Free Markets, Free People

John Kerry

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

Reaping the consequences of “Smart Diplomacy”

Another day another foreign policy gaffe or disaster.

This time we’re in the gaffe department where, as usual, this administration is in the act of further alienating our friends.  In this case it is perhaps the worst Secretary of State we’ve yet had to suffer’s turn … again:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry has stepped in it again — with a gaffe that this time not only makes him look foolish but makes a mess of U.S. foreign policy and destroys any chance he had of realizing his legacy pipe dream of brokering Middle East peace.

In a private meeting with senior international officials Friday, Kerry said that if the Israelis and Palestinians can’t achieve a two-state solution, Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state with second-class citizens.”

Israelis are aghast — especially with Kerry’s remarks being reported yesterday on Holocaust Remembrance Day — and have started issuing calls for his resignation. Foreign policy experts are stunned, saying Kerry’s racially charged statements are major setbacks to peace negotiations in the Middle East.

“No wonder our diplomacy in the Middle East is so wretched,” former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told the Herald, calling Kerry’s remarks “outrageous and defamatory.”

Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post said, “Kerry’s remark was openly anti-Semitic. Apartheid is a crime of intent. There is no Israeli politician that will ever be in a leadership position that harbors any such bigoted intention towards the Palestinians. On the other hand, there is no Palestinian leader or faction that does not demand the ethnic cleansing of Jews from every inch of any territory that will come under Palestinian control.”

How to explain someone as inept and useless as Kerry rising to this position of power is unfathomable until you see who resides in the White House.  It’s all about politics and paying political debts.

Meanwhile, David Brooks, one of the millions of reasons we’re suffering under this atrocious administration (ask him who he voted for in 2008) today complains that “all around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying.”  Well it likely didn’t have to be this way, but it certainly was predictable when you and others voted to hire clueless freshman Senator as President of the US, Mr. Brooks.  A man who has no respect among other leaders in the world and certainly isn’t feared by anyone.  “Leading from behind” may be a clever way of saying “abrogating leadership”, but it didn’t fool those who are actually playing international hardball out there, did it?  So, unsurprisingly (history … try it some time) we now see them acting.  The phone’s been constantly ringing at 3am and no one — no one — is answering it.

And since the thugs and thieves of the world know no one is home, they’re beginning to take full advantage of the situation.

Wow.  What a freakin’ surprise, no?

Brooks consults an expert for an explanation of what’s going on and he gets an answer – one we’ve been talking about for years:

“The ‘category error’ of our experts is to tell us that our system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course toward ever-greater progress and global goodness. This is whistling past the graveyard.

“The lesson-category within grand strategic history is that when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation. When the wolves of the world sense this, they, of course, will begin to make their moves to probe the ambiguities of the aging system and pick off choice pieces to devour at their leisure.

Consequences of this nonsense?

“This is what Putin is doing; this is what China has been moving toward doing in the maritime waters of Asia; this is what in the largest sense the upheavals of the Middle East are all about: i.e., who and what politico-ideological force will emerge as hegemon over the region in the new order to come. The old order, once known as ‘the American Century’ has been situated within ‘the modern era,’ an era which appears to be stalling out after some 300-plus years. The replacement era will not be modern and will not be a nice one.”

We’ve certainly gotten a full ration full of obliviousness.  And the world certainly is moving toward a less modern and much more deadly era.  But the obliviousness (or “whistling past the graveyard” as mentioned earlier) is what drives the absurd self-congratulation that this administration tries to heap on itself while they hasten the “the American Century” to a disastrous end.

Realty is a bitch and she keeps slapping these clueless backslappers over and over. But they pay no attention. These petulant fools continue to spin “success” when to anyone with the IQ of a pear, it is clear almost everything in the foreign policy field (and domestically as well) has been an utter failure or foul up.  Behold:  “Reset”, lead from behind, Arab spring, UN, sanctions, “Smart diplomacy”, R2P, blah, blah, blah. They blew Libya, gave Egypt to the Russians, are giving Iraq back to the terrorists along with Afghanistan, reducing the military to pre-WWII levels and have thus signaled our withdrawal to all around the globe.

Unsurprisingly, the wolves of the world are beginning to feed on the sheep because the former shepherd has withdrawn while telling those that want to believe it that everything is just fine.  Just fine.  Peachy.  Trust them.  They’ve got it all figured out.  Nothing to see here. Nothing to worry about.  Move along citizen.  War is so … 20th century. And besides, we’ve blocked their Netflix account!

With all that nonsense circulating, why shouldn’t the wolves feel free to feed?

~McQ

There is every reason to be skeptical of the science of “climate change” alarmists

Let’s make something clear here before we start.  The argument in science, about climate change, isn’t whether or not man is contributing to climate change – it’s whether what man is contributing makes a big difference in the climate (and should therefore be addressed) or an insignificant contribution to climate change (and therefore “remedies” which are likely economy wreckers should be foregone).  The former is the “alamrist” side.  The latter is the skeptical side.

The science of the situation, i.e. the data, seems to support the skeptical side.  So what you don’t want to fall into is the trap of agreeing that man is contributing nothing.  Just by living we contribute to the mix.  What skeptics are arguming is the contribution of man, in reality, is insignificant and doesn’t warrant huge costly taxes, significant change or monsterous government programs.  Skeptics offer that the atmosphere doesn’t react signficiantly to rising CO2 produced by man (and that seems to be the case).

Therefore when you hear all this nonsense about skeptics denying man’s contribution to climate change, it is just that – nonsense.  Every living creature contributes to the gasses which make up the atmosphere of our planet and some of those gasses do indeed have a role in climate.  To deny that is silly.  What we skeptics are saying is those contributions simply aren’t significant because their effect on climate is minimal and certainly nowhere near on par with natural events.  When the alarmist thow out numbers like “97% of scientistst agree man is contributing to climate change” it is a partial truth.  However, there’s a huge split among scientists as to how significant man’s contribution is to any climate change.  But alarmists never go there.

In fact, we’re just in the middle of the latest round of “catastrophe hype” that the media has been complicit in for years.  Whatever it takes to sell papers.  Remember:

“U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming,” said a Washington Post headline in 1971. “The world could be as little as 50 or 60 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts.” The New York Times went one further, saying: “Climate Changes Called Ominous.” But it wasn’t just theory. “There is a finite probability that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next hundred years.”

Oh, yeah.  I forgot about that.  Not to mention forgetting about how we’d all be starved to death by now because the population wasn’t sustainable and … well, you know them all.

Which brings us to the latest attempt by the alarmists to redefine both the “problem” and the skeptics.  Our buddy John Kerry in Indonesia over the weekend had this to say:

Kerry, who delivered the speech on Sunday in the capital, Jakarta, spoke critically about climate change sceptics adding that everyone and every country must take responsibility and act immediately.

“We simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation,” he said, referring to what he called “big companies” that “don’t want to change and spend a lot of money” to act to reduce the risks.

He later singled out big oil and coal concerns as the primary offenders.

“The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,” Kerry said.

Right.  Interestingly, Indonesia is huge coal producer.  Our boy Kerry knows how to pick ‘em.

Of course the science isn’t “unequivocal” where it counts.  I.e. what is driving climate change (you know, beside the big yellow thing that appears in the sky each day like magic but is, for the most part, roundly ignored by alarmists – no pun intended) is, well, many natural forces.  Our Earth has seen climate change for its entire existence.   We have two warm periods in our past which were warmer that the warmest period of modern history.  And we’re not warming now, despite increased CO2.  So, if one wants to really do science, i.e. demand “unequivocal” proof, one has every right to be skeptical of the current science being pushed by the alarmists.  Skepticism is the root of science.

And, of course, Kerry had to over dramatize the supposed problem in order to alarm the gullible even more:

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has stressed the importance of tackling climate change in a speech in Indonesia, saying that it may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction.

Wow.  That’s just a …. silly comparison.

But alarmists seem to pay no attention to reality as they push their mantra.  For instance, Al Gore, Alarmist-in-Chief had this to say just a few days ago:

Earth’s ice-covered regions are melting. The vanishing of the Arctic ice cap is changing the heat absorption at the top of the world, and may be affecting the location of the Northern Hemisphere jet stream and storm tracks and slowing down the movement of storm systems. Meanwhile, the growing loss of ice in Antarctica and Greenland is accelerating sea level rise and threatening low-lying coastal cities and regions.

Not a word of that is true.  None.  The jet stream’s move south?

One of the Met Office’s most senior experts yesterday made a dramatic intervention in the climate change debate by insisting there is no link between the storms that have battered Britain and global warming. Mat Collins, a Professor in climate systems at Exeter University, said the storms have been driven by the jet stream – the high-speed current of air that girdles the globe – which has been ‘stuck’ further south than usual. Professor Collins told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There is no evidence that global warming can cause the jet stream to get stuck in the way it has this winter. If this is due to climate change, it is outside our knowledge.’

Who are you going to believe?  Al Gore or Professor Collins?  Who has the real chops.  And note to that the Professor makes it clear that we don’t have the knowledge to make such a claim anyway.  Not that such an impediment of factual knowledge ever stopped Al Gore.

Antarctic ice?

Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record large extent for a second straight year, baffling scientists seeking to understand why this ice is expanding rather than shrinking in a warming world.

On Saturday, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to data posted on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site.  That number bested record high levels set earlier this month and in 2012 (of 19.48 million square kilometers). Records date back to October 1978.

So what do real scientists note?

“This modeled Antarctic sea ice decrease in the last three decades is at odds with observations, which show a small yet statistically significant increase in sea ice extent,” says the study, led by Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Elizabeth Barnes.

You might also remember that 2013 was the year the sophisticated models the alarmists base their claims upon said that the Arctic would be ice free.  The gullible and true believers ate it up, and some even acted upon it.

Only six years ago, the BBC reported that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by 2013, citing a scientist in the US who claimed this was a ‘conservative’ forecast. Perhaps it was their confidence that led more than 20 yachts to try to sail the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to  the Pacific this summer. As of last week, all these vessels were stuck in the ice, some at the eastern end of the passage in Prince Regent Inlet, others further west at Cape Bathurst.

Shipping experts said the only way these vessels were likely to be freed was by the icebreakers of the Canadian coastguard. According to the official Canadian government website, the Northwest Passage has remained ice-bound and impassable  all summer.

D’oh!  I think they ought to bill the forecasters for the cost of rescuing the yachts, don’t you?

So, I don’t know, given all of that, maybe we ought to be skeptical of the fidelity of the models and the science?  You think?

I certainly do.

And Billy Nye?  You’re an engineer and an actor – not a climate scientist.  If you want to be among the alarmists, then be one.  But do us all a favor and do it quietly.

~McQ

Well here’s a surprise – Obama’s Syria policy is failing

Yes, I called it a surprise facetiously.  Does Obama do anything that doesn’t fail (other than campaign)?

Meanwhile, two-faced government continues because, well you know, telling the real truth outloud just isn’t politically smart – especially with this administration’s record:

Two prominent Republican senators say that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told them — along with 13 other members of a bipartisan congressional delegation — that President Barack Obama’s administration is in need of a new, more assertive, Syria policy; that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria pose a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland; that Russia is arming the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and is generally subverting chances for a peaceful settlement; that Assad is violating his promise to expeditiously part with his massive stores of chemical weapons; and that, in Kerry’s view, it may be time to consider more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.

Kerry is said to have made these blunt assertions Sunday morning behind the closed doors of a cramped meeting room in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, as the 50th annual Munich Security Conference was coming to a close in a ballroom two floors below. A day earlier, Kerry, in a joint appearance with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the ballroom stage, gave an uncompromising defense of the Obama administration’s level of foreign engagement: saying that,“I can’t think of a place in the world where we’re retreating.”

Really, Mr. Kerry?

Obama/Kerry’s Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria and Russian policies have been failures.  Israel has taken to actually ridiculing US efforts.  Saudi Arabia is said to be looking for a new patron in the Middle East.

And yet, given all of that, Kerry is still the loyal waterboy making false claims when anyone with an IQ higher than warm spit can see that during the Obama administration we’ve done nothing but retreat.

Being charitable, maybe Kerry meant we’re no longer retreating because, well, we’ve retreated about as far as is possible to retreat.

Oh, and yes, I saw the Obama/O’Reilly interview.  It had the same gripping suspense and entertainment content as the Superbowl.  In the case of Denver it was safety, interception, fumble, collapse. Obama was deny, deny, deny, blame, deny reality some more and then cast even more blame.

Pitiful.

~McQ

Outplayed on the world’s stage

Well you’ve all seen the Putin op-ed in the NY Times so I’m not going to spend too much time on it other than to say it is another indicator of the lack of respect the President of the United States has internationally.  I can’t imagine Putin trying this with any other president. This is just “in your face” stuff from the Russian president.  On the other side of that, I can’t imagine an op-ed like that ever being given the okay in Pravda or any like publication.

But it is another among many indicators of how outclassed and how outplayed the administration has been in this foreign policy mess of their own making.

That said, it’s time to look at the status and likely progress on the quest to bring Syria’s chemical weapons under international control.

Secretary of State John Kerry headed late Wednesday to Geneva with a team of arms control experts for intensive talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, to try to reach an agreement on how to secure and ultimately destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

Mr. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was taking his own arms control experts to the negotiations, holding out the possibility that there would be depth and detail to the talks. But sharp divisions remained between the two powers less than 24 hours after President Obama said he would hold off on an American military strike on Syria and gave a qualified endorsement to a Russian proposal for international monitors to take over the country’s chemical arsenal.

“Sharp divisions” is diplo-speak for “we’re miles and miles and miles apart – don’t expect any agreement anytime soon.”

Or as we said the other day, “Syria has all the time in the world to do whatever it wishes to do.”

American officials said the Syria debate would now unfold largely in Geneva, where the United States wants the talks to focus not only on Syria’s chemical weapons but also on securing munitions like bombs or warheads that are designed for chemical attacks. The officials acknowledged that securing the delivery systems for attacks goes far beyond what Mr. Lavrov has offered or is likely to agree to in Geneva this week.

Adding to the complexity of the diplomatic task is the reality that even if a deal is reached, it would take a year or more to destroy Syria’s chemical stores. One estimate by Pentagon officials determined that Mr. Assad has 1,400 tons of sarin, VX and mustard agents, and that it would take at least 200 to 300 days to take control of the weapons and, short of destruction, to make them unusable.

A lot can be hidden in “200 to 300″ days, can’t they.  And, talks can easily stall, be delayed, be postponed, be suspended, etc., all while Russia plays hardball to our T-ball.

With Putin’s op-ed and Russia leading on the Syria debacle, while the administration plays defense, you’re seeing a leadership shift right before your eyes.  Barack Obama has all but ceded the superpower role the US has enjoyed … he’s squandered it with is inept handling of foreign affairs, his abject lack of leadership and his inability to attract any support for his policies.

I’m pining for Jimmy Carter for heaven sake.

~McQ

Stumbling into a solution on Syria?

Yeah, not really … although the usual suspects are bound to try to spin this as a triumph of diplomacy.  Oh, it’s a “solution” (“Peace in our time”!) … but not one that accomplishes much of what the US wanted done – well, except maybe save a little face.  And for that, they’re rather glad to capitulate.

In fact, as The New Republic pointed out, Putin and Assad just played Obama … big time. They knew he was desperate for a way to climb down from his “red line” comments and so they took an absurd, off the cuff remark by Sec. State John Kerry and the administration said, “sure”.

As TNR reports it:

Speaking in London next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that perhaps the military strike around which the administration has been painfully circling for weeks could be avoided if Bashar al-Assad can “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.”

The fact that Kerry immediately followed with, “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously,” didn’t seem to bother anyone. (Probably because they were focusing on his other slip-up: calling the promised strikes “unbelievably small.”)

The Russians immediately jumped on the impromptu proposal, calling Kerry to check if he was serious before going live with their proposal to lean on Syria. An hour later, they trotted out Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Mouallem, who said he too was down with the proposal, which was a strange way to get the Syrians to finally admit they even had chemical weapons to begin with. Before long, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the English, and the French were all on board, too.

As for the “truth” about this being something planned by the White House and Kerry? Too late to claim that. The White House blurted out reality:

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the White House was just as surprised as anyone. Asked if this was a White House plan that Kerry had served up in London, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken was unequivocal. “No, no, no,” he said. “We literally just heard about this as you did some hours ago.”

That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad and scary.

So how did they play the Obama administration? Remember that Kerry said they had to be under international control in a “week”? Yeah, that’s going to happen isn’t it. How about 2 years? 3?

Here’s the point … they avert any strike with their agreement knowing the international community – now that the UN is back in the game and Russia and China still have Security Council vetoes – won’t be able to move the ball for months if at all.

Again, I’ll just let TNR lay it out for you:

[Kerry] answered a hypothetical question in a hypothetical way. He blurted out a pie-in-the-sky, hyperbolic idea—getting rid of “every single bit” of the chemical weapons scattered across Syria “in the next week”—but everyone seized on it as a realistic proposal. It’s not.

First, how do you deal with a regime that only admits it has chemical weapons under the threat of impending military intervention? Or that uses chemical weapons while a team of U.N. inspectors is there to investigate the prior use of chemical weapons, in the same city?

Second, that handful of chemical weapons storage and mixing facilities are just the ones we know about, and, now that the U.S. has been loudly beating the war drum for weeks, Assad has been moving his troops and weapons around. If we thought getting to “beyond a reasonable doubt” with the intelligence on the August 21 chemical attack was hard, imagine us getting to “every single bit.”

Third, negotiating with the Russians and the Syrians about what “every single bit” and what disposing them mean will certainly take more than “the next week.” Both Moscow and Damascus have all the time in the world, and the Kremlin, which has never met a legal norm it couldn’t waltz around, will quibble and hair-split and insist that this is all done legally—whatever that means in Moscow.

Fourth, the mechanics of disposing these chemical weapons are far from straightforward. Quoth the Times: “flying [the chemical weapons] out of the country is not as simple as picking up nuclear components—as the United States did in Libya in late 2003—and moving them to a well-guarded site in Tennessee.”

Fifth, and most important, is the fact that Assad giving up his chemical weapons was only part of the stated objective. If you listened to the White House pitch closely, the point of the military strike was not just to stop Assad from using chemical weapons further on his citizens, and it was not just to warn other rogue leaders with their fingers on various triggers. Part of the goal was to force a political solution that would remove Assad from power. That is, even though the Obama administration has been insisting that it is not interested in “regime change,” that disastrous cornerstone of the Bush era, it was, in fact, pursuing regime change, at least until Monday.

Played.

Absolutely played. Oh, sure, Obama can now climb down and pretend to have implemented a real solution by claiming his threat of a strike caused this. In fact, the threat of a strike is pretty much irrelevant right now.  We’re into interminable word wars now.  By taking this up, as TNR points out, Syria now has “all the time in the world” while Russia plays its part in international negotiations. Immune now from a military strike and no real threat that anything will happen of any significance to take control of their chemical weapons any time soon.

So Assad will pursue his strategy without any implicit or explicit attempt at regime change (or deterrence, or armed intervention or …) and, as it appears the regime is getting the upper hand in the civil war, work toward ending it. Then Russia can declare the control of Syria’s chemical weapons a moot point and veto everything in sight.

Amazing.

But it is all good in the White House – they think the president’s credibility has been saved by this charade.

Seriously … they do.

So it’s back to “leading from behind.”

As it stands now, Russia and France have taken the lead on working out a plan to get Assad to hand over his chemical weapons, a lead Obama seems all too happy to relinquish. Hammering out the details will take a some time, and, while they’re at it, Assad will still have his chemical weapons but will no longer be under the threat of a U.S. military strike. (Who knows if he’ll use them, but he certainly hasn’t let up on the conventional shelling.) Putin has succeeded in throwing sand in the gears of the American political process and separating the U.S. from its allies, and the current American handwringing over Syria seems likely to grind on for weeks. And a pro-Assad paper ran with the following headline this morning: “Moscow and Damascus Pull the Rug Out From Under the Feet of Obama.”

~McQ

The epic decline of American influence and power

And it has primarily happened under this administration as Bret Stephens outlines in his Wall Street Journal piece.  The Snowden chase has been most instructive in how little influence American now has.  When your naive foreign policy is to have other countries “like” you instead of understanding the respect is currency you should be dealing in (and also understanding how you earn that), then the results are predictable:

At this writing, Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive National Security Agency contractor indicted on espionage charges, is in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin’s spokesman insists his government is powerless to detain him. “We have nothing to do with this story,” says Dmitri Peskov. “I don’t approve or disapprove plane tickets.”

Funny how Mr. Putin always seems to discover his inner civil libertarian when it’s an opportunity to humiliate the United States. When the Russian government wants someone off Russian soil, it either removes him from it or puts him under it. Just ask investor Bill Browder, who was declared persona non grata when he tried to land in Moscow in November 2005. Or think of Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, murdered by Russian prison officials four years later.

Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong, where local officials refused a U.S. arrest request, supposedly on grounds it “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” That’s funny, too, since Mr. Snowden had been staying in a Chinese government safe house before Beijing gave the order to ignore the U.S. request and let him go.

“The Hong Kong government didn’t have much of a role,” Albert Ho, a Hong Kong legislator, told Reuters. “Its role was to receive instructions to not stop him at the airport.”

Oh … so those freedom loving countries couldn’t do anything?  Both just ignored us.  That’s right, because they knew what?  There’d be no reprisal nor would they suffer any harm for ignoring us.  In fact, today it was decided that ignoring the US would have no lasting or negative effect on US-Chinese relationships.  In fact, China shot back:

China rebuked the United States on Tuesday for accusing it of facilitating the flight of fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, and said suggestions that it had done so were “baseless and unacceptable”.

Oh, what the heck.  We all know a toothless tiger when we see one and the US is perceived as such right now.  Don’t believe it?  Look at how well our new SecState “negotiated” our position in Afghanistan:

Merely to get the Taliban to the table for a bogus peace process, the administration agreed at Pakistan’s urging to let Mullah Omar come to the table on his owns terms: no acceptance of the Afghan Constitution, no cease-fire with international forces, not even a formal pledge to never again allow Afghanistan to become a haven for international terrorism. The U.S. also agreed, according to Pakistani sources, to allow the terrorist Haqqani network—whose exploits include the 2011 siege of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul—a seat at the table.

Yet having legitimized Haqqani and given the Taliban everything it wanted in exchange for nothing, the U.S. finds itself being dumped by its own client government in Kabul, which can always turn to Iran as a substitute patron. Incredible: no peace, no peace process, no ally, no leverage and no moral standing, all in a single stroke. John Kerry is off to quite a start.

Stunning.  Not surprising, given the cast of characters, but stunning in its demonstration of the level of incompetence this administration demonstrates daily.

And Russia – they’re so unimpressed with this administration that they’ve redefined “reset” to mean they can pretty openly cheat on the 1987 missile accord and fear no consequences.  That while the Taliban, after getting all they wanted from Kerry, then turned around and attacked the Afghan presidential palace in a brazen attack.  Obviously they fear no meaningful consequences for that either.

Oh, yeah, they’re on top of it all aren’t they?

So sure, after doing such a great job in the areas mentioned, and don’t forget Libya and Egypt, by the way, this disastrous crew want to involve us in Syria?

No thanks.

~McQ

Quote of the Day: BOHICA edition

Grab your wallets, this is going to cost you plenty … for zero gain against a made up problem:

“A principal challenge to all of us of life and death proportions is the challenge of climate change…I regret that my own country – and President Obama knows this and is committed to changing it – needs to do more and we are committed to doing more.”–Secretary Kerry

And the apology tour continues.

~McQ

Keystone XL pipeline: How long will Obama delay this time

In the wake of sequestration, an opportunity to do the right thing for this country arises.  Unfortunately, it arises within an administration ideologically, and therefore adamantly, opposed to the idea of more fossil fuel:

Today the State Department released yet another positive environmental review for the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The State Department approved the original pipeline route through Nebraska, which was supposedly less environmentally friendly, without any problems.

It is no surprise, then, that the State Department also seems to look favorably on this second iteration of the project in this fourth report—a report that should have been unnecessary. For the record, the pipeline also received a stamp of approval from Nebraskans.

Yes, that’s right, the Obama State Department has given the Keystone XL pipeline favorable reviews before.  It has been the executive, in this case, arbitrarily overruling the reports, inserting himself in a process he really has no business in and delaying the project.

IER senior VP Daniel Kish sums it up pretty well:

"This is, as President Obama says, ‘a teachable moment.’  It teaches us why our government’s policies continue to stifle job creation, investment and new energy sources and instead spends valuable time and increasingly limited resources studying things to death.

"While we welcome this report, we also note this is the 4th such environmental report on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and since it is only a “draft” there will be at least 5 federal environmental studies before a decision is made by our government on the pipeline. The Canadian government made a decision in 6 months; our government has taken 54 months so far.  This is an abject lesson in why – when it comes to energy – no one wants to deal with our government.  This is evident also by continuing falling production on federal lands at the same time U.S. oil and gas production on non-federal lands makes historic gains.  It is time for our Leaders to make a decision….Canada’s did a long time ago.  Too many are hurting and too much is at stake for any more time or money to be wasted on trivial matters and long addressed and re-addressed chimeras advanced by opponents of any and all affordable sources energy."
54 months, numerous positive reports and counting.  Canada, meanwhile, has moved on, planning, while we dither, to sell it’s product to China.  Pipelines don’t have to run through other countries which make life difficult, they can run only in Canada, to their coast for shipment to the Far East.
 
What is Obama delaying?
The project will accommodate up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day, create some 179,000 jobs on American soil, and continue good trade relations with a close ally. The benefits won’t stop with the oil sector, though—the Keystone project will have a positive ripple effect even in areas without the pipeline that will provide goods and services to support the pipeline.
And where do we stand in the wake of this latest favorable report?
Before any real decision is made, there will be a 45-day comment period and some time for the State Department to consider the comments. Then the notably anti-carbon Secretary of State, John Kerry, will give his recommendation and the final decision will lie with the President.
Any feeling of confidence that this administration, no matter how late in the game, will make the right decision isn’t exactly surging in me right now.
 
More than anything, it’s just sad that the lives and livelihoods of so many Americans rest in the incompetent hands of Barack Obama and John Kerry.
 
~McQ

Meanwhile in Egypt, an Islamic Constitution is signed into law

And apparently, our current government, given their history, will really have no problem with it.   Why do I say that? Because their love affair with the Muslim Brotherhood extends back quite some time. Despite all the warnings that the Brotherhood was radical and Islamist, this administration and Democrats have been making overtures for years.

Going back to April 2007, Democrats made special efforts to link up with the MB when visiting then-House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., met with Dr. Saad el-Katatni, the MB’s parliamentary leader, at former U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone’s home, at a time when then-Secretary Condoleezza Rice has publicly refused to meet with the Brotherhood.

Mr. Ricciardone, who I can call a friend, once told me that his friendship with another MB leader, Essam El- Erain, extended for close to 30 years. Perhaps that was the catalyst for this meeting and subsequent meetings that took place at his residency.

A stream of meetings as well as public and private contacts followed between current U.S. Ambassador Ann Paterson and members of the Brotherhood since her arrival to Egypt shortly after the revolution. The ambassador seemed to favor the Brotherhood and the hardliner Salafis over the rest of the secular players in Egypt.

In fact, she has turned down requests for meetings from heads of political parties and other secular politicians, myself included, who opposed the Brotherhood.
In addition to the ambassador, other U.S. officials such as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Sen. John Kerry made the pilgrimage to the MB headquarters and made sure to meet with their leader, Khairat El-Shater, at times even publicly praising him, as did Mr. Kerry. Those visits were made during a time where no political group had emerged as a leader in post-revolution Egypt.

The result, of course, is a state much more inclined to hostility toward Israel and the United States. Additionally, with the signing of the new Constitution, the secular state is dead. It will relegate women and minorities to second-class status. Additionally, given the Brotherhood’s history, Egypt is likely to lend more support to Hamas and Hezbollah. It is also likely, given the fact that it controls a border area on Gaza, that weaponry into that area will flow unimpeded.

I wanted to bring John Kerry’s role in this  to light, since it is likely he will be the next Secretary of State. Just as he provided propaganda fodder for the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war, he and other Democrats have provided “justification” for the Muslim Brotherhood’s move to establish Sharia law in Egypt.

The MBs used these high-level meetings to tell the Egyptian people that the U.S. was supporting them and did not object to their rule. Many of us reached out to U.S. officials at the State Department and complained that the U.S. policy regarding the MB was putting the secular forces in Egypt at a disadvantage because it seemed to be propping up the MB, but our concerns were dismissed.

We warned of the MB’s desire to impose Sharia law once in power and the grim effect it would have on the rights of the millions of Christians and moderate Muslims, including women and children, yet all of our warnings were dismissed. It seems that a policy decision was made to bring the MB to power in Egypt at all costs, and it happened.

As it turns out, the situation in Egypt, backed by Democrats and this administration, has made the country a less reliable US ally, has turned the cultural clock there back to the seventh century with the establishment of Sharia law, and has relegated a large portion of Egyptians to second-class status all the while becoming much more of a threat to the country of Israel.

If the purpose of foreign relations is to create situations that are favorable to the United States, this has been an epic failure.

~McQ