Free Markets, Free People
Do you remember the promises? When Obama took over, the Middle East would come to love the US again. As Obama, famously declared in his 2009 Cairo speech, his election meant a “new beginning” with the Muslim world.
The truth, however, is much uglier:
President Obama’s first journey to Israel as president comes amid earth-shattering change in Middle East, much of it for the worse. The Arab Spring, which once raised hopes of freedom and dignity, has diverged onto the dark path of Islamist authoritarian rule. In Syria, tens of thousands of people have died in a bitter civil war that might have recently seen its first use of chemical weapons. And Iran continues its march toward nuclear weapons capability, heedless of international condemnation. Obama’s effort to seek peace between Palestinians and Israelis is in tatters.
And Libya? One word: “Benghazi”.
How about the much anticipated and promised love fest that would occur after that mean old George W Bush was retired and The One waved his mighty hand and blessed his own Middle East policy? Yeah, it hasn’t quite worked out that way:
According to the latest survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, confidence in Obama in Muslim countries dropped from 33% to 24% in his first term. Approval of Obama’s policies declined even further, from 34% to 15%. And support for the United States in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan is lower today than it was in 2008 in the closing year of George W. Bush’s administration.
Israel, our closest and most important ally in the area isn’t much enamored with Obama:
Of all the strained relationships in the Middle East, the partnership with Israel is the most important and potentially the most easily repaired. Obama is not popular in the country. A poll released last week showed he had a scant 10% approval rating in Israel, with an additional 32% saying they respect but don’t like him.
And, if the tactic of stiffing Israel had the intent of winning popularity among Palestinians, that too hasn’t worked:
If Israelis don’t like Obama, Palestinians are even less favorable.Washington’s perceived failure to take a harder line with Israel over the final status of Jerusalem, and U.S. opposition to President Mahmoud Abbas’ successful campaign for higher Palestinian status in the United Nations, have engendered a deep sense of frustration. Passions spilled over in Bethlehem this week, when young Palestinians defaced a billboard with Obama’s image and burned pictures of him in the streets. Obama’s symbolic nods to Israel’s history are likely to raise Palestinian ire even further.
In fact, none of the administration’s policy initiatives have had any positive impact, or, for the most part, any impact at all (despite a fawning media telling us how wonderful a SecState Hillary Clinton was, this is her legacy too).
So, what will Obama do today in Israel? What he usually does. Make a speech:
The hope that Obama will say the right things in Thursday’s speech at Jerusalem’s convention center is negated by doubts he will follow through. The president has to assure Israelis and Palestinians that he is still engaged if the peace process has any chance of moving forward. In part, this means convincing them that he still matters.
Key point emphasized. If you’ve watched Obama even casually over the past years, you can’t help but have noticed that he’s very strong on “talking the talk”, but hardly ever “walks the walk”. He doesn’t know how.
And there’s absolutely no reason this particular issue will see him even attempt it now. Oh, he’ll say the “right things”. That’s what he does. His problem is he never then does the “right things”. Rhetoric is his action. It’s for the history books, not as a guide to leadership. He’s not a leader.
But you know that. And the results of that lack of leadership are evident for all to see in the Middle East.
One word: Libya. Seriously… many of the armaments and fighters came from Libya and their fight there to overthrow the government. All, of course, aided and abetted by the Obama administration and their brilliant foreign policy.
Over the last four years, the United States has spent between $520 million and $600 million in a sweeping effort to combat Islamist militancy in the region without fighting the kind of wars it has waged in the Middle East. The program stretched from Morocco to Nigeria, and American officials heralded the Malian military as an exemplary partner. American Special Forces trained its troops in marksmanship, border patrol, ambush drills and other counterterrorism skills.
But all that deliberate planning collapsed swiftly when heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya. They teamed up with jihadists like Ansar Dine, routed poorly equipped Malian forces and demoralized them so thoroughly that it set off a mutiny against the government in the capital, Bamako.
A confidential internal review completed last July by the Pentagon’s Africa Command concluded that the coup had unfolded too quickly for American commanders or intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs.
Then an American-trained officer overthrew Mali’s elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. American spy planes and surveillance drones have tried to make sense of the mess, but American officials and their allies are still scrambling even to get a detailed picture of who they are up against.
Now, in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe, the French have entered the war themselves.
Exceptionally well done, no? /sarc
That’s what leading from behind brings you — oh, that and “Arab spring”.
Can you imagine what will happen when Syria finally collapses?
Jackson Diehl takes an interesting look at the Obama doctrine for foreign policy or, as some have called it, “leading from behind”. Diehl prefers to call it the “light footprint” doctrine:
Contrary to the usual Republican narrative, Obama did not lead a U.S. retreat from the world. Instead he sought to pursue the same interests without the same means. He has tried to preserve America’s place as the “indispensable nation” while withdrawing ground troops from war zones, cutting the defense budget, scaling back “nation-building” projects and forswearing U.S.-led interventions.
It’s a strategy that supposes that patient multilateral diplomacy can solve problems like Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability; that drone strikes can do as well at preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland as do ground forces in Afghanistan; that crises like that of Syria can be left to the U.N. Security Council.
Okay. I really dont’ buy into the claim that Obama hasn’t led a “U.S. retreat from the world”, but I’m willing to stipulate that to get to the rest.
The rest, of course, has to do with the ineffectiveness and potential problems this doctrine presents. And they’re not small problems either. One thing that observers of world affairs seem to pick up on fairly quickly is that someone or something will fill a power vacuum. Say what you want about “light footprints” or “leading from behind”, it has indeed created that sort of vacuum. And other countries, notably Russia and China globally and Iran regionally, are busily trying to figure out how to fill that vacuum.
Perhaps, in the long run, it is best we do withdraw somewhat. Fiscal reality demands at least some reductions and foreign policy is not exempt. But it should be done shrewdly and according to some overall plan that carefully considers the ramifications of such a withdrawal.
Secondly, it likely makes sense not to involve ourselves too deeply in situations that don’t really concern us or threaten our security. Like Libya. It is interesting that Libya was a “go”, but Syria was a “no-go”, considering the stated reasoning (or propaganda if you prefer) for intervention in Libya.
So how has it worked? Well, for a while it seemed to be working well enough – and then:
For the last couple of years, the light footprint worked well enough to allow Obama to turn foreign policy into a talking point for his reelection. But the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 should have been a red flag to all who believe this president has invented a successful new model for U.S. leadership. Far from being an aberration, Benghazi was a toxic byproduct of the light footprint approach — and very likely the first in a series of boomerangs.
Why were Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans murdered by Libyan jihadists? The preliminary round of official investigations may focus on decisions by mid-level officials at the State Department that deprived the Benghazi mission of adequate security, and a failure by the large CIA team in the city to detect the imminent threat from extremist groups.
But ultimately the disaster in Libya derived from Obama’s doctrine. Having been reluctantly dragged by France and Britain into intervening in Libya’s revolution, Obama withdrew U.S. planes from the fight as quickly as possible; when the war ended, the White House insisted that no U.S. forces stay behind. Requests by Libya’s fragile transition government for NATO’s security assistance were answered with an ill-conceived and ultimately failed program to train a few people in Jordan.
Where does that leave us?
A new report by the Rand Corporation concludes that “this lighter-footprint approach has made Libya a test case for a new post-Iraq and Afghanistan model of nation-building.” But the result is that, a year after the death of dictator Moammar Gaddafi, Libya is policed by what amounts to a mess of militias. Its newly elected government has little authority over most of the country’s armed men — much less the capacity to take on the jidhadist forces gathering in and around Benghazi.
The Rand study concludes that stabilizing Libya will require disarming and demobilizing the militias and rebuilding the security forces “from the bottom up.” This, it says, probably can’t happen without help from “those countries that participated in the military intervention” — i.e. the United States, Britain and France. Can the Obama administration duplicate the security-force-building done in Iraq and Afghanistan in Libya while sticking to the light footprint? It’s hard to see how.
It certainly is. In fact, Libya is a disaster. If the purpose of US foreign policy is to enhance the interests of the US I defy anyone to tell me how that has been done in Libya. And now there are rumors we’re going to do the same thing in Mali (mainly because much of the weaponry that the Gaddafi government had has spread across the Middle East after their fall, to include terrorist groups which are now basing out of Mali).
How will the Obama administration answer these challenges? Diehl thinks he’ll rely even more heavily on drone strikes. But again, one has to ask how that furthers and serves the best interests of the United States:
A paper by Robert Chesney of the University of Texas points out that if strikes begin to target countries in North Africa and groups not directly connected to the original al-Qaeda leadership, problems with their legal justification under U.S. and international law “will become increasingly apparent and problematic.” And that doesn’t account for the political fallout: Libyan leaders say U.S. drone strikes would destroy the goodwill America earned by helping the revolution.
Anyone who still believes the myth that we’re better loved in the Middle East right now, needs to give up smoking whatever it is they’re smoking. Adding increased drone strikes in more countries certainly won’t promote “goodwill” toward America. It will, instead, provide jihadists with all the ammunition they need to demonize the country further – which, of course, helps recruiting.
I’m not contending this is easy stuff or there’s a slam-dunk alternate solution. But I am saying that doing what was done in Libya for whatever high sounding reason has been a disaster, has not served the best interests of the United States and, in fact, will most likely be detrimental to its interests.
It is, as Deihl points out, a huge red flag. The doctrine of choice right now is not the doctrine we should be pursuing if the results are like those we’ve gotten in Libya. If ever there was a time for a ‘reset’ in our foreign policy approach, this is it.
A deadly combination. If this election is about “trust” as Obama likes to say, then I trust him about as far as I could throw him.
This lady does about as good a job as you’ll see laying it all out:
Interesting footnote and something the Obama campaign has apparently forgotten:
A strikingly similar story from across the pond proves that honesty in the wake of terrorist attacks matters to voters.
On March 11, 2004, an al-Qaida terrorist cell bombed the commuter train system in Madrid, Spain. Nearly 200 people were killed.
The attack came just three days before Spain’s prime ministerial election. At the time, incumbent Jose Maria Aznar was enjoying a small lead in the polls. But the attack changed everything — and Aznar ended up losing to challenger Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero by five points.
Today, the consensus is that Aznar lost the election because of his mishandling and misrepresentation of the Madrid bombings. Aznar and his party claimed the bombings were the work of a Basque separatist organization, despite evidence to the contrary. The theory is that because Spain had recently entered the Iraq War — something that was unpopular with the Spanish electorate at the time — Aznar believed that admitting al-Qaida was behind the attack would damage his re-election chances.
The parallel between the Madrid bombings and the Benghazi attack is obvious. Like the Madrid bombings, the Benghazi attack happened in the midst of a heated campaign season and was followed by confusion, false assertions, and — worse — misrepresentations by the very political leaders asking for the electorate’s trust.
At the very least, the Obama administration bungled its response to the Benghazi attack. And the more information about the attack that surfaces, the worse President Obama looks.
Indeed. Keep this alive, because it illustrates explicitly why Obama is not someone this country can trust.
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the upcoming election, Hurricane Sandy’s possible effect and the debacle in Benghazi.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
That’s an amazing quote. Jake Tapper, who has done a pretty fair job of chasing the Benghazi debacle through the denials of the administration, reports on the Congressional hearings held yesterday about the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya:
The former regional security officer in Libya, Eric Nordstrom, recalled talking to a regional director and asking for twelve security agents.
“His response to that was, ‘You are asking for the sun, moon and the stars.’ And my response to him – his name was Jim – ‘Jim, you know what makes most frustrating about this assignment? It is not the hardships, it is not the gunfire, it is not the threats. It is dealing and fighting against the people, programs and personnel who are supposed to be supporting me. And I added (sic) it by saying, ‘For me the Taliban is on the inside of the building.’”
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, the commander of a Security Support Team (SST) sent home in August – against his wishes and, he says, the wishes of the late Ambassador Chris Stevens – said “we were fighting a losing battle. We couldn’t even keep what we had.”
Nordstrom agreed, saying, “it was abundantly clear we were not going to get resources until the aftermath of an incident. And the question that we would ask is again, ‘How thin does the ice need to get until someone falls through?’”
Patrick Kennedy, a career foreign service officer, claims, on his honor, that the denial wasn’t driven by politics. And, when questioned, the State Department claimed funds or the lack thereof had nothing to do with it.
So what did? Why in the world wouldn’t the request of a regional security chief be filled? After all, isn’t that what you pay him for, to assess and recommend? And doesn’t it make sense, unless he’s crying “wolf” every 30 seconds (in which case he should be replaced), to listen to his assessment and err on the side of safety for your people? That is if politics and money weren’t a factor.
Tapper later confronts Presidential spokesman Jay Carney with a very pointed question:
TAPPER: President Obama shortly after the attacks told “60 Minutes” that regarding Romney’s response to the attack, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to shoot first and aim later. Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?
Carney, of course, goes into full dissemble and evade mode. Read the whole exchange, it’s interesting.
Big point? Tapper’s exactly right. What we know now, as opposed to what we were told prior too and during the “60 Minutes” broadcast, are totally different. We went from a spontaneous protest over the anti-Islam video that mophed into a murderous attack on our ambassador there to no protest at all, a planned terrorist attack and all of it having to nothing to do with any video.
We know as a matter of course that the terrorists like to do things on certain anniversaries (it was 9/11) and since this was the year their leader had been killed, it stood to reason something like this would likely happen.
We also learned the US was warned about it 24 hours prior to it happening. And, as the hearings have pointed out, additional security assets were denied numerous times and an unacceptable security situation was left in place with the ultimate outcome being an attack, the murder of US citizens to include the Ambassador, the compromise of sensitive information and then a massive attempt at coverup.
Obama has a second debate coming up. It’s the foreign affairs debate. If this isn’t the topic of the night, then it will be clear he’s being covered for by those moderating the debate. Fair warning. Don’t be surprised if that’s the case. What should also be a topic is Russia’s refusal yesterday to renew it’s nuclear arms treaty with the US (how’s that “reset” working out?) as well as it’s overt and material support of both Syria and Iran, China’s apparent comfort with bullying our ally Japan over some South China Sea islands, why our relationship with Israel is so strained, how well he thinks the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt is working out in terms of the best interests of the US (which is, by the way, why we supposedly conduct foreign policy), and the obvious failure of his Afghanistan “strategy” (announce a surge at the same time you announce the pull out).
If those are actually things which are brought up and he walks off the stage afterward thinking he won, Dems can pack it in.
My guess is we’ll be hearing questions and comments about Bain’s investments in China (they have to be careful there since it seems one of Obama’s campaign finance bundlers is in China), as if that has anything to do with foreign affairs.
Hopefully I’m proven wrong and that dismal foreign affairs record (supposedly his “strength”) of this awful administration is actually brought out that night.
I’ll not be holding my breath though.
Sometimes it takes Charles Krauthammer to succinctly put matters in perspective:
It’s now three years since the Cairo speech. Look around. The Islamic world is convulsed with an explosion of anti-Americanism. From Tunisia to Lebanon, American schools, businesses and diplomatic facilities set ablaze. A U.S. ambassador and three others murdered in Benghazi. The black flag of Salafism, of which al-Qaeda is a prominent element, raised over our embassies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Sudan.
The administration, staggered and confused, blames it all on a 14-minute trailer for a film no one has seen and may not even exist.
What else can it say? Admit that its doctrinal premises were supremely naive and its policies deeply corrosive to American influence?
Can’t do that. This is his “strong point”. Foreign policy. How are we perceived in the world right now? Well as Mitt Romney quoted Henry Kissinger when asked the same question “Veak!”
Again we go back to human nature, especially as it concerns the behavior of nations. Like it or not, “international laws” and “governing bodies” and all, the world is, in effect, anarchy. We’re all born into national groups or some might even say gangs. And, like all disparate groups, the strongest ones run the place.
Apparently Barack Obama thought that was a bad thing, or at least bad if the US was the one doing so, so he essentially apologized, had America step back from prominent leadership and a position of strength to the new doctrine of “leading from behind”, and these past few weeks have been the result.
The administration’s excuse (because it’s always someone else’s fault)? A 14 minute movie trailer made by a Coptic Christian. That’s it. That’s why it happened.
Sovereign U.S. territory is breached and U.S. interests are burned. And what is the official response? One administration denunciation after another — of a movie trailer! A request to Google to “review” the trailer’s presence on YouTube. And a sheriff’s deputies’ midnight “voluntary interview” with the suspected filmmaker. This in the land of the First Amendment.
What else can Obama do? At their convention, Democrats endlessly congratulated themselves on their one foreign policy success: killing Osama bin Laden. A week later, the Salafist flag flies over four American embassies, even as the mob chants, “Obama, Obama, there are still a billion Osamas.”
A foreign policy in epic collapse. And, by the way, Vladimir Putin just expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development from Russia. Another thank you from another recipient of another grand Obama “reset.”
But it’s all about a movie, isn’t it?
Because it couldn’t be about epic incompetence and criminal naivety, could it?
The question is, will the real story ever be told by the media of this country:
After the American media grabbed and held the pro-Obama headlines against Romney’s comments and took Obama’s “Romney shoots first and aims second” quote to iconic proportions, the rest of the world is reporting that the Obama administration knew about the planned-attack on the Benghazi, Libya Embassy where four Americans, including United States Ambassador Christopher Steven was murdered.
That strong allegation needs to be “the story”, not the political-trouncing of Mitt Romney, a man who has nothing to do with the White House, the U.S. Embassy, or the deadly and non-deadly attacks on our United States Embassy’s around the world. “The story” obviously involves the White House and the president within – Barack Obama – not the Massachusetts challenger.
The reporters and bloggers who have made Mitt Romney the story – instead of the attacked-United States Embassy, the innocent Americans who were attacked, and the White House with its president in abstention as he continually treks the campaign trail regardless of the duties left behind in Washington, D.C. – are guilty of letting another American tragedy remain buried.
To me this is the stunner of the month. It isn’t about what Romney said, it’s about an administration who doesn’t do the elemental things necessary to protect it’s own embassy staff in Libya, even when they knew something was brewing (Word on the street and the anniversary of 9/11? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, do you?).
And yet somehow this has all become about Romney? Meanwhile the administration has said they’re not going to talk about Libya anymore and the media say, “okay”.
You know, it wasn’t too long ago that dissent was the highest form of patriotism, remember?
Yeah, not so much.
But if you want the real story, this is where the press ought to be digging:
Reports from a number of knowledgeable sources are being widely-circulated regarding the United States State Department’s having received knowledge of the attack in Benghazi as early as September 9 – two days before the four Americans were killed. That’s “the story”. There were also similar reports that the attack in Cairo was revealed prior to its occurrence. The knowledgeable sources report that no warning was given to persons in the U.S. Embassies in Cairo or Benghazi after the State Department was warned. In Libya, there were approximately 30 people in the main consulate building who could have been warned but weren’t.
Additionally, Wanis el-Sharef, Libya’s deputy interior minister, told the Associated Press that the heavily armed militants “used” a protest of an anti-Islam film as a “cover” in their deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy while screaming “God is great!”
But instead, page 1 is what Romney said. Meanwhile, the compliant media accepts the “we’re done talking about it” from the most transparant administration ever.
I don’t remember who it was who left a comment asserting that Romney’s statement in the wake of the rioting in the Middle East may have been the moment in which “he lost the presidency”.
A couple of days later and it seems entirely possible to posit exactly the opposite to be true. Those events may be the moment Obama lost the election. Remember, foreign policy was supposed to be Obama’s strong point.
Yet, this image of the bloody handprints of a dying American may be the defining image of his failed foreign policy.
And his reaction to all of this?
Apologize and go to Vegas for a political fundraiser.
Oh, wait … Yemen too?
Yup, that “Arab Spring” thing is sure a positive for the US. Says the NY Times:
Turmoil in the Arab world linked to an American-made video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad spread on Thursday to Yemen, where hundreds of protesters attacked the American Embassy, two days after assailants killed the American ambassador in Libya and crowds tried to overrun the embassy compound in Cairo.
Is it about an “American-made video” really?
There are reports that those who stormed the embassy in Cairo were chanting: “Obama, Obama! There are still a billion Osama’s!”
They certainly weren’t chanting the crazy pastor’s name.
And it was done when? Oh yeah, on September 11th. And what was it they raised after they tore down the American flag and burned it?
Say, wasn’t it Al-Queda’s flag?
So, spontaneous, huh? In reaction to a film, eh?
Meanwhile in Libya, it appears that the “spontaneous” riot was a carefully planned assasination plot. And it worked.
But stick with that “in reaction to a film about Mohammed” nonsense, MSM.
The New York Times leads with that, but in passing, in the 24th paragraph of the story, it almost figures it out:
Also on Tuesday, a car bomb exploded in Yemen alongside a convoy of vehicles used by Yemen’s defense minister, killing seven bodyguards and five civilians in the heart of the capital, while the minister escaped unharmed, government and hospital officials said. The attack came one day after a top operative of Al Qaeda in Yemen was killed in what Yemeni officials called an American drone strike.
Those episodes and the violence on Thursday spoke to the continued volatility in poverty-stricken Yemen, where the United States is seeking to eradicate militant cells held responsible for a number of conspiracies, including an attempt by an operative of Al Qaeda to detonate a bomb hidden in his clothes on a flight bound for Detroit in December 2009.
Sorry folks … not buying the “this is about a film” nonsense. This is and was planned to happen on 9/11 in the same year Osama bin Laden was killed.
For goodness sake, consider the facts and think about it instead of sucking up the MSM pablum designed to protect the incumbent president (after all, why was the story about a dead US ambassador on an inside page and the NY Times condemnation of Mitt Romney on page 1?).