Obama's Smart Diplomacy Disaster
In flowing robes of white, his eyes raised heavenward, his arms extended outward, Barack Obama enters the lions' den of world politics roiling with animosity and tensions. Upon beholding the unearthly figure, the commotion ceases; entranced, the warring multitudes listen to the magic sounds issuing from his mouth. He says, "I come not to bring a sword, but to bring peace." No one can help falling under the spell of his magnetic personality; no one can resist the power of his sublime eloquence (some, overcome by emotion, faint). Gradually, the noise dies down; the belligerents lay down their weapons, hold hands, and in unison sing Kumbaya. As the oceans recede and the planet heals, peace finally comes to the long-suffering world, and grateful mankind loudly praises Obama the Peacemaker, Obama the Savior, Obama the Great.
Such visions of his future diplomatic triumphs were dancing in Barack Obama's head as the newly elected president settled down in the White House. Three-plus years later, however, reality has proven a little different. Alas, it's a lot colder in the real world than the denizens of the fever swamps of the left can imagine. Let's go through some of this administration's "achievements" in foreign policy.
Item: Iraq. Obama inherited from his predecessor a winning hand: the war won and over, the schedule of U.S. troop withdrawal in place; the Status of Forces Agreement hammered out in principle, with only a few details to be worked out related to a limited contingent of U.S. troops to be left behind as insurance. But whether by design or through incompetence, Obama procrastinated endlessly until the Iraqis lost their patience, and the talks broke down over the issue of immunity of U.S. forces from Iraqi prosecution. According to Obama, the United States would be moving into a new phase of the relationship with Iraq -- an equal partnership between two sovereign nations based on mutual respect. "This will be a strong and enduring partnership," he said.
Fat chance. The Iraqis realize that they have been cast adrift by the U.S. and are desperately looking for ways to survive in a very tough neighborhood. The odds are that now that Iraq has been abandoned by the U.S., she will descend into chaos and civil war, with the likely outcome a breakup of the country and colonization of its southern part by Iran. (But maybe it was unavoidable. The Democrats had been so used to pummeling President Bush for his Iraq policy that the very name of that country has become a pejorative, and as soon as they had a chance, they would just drop the "bad" war like a hot potato.) All the winnings of the past decade thrown to the wind; all American blood and treasure expended in an effort to build up a stable and relatively democratic Iraq wasted. What a magnificent foreign policy achievement!
Item: Afghanistan. National security has traditionally been the Democrats' Achilles heel. So during the 2004 election campaign they came up with a clever ploy: while lambasting the U.S. military presence in Iraq, they would point to the war in Afghanistan as the right one. This would allow the Democrats to burnish their security credentials while mercilessly criticizing George Bush's military policy with impunity. In 2008, Candidate Obama picked up the strategy and ran with it. On the stump he repeatedly denounced the "wrong" war in Iraq and demanded an expansion of the "good" war in Afghanistan.
Obama apparently figured that he would have no problem wiggling out of his commitment once he became president. He would pretend to be serious about victory in Afghanistan while making it clear to the Taliban that he had no intention of winning the war. So Obama gave the go-ahead to a surge in Afghanistan but provided his commanders on the ground with far fewer forces than they needed to do the job. And in the same breath he declared his intention to withdraw all U.S. forces by a date certain, giving the enemy a clear indication that all they needed to do was sit tight and wait out the Americans and their allies. He obviously counted on the Taliban to acquiesce in his plan and play possum until after the election.
But he doesn't understand the mindset of the Muslim radicals. They see the world in stark Manichaean terms: the weak and the strong. In their eyes, compromise is a sign of weakness to be exploited to the hilt. They are in no mood to accommodate Obama's wishes. They aspire to rout the enemy, to humiliate America, which would immeasurably enhance their stature in the third world as victors over the two greatest powers in the world -- first the Soviet Union, and now the U.S. That's why hostilities in Afghanistan do not abate and why casualties continue to mount even though the Taliban don't need to do anything to win, for Obama has already telegraphed his capitulation to them.
Item: Iran. Obama inherited the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions from his predecessor. But Bush was hamstrung by Democratic moles in the U.S. intelligence community who conducted a successful disinformation campaign to convince the public that Iran had long given up its plans to acquire nuclear weapons. For his part, Obama has none of the handicap. But blithely confident of his powers of persuasion, Obama was sure that if he could only engage the Iranians and entice them into face-to-face negotiations, he would overpower them with the force of his personality and eloquence. In consequence, they would see the error of their ways, disavow their intransigence, and join the family of nations. So to avoid antagonizing his would-be negotiating partners, he sat out the mass demonstrations in Iran in the summer of 2009, when a few words of support for the Iranian protesters might have gone a long way toward toppling the mullahs' suddenly shaky regime. Again, Obama's naiveté blew up in his face and earned him much disdain from the Iranian leaders (see the mindset of the third world above). And now his Iran policy has been reduced to deterring, by hook or by crook, Israel from attacking the Iranian nuclear projects so as not to damage his reelection chances.
Item: Arab Spring. When anti-government riots broke out in Egypt, Barack Obama rushed into the breach and, displaying a sure instinct for wrong choices, proceeded to push President Mubarak out. No matter that for three decades Mubarak had kept the peace with Israel, the cornerstone of relative stability in the Middle East. No matter that Mubarak had been a consistent ally of the U.S. against Soviet communists and later on against Islamist terrorists. Thanks in some measure to Obama, Egypt is now firmly in the talons of the Muslim Brotherhood and on the cusp of going Islamist. The Egyptian Parliament has already declared Israel Enemy Number One. How's that for a diplomatic triumph?
Item: Libya. For some inscrutable reason, Obama was gung-ho to overthrow Libyan dictator Gaddafi. Gaddafi certainly was not a boy scout, but was he any worse than, say, Syria's Assad? A few years back, Gaddafi, scared out of his wits by Saddam Hussein's demise, decided to make peace with the Americans. He turned his nuclear weapons program over to the U.S. and rendered us significant assistance in the War on Terror. Yet, in spite of geopolitical considerations, Obama put on his war paint and sallied forth to overthrow the dastardly colonel. He declared that he couldn't live with his conscience were the massacre in Libya permitted to go on unchecked. Yet his conscience was apparently untroubled in the face of killings on an incomparably larger scale going on in Syria. Thus, Gaddafi is gone -- and so is Libya as a unitary nation; the country is in the throes of free-for-all civil war and has virtually ceased to exist. Is this what Obama wanted? Does it serve U.S. national interests?
Item: Russia. No sooner had Obama come to power than he sacrificed the U.S. plans to build missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic to shoot down Iranian missiles on the altar of improved relations with Putin's Russia. Throwing two of America's most faithful allies under the bus was meant as a goodwill gesture to the Russians, who knew full well that those bases were no threat to their security. But why not try to wrest unilateral concessions from the appeasement-minded new U.S. president? Putin pocketed the gift but showed no inclination to reciprocate (that same pesky disdain for weakness). And now the Russian leaders are gleefully sabotaging U.S. attempts to mobilize the world against Iran, while whipping up anti-American hysteria at home. Yet Obama promises them still more concessions in his second term. Here we have a negotiating partner the Russians could only see in their dreams.
Item: Israel. For decades the U.S. stood resolutely with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and the only reliable ally of the United States in this strategically crucial region. Until Obama. Like all his predecessors in the White House, he dreamed of engineering a peaceful solution in the Middle East so he could go down in history as a peacemaker extraordinaire. But he decided to go about it by siding with the Palestinians and pressuring Israel. Israelis are not stupid or blind. In a recent poll, only 4 percent of them said they consider Obama a friend of their nation. Israel has every reason to be wary of Obama's second term, when he would not be restrained by the fear of a voter backlash. And so do the Arab allies of the U.S., who have watched the Obama administration sell out its best friend in the region and drawn appropriate conclusions relative to their own future. Small wonder that Obama's rating in the Arab world has been plumbing unprecedented depths.
In short, Obama's international credentials have been every bit as poor as his domestic political and economic record. His plummeting popularity all over the world -- from the Middle East to Latin America -- is evidence enough of how disastrous his foreign policy has been. And even though the New York Times proclaimed Obama to be "the strongest foreign-policy Democrat in recent memory" and breathlessly disclosed that he was champing at the bit to do battle with Mitt Romney in the arena of diplomacy, the presumptive Republican nominee need have no fear of the coming fight. Indeed, he should look forward to it.