Free Markets, Free People

Foreign Affairs

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A formula for failure

Or, the “strategy” to “manage” ISIS, if you prefer.  The Washington Post today, calls whatever the administration is trying to put together to confront ISIS “underpowered”.  I think they’re being kind about it because they still want access to their administration sources.  If what they report is true, it’s a failure before it is even attempted.

For instance:

In Paris on Monday, two dozen governments pledged to help fight the extremists “by any means necessary, including military assistance.” But only a handful — not yet including Britain — have so far agreed to participate in air combat missions in Iraq, and none has yet signed on to support prospective U.S. air strikes in Syria. Nor is any sending combat troops.

The attenuated support reflects in part the complicated politics of the fight against the Islamic State, which controls a New England-size swath of territory across Iraq and Syria and commands tens of thousands of militants. Neighbors such as Turkey and Jordan are reluctant to openly join the fight, for fear of becoming targets of the terrorists. Sunni rulers are loath to fight on the same side as the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad or Iran — which, for its part, loudly declared Monday that it had rejected a U.S. cooperation proposal.

Note the emerging strategy – air combat missions.  War from 20,000 feet.  Pin-pricks whose effectiveness depends on good intel and timely intervention.  And this administration is going to coordinate that?  The administration that couldn’t even build a website?  Note also that the missions are only agreed too for Iraq.  None of these erstwhile allies has agreed to any in Syria.  Result?  ISIS has a safehaven.  Yeah, we’ve never, ever seen that before have we?

So why are they reluctant?  Lack of leadership by the US, plain and simple:

In large part, however, the restraint has been fostered by President Obama himself. As The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported, Mr. Obama rejected the recommendation of his top military commanders that U.S. Special Operations forces be deployed to assist Iraqi army units in fighting the rebels, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the administration has turned aside troop offers by other nations. “There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway,”he told CBS News’s Bob Schieffer.

ISIS has to only guard against airstrikes?  A group who butchers people on a daily basis would never consider human shields or setting up in schools or hospitals would they?  And in Syria … they don’t even have to worry about it, do they?  ISIS has cowed the Iraqi armed forces, the Kurds are playing defense, they’re free to roam Syria and we don’t need any troops on the ground at all?  Yeah, because, you know, all we need are airstrikes.

But this is what most amazed me about the “strategy”:

Mr. Kerry said Monday that defeating the Islamic State will depend in part on non-combat initiatives such as discrediting its ideology, stopping the flow of jihadist volunteers and providing political and material support to the new Iraq government.

Non-combat initiatives like discrediting their ideology?  Really?  Again, we’ve been so successful doing that in the past 20 years, haven’t we?  That’s why they’re such a small and declining group (wait, we were told that Al Qaida was kaput a while back weren’t we?).  Oh, and the rich part?  An administration that can’t even control its own southern border is going to stop the flow of jihadist volunteers … in the Middle East?  What a freakin’ laugh riot that talking point is.  Meanwhile, in a country that is under armed attack by a vicious army of murderers, Obama and the guys are going to provide “political and material support” to the new Iraqi government … but none that really helps stem the tide of the threatening jihadists controlling a large portion of their country … except of pinprick airstrikes to which ISIS will adapt (mark my words on that one).

This is going to end up being another of those half-assed attempts driven by polls (aka wag the dog) which, on its face, is simply a failure waiting to happen.  This administration has no idea of what is required to face down and destroy ISIS (or any enemy for that matter).  And it isn’t really going to attempt it. If anything it is going to attempt to talk ISIS to death.  But as a real-time strategy, if what above is any indication of the administration’s intent, it’s a bust.

But then, what would one expect from an administration that is going to send 3,000 troops to Africa to “battle ebola”, but won’t send any to battle a real, honest-to-goodness enemy in Iraq?

~McQ

It may be time to become violent and intolerant

Large quote from Andy McCarthy.  This is an important point that so many in the West simply refuse to acknowledge:

This point has been made so many times it should hardly be necessary to point out that Obama and Kerry, like Kerry’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, and like many Bush-administration officials before them (including President Bush), are dead wrong when they deny the nexus between Islamic doctrine –– the literal scriptures –- and terrorism, decapitations, totalitarian government, repression of women, rabid anti-Semitism, the murder of homosexuals, and so on. Still, it would be a serious error merely to observe that they are wrong, snicker at their fecklessness, and move on.

There is a reason they are taking a position diametrically opposed to reality.

Obama and Kerry, like transnational progressives in both of our major political parties, believe there are “moderate Islamists” who are the key to stability in the Middle East. Now, the term “moderate Islamist” is contradictory: an Islamist wants government by sharia, Islam’s totalitarian societal framework and legal code. There is nothing moderate about sharia. Those who want it implemented are not “moderates” even if they don’t commit mass-murder to get their way. Sharia is also anti-liberty, anti-equality, and anti-Western. Therefore, we should oppose Islamism just as we oppose other freedom-killing ideologies. That doesn’t mean we need to go to war with all Islamists, but we should work to diminish their influence and we should never regard them as a solution to anything.

Notwithstanding their abhorrence of the West, “moderate Islamists” are regarded by Obama and Kerry as potential allies: people, groups, and, in the case of Turkey, for example, countries that we can work with to solve the problems plaguing the Middle East and overcome our own security challenges. It is thus critically important to Obama and Kerry for the public to believe that (a) all Islamists are not basically the same and (b) there is a sharp difference — a day-and-night difference — between “moderate Islamists” and terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. If, instead, the public becomes convinced that all Islamists, violent or non-violent, adhere to essentially the same ideology, the administration’s goal of working with Islamic supremacists becomes politically untenable.

It is impossible to convince people that non-violent (or, at least, purportedly non-violent) Islamists are not representative of Islam. The administration tried that with its “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood flyer . . . and has been embarrassed ever since by the howls of laughter. Most significant Islamist groups are rooted in or affiliated with the Brotherhood. Not only do these groups claim the mantle of Islam’s representative; our government concedes that status to them.

Because they refuse to acknowledge this they simply hold out a “solution” that doesn’t exist.  So-called “moderate Islam” is only a ratcheted down version of the extremists.  Perhaps “moderate Islam” doesn’t want to take part in killing you, but they’re not particularly upset that the extremist version is doing it for them.   They may differ in the methods, but they’re not indifferent to the result – i.e. the world converting to Islam and the establishment of Sharia law.  That is the ultimate goal of Islam.  Weasel wording it doesn’t change that fact.

So how does one go about convincing “moderate Islam” to back off?  Well one way to to recognize the threat, and the threat isn’t just limited to “extremists”.  However, such recognition is antithetical to the tenets of the left’s multi-culturalism.  Every culture is “worthwhile” and has “value”.  Even those which justify the murder of non-believers and homosexuals, enslave and mutilate women, and essentially redefine misogyny.  The very people who support this sort of “tolerance” would likely be its first victims.

Back to the question – how do we back off “moderate Islam?”  Well this is going to sound exceedingly violent, but it is meant to be.  You have to ruthlessly and completely wipe out the extremists.  But instead, we seem to be contemplating a strategy of  “managing” the threat.  As Michael Totten notes:

The reason we must reject the tempting tendency to close our eyes and hope this problem goes away is that Allah doesn’t always sort things out according to American interests.

Life is filled with things we don’t want to do but have to do anyway. No one wants radiation or chemotherapy, but if you get cancer, you’re going to have to take it despite the fact that it might not work and that it will certainly feel like it’s killing you.

Let’s not kid ourselves. ISIS — or ISIL as the President calls it — is cancerous. And it is not a benign tumor. It is metastasizing and will not stop growing stronger and deadlier until it is dealt with aggressively and, at the absolute minimum, contained.

And only that sort of treatment will impress “moderate Islam” – period.  Of course, that’s only step 1.  Step 2 will be even more painful for the Western left.  It is all about intolerance.  That’s right, it’s about being intolerant of ideas, principles and cultural norms that attack and would eventually destroy Western culture as we know it.  Islam is as intolerant of our Western culture is we should be of it’s culture.  Just because some group of elitists on the left decided one day that all cultures are equal and valuable has now been shown to be simplistic pap.  And unless Western civ is in the mood to commit suicide, it is going to have to make some very hard and intolerant decisions in the near future.

So if the West is to survive, it’s time to take a real “step 1″, not some half-measure that I am pretty sure is being contemplated as we speak.

Many violent jihadists who go on to join al-Qaeda and, now, the Islamic State (an offshoot of al-Qaeda) got their start in the Muslim Brotherhood. They seamlessly graduate from Brotherhood teaching to insatiable jihad because Brotherhood teaching lauds jihad. In fact, the transition happens because many of those who receive Brotherhood instruction become frustrated by the contradiction between the Brotherhood’s aim of a worldwide caliphate and endorsement of jihad to achieve it, on the one hand, and its counsel of patience in pursuing it, on the other.

It is precisely because Islamists share an ideology rooted in Islam, and what they see as a divinely mandated mission of conquest, that a Muslim can so predictably evolve from student to sharia adherent to “moderate Islamist” to not-so-moderate Islamist to terrorist. It happens frequently. And the common ideology rooted in Islam also explains why so many “moderate Islamists” financially and morally support violent jihadist organizations even if they don’t take up arms themselves.

Why?  Because, as I said, the “moderates” are not at all indifferent to the outcome brought about by the extremists.  And until we wrap our heads around that and do what is necessary to actually and finally address the real threat we face, it’s not going to get any better and could easily get much worse.  It isn’t about extremists and moderates, it’s about a toxic culture/religion that was recognized as such by the West centuries ago as a threat.   As for the present, there’s very little difference between “moderate” and “extremists” with regard to the final outcome they seek:

The Islamic State has presumed to declare a caliphate. Al-Qaeda franchises think that is hasty — especially since someone else is running the caliphate — and would proceed more gradually, setting up emirates and hoping for more consensus among Islamists. Both organizations want to confront the West only violently; the Muslim Brotherhood, on the contrary, teaches that, while violent jihad has its place (see Hamas), it is valid to negotiate with the West, to infiltrate the West’s institutions, and to achieve whatever conquest can be achieved without violence.

~McQ

Obama speech? The usual. “A performative act”

Found on Facebook (Clare Spark), I think this nicely describes Obama’s speech last night:

I am not the first to point out that Obama is a postmodern president. Tonight he proved that label by his “not-so-fast” speech on foreign policy vis a vis ISIS. It was what the pomos call ” a performative act”–the last word in magical thinking.

Indeed.  Platitudes, chest thumping, equivocation – and absolutely nothing new. He’s given a speech … the act is complete. The “ususal”.  Talk equals action.

As we’ve become familiar with the “non-apology apology” in today’s life, we have now been introduced to the “non-strategy strategy”.  What he talked about wasn’t a strategy, it was pure justification for doing … not much (even though he made it clear he doesn’t need Congress’s approval to do … not much).  Apparently he thinks that a few airstrikes and few advisors will stimulate “allies” to do much more than that and take the bit and run with it.  Yeah, that’s always worked so well in the past.  Leading from behind again.

Also unknown is how one is going to take an obviously dispirited and seemingly unwilling (incompetent) Iraqi army and turn it around any time soon, but if there is a plan in there, that seems to be it, sort of.  Oh, that and a “National Guard” (new name for the “awakening’s” militias)?  Say what? But what I mostly got from it was he, like many other mistaken arm-chair generals, believes that he can accomplish “degrading” ISIS by air.  First, any significant degradation would require a sustained air campaign on the level of our Gulf War “shock and awe” campaign.  Not going to happen.  Secondly, finding and killing ISIS C4 nodes, like we did with Saddam, is an extraordinarily difficult task in comparison.  While we may randomly accomplish knocking out some of those nodes, it will be mostly luck without good hard timely intelligence (and acted upon immediately) about an enemy which remains mostly mobile.

And how about him deciding ISIS isn’t “Islam” or “Islamic”?  Since when does he get to decide?  Certainly some parts of greater Islam are against ISIS, but then Sunnis have no use for Shiites either do they?  Does that make one or the other not “Islam”.  Who gets to decide? Such declarations do Obama’s poor credibility even more damage and feeds the conspiracy theorists.  But, that said, one has to wonder why it was so important for him to include that in a national policy speech.   It is a total non-sequitur in my opinion.  But for whatever reason, he chose to include it.

I think James Joyner has a good take on the speech.  His first reaction:

The first thing I’d note is how much it sounded like any number of foreign policy speeches given by his predecessor.  He declared again and again that, “As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people” and proudly enumerated all the ways that “we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.”

Our Peace Prize president sounding like Bush … got to love the irony.  Of course what Obama didn’t expound upon is how his withdrawal of troops from Iraq helped enable the ISIS expansion.  Reality (i.e. an objective military assessment of the status of the Iraqi army and its actual abilities) rarely, if every, conforms to an arbitrary political deadlines.  I think it is clear to everyone the pullout at that time was a very bad idea.  It takes time to build an effective fighting force.  What is now left in Iraq is a shattered and dispirited force.  Because of that, we’re put in the position to again try to salvage a situation there.  With greater forethought and less ideology, we would have kept US forces still there to ensure the Iraqi military was actually ready to confront a threat like ISIS instead of pretending it was so to keep a political promise.

Joyner’s second thought:

The second observation is that it’s still not clear exactly what Obama’s strategy is. His stated political objective is to  “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” but he offered no plan that could plausibly do more than the former.

Well, except for, you know, “air strikes”.  Hand wave, promise, done.  Polls suck?  Hitting ISIS popular?  Wag the dog.  It’s all about politics and elections, folks.  Not the security of the United States.  If someone had told him that his poll numbers would rise by not playing golf … well, there are limits you know.  If it was truly about the security of the United States, this administration would be working to secure our borders, not ignoring the immigration laws.

Joyner concludes:

Frankly, this is simply the logical continuation of Obama’s existing ISIL non-strategy and, indeed, his general counter-terrorism strategy of blowing up the bad guys and hoping they get tired of it eventually.  We could call it the Global War on Terror but, alas, that name’s been taken. That’s rather unsatisfying but it’s not at all obvious what more the United States can or should do to degrade ISIL. The threat to the homeland is too tangential at present to warrant the proverbial boots on the ground.  So, it’s Whack-a-Mole with no end in sight.

And the moles will continue to be whacked as we hear glowing progress reports from the Eastasian front.

Because? Well, that’s how we roll now.  Back to the future.

~McQ

You can’t fake leadership

Oh you can try … but it never works.  And with Obama, it has never worked for those of us who’ve actually been leaders and understand what leadership entails.  This man has never had it and he’s not going to suddenly develop it.  Even his sycophants, at least the semi-honest ones, realize this.  Result – his leadership numbers continue to dive:

Barack Obama’s rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled domestic agenda alike. With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success.

Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time.

Please note the source for those apologists out there.  This isn’t a Fox News poll.  By 10 points, he is rated a failure as a President.  A failure by a majority of those polled.  And he’s certainly seen as a failure by international leaders.

Domestically?  Failure:

At home, with Obama holding off his promised executive action on immigration reform, a new low of just 31 percent approve of his handling of immigration. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, up by a broad 18 points from spring 2013, when progress on the issue seemed imminent.

Dems are likely glad he’s decided to hold off until after the election, but I’m sure most Americans will figure out he’s only doing that because he plans to do something that the vast majority of Americans will disagree with.  That’s not “leadership”, by the way.  Unconstitutional unilateral action to fulfill an ideological agenda item outside the system isn’t anything but authoritarianism.  A king instead of a president.

And the great healer?  Yeah, not so much:

In general assessments, moreover, Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush’s early in his poorly rated second term – and one that’s deteriorated among Obama’s supporters as well as among his critics.

You see, uniting the country would take  … leadership.  It would take a president who was committed to actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.  And as we’ve all learned, this man thinks him saying something is enough.

His performance in office has been pitiful.  And that’s being kind.

History, on the other hand, will not be kind to this President.  But it won’t be kind to the electorate that put him in office and then re-elected him either.  They were the enablers of this drastic decline we’ve suffered for the past 6 years.

If we manage to survive his term in office, it is going to take a long time to again gain the respect of the world, not to mention put this country back on the track envisioned by the founders.  We pointed out early on that he would be tested by our enemies.  He has been, constantly.  And he’s been found to be wanting in every single case.  He’s weak, indecisive and reticent to take action when action is warranted.  He’s as bad as we’ve ever had in the modern era.  Jimmy Carter is smiling.

~McQ

Vacuousness coupled with incompetence equals Obama’s “strategy” to deal with ISIS

I’ve watched in horrified wonder these last few weeks as a man way over his head tries to act like he knows what he’s doing.  But he’s not fooling anyone.  Not even his most rabid supporters.  The great, shrinking American President – Barack Obama.

Here are a couple of quotes he’s made which typify his vacuousness – something at which he is quite adept:

We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem.

A manageable problem.  Yeah, that’s kind of open to any definition you want to hang on it, isn’t it?  It’s business school talk. What defines a “manageable problem” when talking about religious fanatics killing American citizens (as well as middle easterners by the thousands) to taunt the US president?  Are we there if they only behead one American journalist next year?  If they only crucify half the number they did this year, are we “managing” the “problem”? Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to R2P?  Only applicable to Libya?  And boy, did we “manage” that “problem” well.  Our embassy is now a jihadi swim club.

[W]hat we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.

Organize the Middle East?  I’d laugh out loud if what was going on wasn’t so dangerous.  This guy couldn’t organize a one man parade. He couldn’t lead a horse to water after a 10 mile run in the desert.  And coherence, as in a coherent policy?  Forget about that.  Ed Morrissey nails it:

The failure demonstrated by Obama and his administration over the last several weeks and months as the ISIS threat grew and metastasized is, at its core, a leadership crisis. Forget being the leader of the free world; this President can’t even lead his own team within one coherent message and strategy. As ABC’s State Department reporter Ali Weinberg remarked yesterday, this was the message just from one single day: “We’re going to destroy ISIS. Or manage them. Or shrink their sphere of influence. Or follow them to the gates of hell.”

With that failure to generate a united and coherent approach to ISIS among his own team, how could anyone expect the President to lead the world against this new terrorist army and the threat it poses to the region and the world?

They can’t, and he won’t.  Oh the “world” may do something, but it won’t be because of any leadership from Obama, et. al.  It will be because they’re awake to the threat that is ISIS and finally develop the intestinal fortitude to act.  And the US?  Like Libya, we’ll “lead from behind”.

What in the world could possibly go wrong with that?

~McQ

Dither and delay, while ISIS grows stronger and becomes a larger threat

You know you’ve lost respect in the world when the French Foreign Minister calls you out and tells you to do your job:

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has a message about Iraq for Barack Obama: Get back to the White House and do something.

‘I know it is the holiday period in our Western countries,’ Fabius told a radio interviewer Tuesday in France,’ but when people are dying, you must come back from vacation.’

This is just another in a series of disrespectful utterings from foreign leaders about our current resident of the White House.  And yes, it’s about leadership, something our current president does his best to avoid.

Meanwhile, in Iraq:

Senior U.S. officials describe the threat posed by the Islamic State in chilling terms, but they have mounted a decidedly modest military campaign to check its advance through northern Iraq.

The radical Islamist organization has attracted more fighterscontrols more territory and has access to a larger stream of money than al-Qaeda did before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to U.S. officials and terrorism experts. Its refusal to rein in its brand of rampant violence accounts in part for its break from the better-known terrorist group.

“This is serious business,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry told reporters earlier this week. “I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the degree to which this is unacceptable.”

I think much of the world came to grips with it on 9/11.  It is primarily our current leadership that has yet to come to grips with it, attempting to play down the seriousness of the situation by characterizing ISIS as the “jay vee” squad of terrorists.  Of course, that’s just ignorant rubbish.

So far, though, the Obama administration’s response to the group’s blitzkrieg through northern Iraq has been defined primarily by the limits it has placed on the U.S. military’s intervention.

The disconnect between the unnerving assessments of the Islamic State and the apparent lack of urgency in confronting it reflects a mix of political and military constraints. Among them are no clear military strategy for reversing the group’s recent territorial gains, a war-weariness that pervades the Obama administration and the country, and significant uncertainty about the extent to which the Islamic State is prepared to morph from a regional force into a transnational terrorist threat that could target Europe and the United States.

This goes back to my previous post about the West’s unwillingness (and certainly this administration is clearly unwilling) to do what is necessary to confront and defeat radical Islam.  In the case of a growing and violent ISIS, this is the time and place you do that.  It is a “nip it in the bud” moment.

Instead we have President Dither talking about what he won’t do.  And what he has done, a couple of airstrikes, is about as impressive and daunting to ISIS as taking a BB gun to a charging grizzly.

But the ongoing U.S. airstrikes are equally notable for what they have not tried to do. U.S. military officials have emphasized that the strikes are not designed to reverse the gains Sunni extremist fighters have made.

“We’ve had a very temporary effect,” Lt. Gen. William Mayville, a senior Army officer on the Joint Staff, told reporters this week.

It’s called “weakness”, boys and girls.  And in the anarchy of the international arena that sort of weakness creates opportunities for other power brokers.  In this case, ISIS continues to thumb its nose at all, brutally butcher all those who it finds that live outsides its narrow, radical creed and cares not a whit what the West thinks, since it is pretty darn sure it won’t do anything about it.

In fact, Obama’s “plan” is a lot like his plan for the SOFA agreement that failed.  Offer help only if certain political conditions are met that are, frankly, not going to happen – at least not in the near future (the CIA says it would take “years”):

President Obama, who campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly said that a U.S. presence of that size in Iraq isn’t under consideration. “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq,” he said.

With that in mind, the Obama administration has held off on more aggressive intervention plans, pledging in recent days to expand U.S. military involvement if the Baghdad government can show progress on including Sunnis and Kurds.

So he’s effectively put himself in a position to blame his inaction on the Iraqis, just as he did with the SOFA agreement.

Meanwhile the sycophants here claim that Obama is acting with restraint and wisely.  In fact, he’s in his usual mode of indecision and dithering.  He stands around with his thumb up his posterior while his buffoon of a Secretary of State states the obvious – this is “unacceptable”.  But apparently not unacceptable enough to actually do something about it.

But, as we’ve all learned, in Obama’s world, words equal action, so calling it “unacceptable” is about as good as it gets.

“Time is of the essence,” said Adm. James Stavridis, a former supreme allied commander of NATO and now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The longer the airstrikes drag on, the more time Islamic State fighters will have to learn how to survive them. “Without a fast and serious response, including Special Operations forces on the ground, the chances of reversing IS gains or even breaking their evident momentum is very low,” he said.

And if we don’t do it now, we’ll have to do it later – guaranteed.  Of course that will be when they’re stronger, better armed, control more territory and have even more revenue and fighters than they do now.

Sometimes you’re stuck doing things you really don’t want to do but know innately that if you don’t act, that which you don’t address will only get far worse.   This is one of those situations.

We should act – decisively – but we won’t.  And the problem will only get worse.

I guess the next president can take solace in the fact that when faced with an even larger threat from ISIS, he can blame Obama.

~McQ

 

To call Obama’s foreign policy “Carteresque” is an insult to Jimmy Carter

For a few decades, Jimmy Carter has been thought of as the modern president with the very worst foreign policy.  He’s also been considered the bottom of the heap of modern presidents as well.  But James Kircheck makes the point that the one positive accomplishment in all of this is the Obama administration’s ability to elevate Jimmy Carter from worst to next to worst when it comes to both the presidency and foreign policy.  An objective look at the foreign policies of both presidents shows some remarkable similarities, but there are also striking differences.  The biggest is that upon examination, Carter’s foreign policy, while poor, wasn’t at all as inept and incompetent as the current president’s.  When the Iranian hostage crisis and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan took place, Carter at least had a plan and executed it:

By January, Carter announced a series of proposals directed at weakening America’s adversaries. First was a 5% increase in defense spending, a move that angered many of his Democratic allies in Congress who had taken to slashing the defense budget in the wake of the Vietnam War.

In his State of the Union address, Carter announced what would later come to be known as the Carter Doctrine: that the United States would use military force to protect its vital interests in the Persian Gulf.

Next came an embargo on grain and agricultural technology to the Soviet Union. Carter also declared that the United States would boycott the 1980 Moscow summer Olympics unless the Soviets withdrew their troops from Afghanistan. When they did not, he began covert funding of Afghan rebel fighters.

Conservatives like to credit Ronald Reagan with ending the Cold War. To the extent that the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought about by American policies and not the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the communist system itself (a debate that engages historians to this day), the last year of the Carter administration laid the groundwork.

Now you may disagree with what he did and how he did it, but at least he took action.  On the other hand:

The correlations between the world situation in the twilight of the Carter administration and in the second Obama term are hard to ignore. Once again, Russia has invaded a neighbor. Only this time, that neighbor is on the European continent, and Moscow went so far as to annex — not merely attack — its territory. And once again the Middle East is in flames, with the prospect of another Islamist movement taking control over a state, this time in Iraq.

But rather than respond to the collapsing world order by supporting our allies and undermining our adversaries, the Obama administration dithers. It is an indication of just how worrisome the situation is that many in Washington are pining for the resolve and fortitude of Jimmy Carter.

For months, the beleaguered Ukrainians have requested the most basic of military aid. The administration sends Meals Ready to Eat. Even hard-hitting, “sectoral” sanctions aimed at the Russian economy are viewed as too provocative.

Last year, Obama declared a “red line” on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Assad’s deployment of such weapons, the world was told, would constitute the sort of breach of international law and norms requiring an American response.

When Assad did use such weapons, Washington allowed itself to be coopted into a farcical deal — proposed by that most altruistic of world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin — that saw the purported removal of Assad’s chemical arsenal. The message from Washington to Assad: You can continue murdering your people en masse and destabilizing the entire Middle East, but just do so using conventional weapons.

When you analyze what this administration has done, or in may cases not done, you’re left scratching your head.  At least what Carter did had some short term and long term plan.  As pointed out, it laid the basis for future foreign policy (whether or not you agree with its direction).

But when you look at the Obama foreign policy (or lack thereof), it shows no direction, no leadership, no nothing.  Add to that a feckless John Kerry preceded by an equally feckless Hillary Clinton and the US suffers on all fronts in the world arena.  Where there was a discernible lack of respect that emerged due to Carter’s bungling at times, it was nowhere as deep or as widespread as the lack of respect in the world for Barack Obama. The two examples above typify both the emptiness and toothlessness of this administration’s attempts at foreign policy.  The lack of leadership is telling.  And again, Obama et. al. seem to think that symbolic acts serve the purpose and that talking equals action.  For instance:

Few take America, least of all Secretary of State John Kerry, at its word anymore. Earlier this week, Kerry demanded that Russia urge separatists in Ukraine to disarm “within the next hours, literally.”

Or what? This empty threat followed months of similar reprimands from Washington.

Precisely right – or what!?  Same in Syria, with Russia, Iran, well, you name it.  Empty threats and hand-waving.  Red lines drawn, erased and redrawn.

And, of course there’s the “blame Bush” side of their “foreign policy”:

Obama and his surrogates endlessly complain about the “disaster” they inherited from the Bush administration there, but the country was largely pacified by the time Obama entered the White House. Today, due largely to American absenteeism in the region, Islamist militants that make Al Qaeda look like a Rotary Club control a large chunk of the country.

There is no real reason we should be witnessing what we’re seeing in Iraq, had this administration not made the SOFA agreement conditions unacceptable.  Its handling of that was “failure by design”.  And now, well now the inevitable has happened hasn’t it?  Our answer?  “Buy jets from the Russians”, a move that will let them steal another step in the region.

Kirchick concludes:

Global instability is on the rise and faith in America’s stabilizing presence is on the decline, and all we have from Washington are empty, millennial-friendly buzz phrases. “Leading from behind” was how one, too-clever-by-half administration official termed Obama’s global strategy. Hitting “singles” and “doubles” is Obama’s own, jocular assessment of his foreign policy. And now, “Don’t do stupid s—” is the mantra being repeated throughout the halls of the White House and State Department.

“Don’t do anything at all” seems more apt a description of this administration’s approach.

I disagree slightly – the mantra being repeated through the halls of both the White House and State Department isn’t preceded by “don’t”. They’ve been doing “stupid s—” since day one and continue to do it on a daily basis. And there is absolutely nothing that seems to indicate that won’t be the case for the rest of Obama’s term. While the majority of the nation and the world are seeing the horrific downside produced by this inept and incompetent administration’s “foreign policy” and lack of leadership, there is at least one winner – Jimmy Carter.

~McQ

Trying to rewrite history … again

Even the Washington Post has a problem swallowing the latest Obama attempt at rewriting history (with the usual motive of passing off the blame to someone or something else).  As usual, Obama is trying to have it both ways while waving away his culpability in the problems and deaths now taking place in Iraq:

President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.

His remarks, coming as an Islamist insurgency seizes territory across northern Iraq and threatens the central government, recalled key moments in his reelection race when he called his opponent hopelessly out of step with Middle East realities for wanting to keep U.S. forces in the still-fragile country America had invaded nearly a decade earlier.

In the 2012 campaign’s stretch, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met inside the performing arts center of Lynn University for the last of three presidential debates. The race remained close, and in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA-run annex in Benghazi, Libya, the Romney team saw foreign policy as an area of potential vulnerability for the incumbent. The debate focused on the issue.

For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”

For Obama, who four years earlier had distinguished himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.

It was also a way to once again draw contrasts with Romney, who criticized Obama for failing to secure a so-called status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The agreement would have granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution to all U.S. troops in country after 2011. Reaching such a deal — a political risk for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — would have allowed a contingent of several thousand U.S. troops to remain, largely to help with training and specific counter-terrorism operations.

“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”

On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”

While the last statement is technically true, it’s because the Obama administration had engineered it to be that way.  They knew full well how all of our other Status of Forces Agreements were done and deliberately included conditions and a step that was unnecessary that all but guaranteed rejection by the Iraqi government.

Here’s a little history of the time (written in October of 2011):

Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

The administration didn’t even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.

The recent negotiations were jinxed from the start by the insistence of State Department and Pentagon lawyers that any immunity provisions be ratified by the Iraqi parliament—something that the U.S. hadn’t insisted on in 2008 and that would be almost impossible to get today. In many other countries, including throughout the Arab world, U.S. personnel operate under a Memorandum of Understanding that doesn’t require parliamentary ratification. Why not in Iraq? Mr. Obama could have chosen to override the lawyers’ excessive demands, but he didn’t.

He also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to “end” the “war in Iraq.” Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders. They had asked for nearly 20,000 personnel to carry out counterterrorist operations, support American diplomats, and provide training and support to the Iraqi security forces. That figure was whittled down by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to 10,000, which they judged to be the absolute minimum needed.

The Iraqis knew about these estimates: U.S. military commanders had communicated them directly to Iraqi leaders. Prime Minister Maliki was said (by those who had talked to him) to privately support such a troop commitment, and almost all Iraqi political leaders—representing every major faction except for the rabidly anti-American Sadrists—assented on Aug. 2 to opening negotiations on that basis.

When the White House then said it would consent to no more than 5,000 troops—a number that may not even have been able to adequately defend itself, much less carry out other missions—the Iraqis understandably figured that the U.S. wasn’t serious about a continued commitment. Iraqi political leaders may have been willing to risk a domestic backlash to support a substantial commitment of 10,000 or more troops. They were not willing to stick their necks out for such a puny force. Hence the breakdown of talks.

So the talks on SOFA broke down giving Obama a reason to “end the war” and to blame the breakdown on Iraq and Iraq’s government.  Perfect.

And now we see the result.  He has someone to blame the problem on even as the history of how and why what happened happened seems to be lost in the mist.  This was a deliberately staged and engineered outcome.  By making an unacceptable offer and requiring other than the leadership of Iraq to endorse the deal, they knew it would fail.  And that means the usual … another of our allies thrown under the bus.  Yes, Maliki isn’t any bargain.  And yes, he’s done as poor a job with Iraq as Obama has done in America.  But there are two people that should be under the bus, and we all know who the second one is.

Don’t let him rewrite this bit of history to his advantage.

~McQ

As the polls go …

The polls continue to show an erosion of public support for President Obama.  Here are 4 interesting paragraphs describing the latest:

Foreign crises and domestic economic unease have eroded President Barack Obama‘s public standing, sapping his ability to respond to overseas conflicts and weighing on fellow Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

As clouds gather abroad, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Mr. Obama’s job approval rating at 41%, matching a previous low. Approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. Both numbers are driven in part by conflicts largely outside the president’s control, including a new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.

This latest dip in Mr. Obama’s approval runs contrary to signs Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment. (Interactive: Poll Results)

The latest Journal poll of 1,000 adults, conducted between Wednesday and Sunday, highlights what appears to be a lasting slide in the president’s public image. Respondents split in half on whether the Obama administration is competent, lower marks than Americans gave former PresidentGeorge W. Bush‘s administration in 2006, after the war in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina derailed his presidency.

Now you remember that time don’t you?  The time of Katrina and Iraq?  The time when Democrats lined up to get in front of the cameras and declare George Bush “incompetent”?  Yeah, me too.  And now the guy who was all too happy to participate in that labeling, has managed to do worse.

What does that make him?

Note too the attempt to put lipstick on this pig – “…Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment.”

There’s only one problem with this list of issues of “agreement” – they are all low priority issues for the public.  Jobs.  Economy.  War.  Spending.  Those are what top the list.  And then there’s the matter of bungled health care, scandals and of course, the collapse of any semblance of a foreign policy that this administration might have had.  Frankly, I’m being kind with the last one.  If there’s been a real foreign policy at work for these past 6 years, it’s been as well hidden as Lois Lerner’s emails.

I’d love to say, “I told you so”, I’d love to talk about irony and shadenfreude.  But this is too pitiful a performance to be flip about. And the consequences are real. I see articles about how this guy is now “tired” of being president. He’s “bored” with the job. How could he be either bored or tired – he hasn’t done the job at all.

Got to say, in all my years – and I lived through the Carter era – I’ve never seen this country in such pitiful shape. Never. Mr. Obama has done enough damage, in the foreign relations arena, that it will take decades to undo. The only silver lining, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that one of his goals was to prove big government could be competent and beneficial. He has proven precisely the opposite to be true.

Perhaps the Democrats aren’t calling him “incompetent” for a reason.

Incompetent doesn’t begin to cover how bad this President and his administration are.

~McQ

Cantor, cheese and other stuff

So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see.  I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined.  Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican.  And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles.  I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it).  After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House  – that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole).  The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate.  One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).

I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is.  Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.

On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves.  Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What?  There hasn’t?  There hasn’t been any real problem at all?  However:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards.  One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States.  Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.

Now that was yesterday.  Today, yeah, its cave in time.  There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down.  Overlawyered brings us up to date:

Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.

In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).

McNeal:

This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…

Yes, true.  But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked.  You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff.  You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:

There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.

Absolutely true.  I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance.  Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences?  Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank?  But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.

Choice is freedom.  Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business.  The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so.  Question?  If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now?  Right.  It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.

In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists.  Nightwatch brings us up to date:

ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.

ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.

The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.

On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.

Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.

ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.

My position?  If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it.  They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training.  Now, it’s up to them.

Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page.  It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:

President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?

Right … free college for all.  Graduate with no debt!

Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt?  Oh, and who would keep track of all this?  Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.

Then add the scam value of this.  Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate.  Nothing to pay, right?  I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school.  That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you.  Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat.  Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.

Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post.  They’ll make you weep.

~McQ

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