anyone who believes in Reagan’s America of a Constitutionally limited government rather than a government of mandated positive rights. Take, for example, this list of straw man attacks directed at his opponents, provided by Michael Gerson quoting from the President’s speech:

Those who oppose this agenda, in Obama’s view, are not a very admirable lot. They evidently don’t want our wives, mothers and daughters to “earn a living equal to their efforts.” They would cause some citizens “to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.” They mistake “absolutism for principle” and “substitute spectacle for politics” and “treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” They would have people’s “twilight years . . . spent in poverty” and ensure that the parents of disabled children have “nowhere to turn.” They would reserve freedom “for the lucky” and believe that Medicare and Social Security “sap our initiative,” and they see this as “a nation of takers.” They “deny the overwhelming judgment of science” on climate change, don’t want love to be “equal” and apparently contemplate “perpetual war.”

In other words, President Obama no longer advocates a United States above red and blue states; he now advocates the complete dismissal of those who believe there is a vast space between individuals left on the street and federal government programs as not only extreme but ill-intentioned.

This rhetoric will underscore the partisan battles that will likely continue. President Obama is not likely to achieve success like Reagan in the form of prosperity and world influence, and he is equally unlikely to overcome the reasons for the deepest partisanship of our country like Lincoln was able to. He is far more likely to facilitate a deeper hostility between the left and right as he not only pushes for more progressive policies while ignoring and exacerbating the greatest issue of our day, but also facilitates the outward manifestations of jealousy and even hatred that drive many people to blame those who have for the plight of those who have not.

No one knows exactly what the future will look like, but a good bet is that in the future, the country will remain deeply divided and will experience more animosity as animosity is encouraged.  In the meantime, the debt will grow, our wealth and prosperity will likely decrease, and a diminished American influence in the world will likely leave the world less safe.

But perhaps in a few years the poorer, weaker America can celebrate same-sex marriage and forcing Catholic organizations to provide contraception. Forward.

‘The Obama administration has chosen a course of American retrenchment and retreat’

While the country focuses on “nation building at home” that is not going so well — unemployment remains around 8% and has slightly dropped mostly due to people dropping out of the labor force — Bill Kristol sees the big picture and reminds us that the world is becoming less safe under President Obama’s weak America. Syria and Egypt, for example, are messes and threaten not only our strategic interests, but human rights. A beat up America in such a dangerous world is a scary idea, but as Kristol remembers, this country has roared back before:

We’ve recovered before. In the late 1940s, a war-weary nation looked the other way as the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe and China went Communist. It was only after the North Korean invasion of the South that the United States, first under Harry Truman and then Dwight Eisenhower, faced up to its responsibilities​—​but at considerable cost in lives and treasure over the next decades as we fought wars that perhaps could have been avoided and endured a Cold War that needn’t have been as threatening as it was. In the late 1970s, a war-weary nation watched as Khomeini took over Iran and the Sandinistas Nicaragua. This time, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan served as the wake-up call, answered first (to a degree) by Jimmy Carter, then resoundingly by Ronald Reagan.

Kristol, like many conservatives today, thinks the Republican party is probably in need of a reformation that will bring in a new generation to lead the American comeback. I believe he is correct, and while I pointed out that Mitt Romney was trying to usher in that new generation, the new faces are already emerging despite Romney’s defeat.

For conservatives and anyone not willfully blind to the disaster of the Obama administration both at home and abroad, there is reason for hope and optimism thanks to this new generation of conservative leaders stepping up. But the challenge will be daunting; America will be weakened and the world will be more unstable. As Kristol pointed out, however, that’s when The Gipper led an American resurgence that lasted for years before President Obama arrived to try to erase that success from history by convincing people that tax reform and limited government were the causes of our woes.



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