Embracing the Costanza Doctrine
The Middle East is aflame. In Egypt, the undemocratic, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood regime was ousted, and this has resulted in hundreds of deaths and mobs of Egyptians protesting and rioting in the streets. In Syria, a brutal civil war continues, with Sunni Islamists (including al-Qaeda groups) fighting Shiite Islamists (including terror giant Hezbollah) with over a 100,000 civilian casualties so far, and the documented use of chemical weapons. In Libya, the nation where a U.S. ambassador was killed just one year ago, there has been a wave of slayings of politicians and government officials, and a pro-America regime is barely able to control the country. In Tunisia, non-Islamist secular politicians are being assassinated, while the ruling Ennhada party continues to try to implement its Islamist agenda. In Turkey, protests by non-Islamists are brutally being crushed by the Erdogan's Islamist regime, while members of the Turkish press continue to be imprisoned at record rates for criticizing the government.
Yet, the Obama Administration, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, has decided to focus its attention on the Palestinian Arab -- Israeli "Crisis." The U.S. apparently pressured the Israeli government to release 104 Palestinian terrorists -- some of whom have American blood on their hands -- for the mere privilege of speaking to the Palestinian Authority about a future "peace." This despite the fact that the PA controls only part of "Palestine," has broken its prior agreements time and time again, and has shown no real interest in curbing PA-sponsored incitement against Israel, Jews, Christians, and the West. The administration clearly still believes that the Palestinian Arab-Israeli "Crisis" is at the center of all problems in the Middle East, even though post-"Arab Spring" few other knowledgeable observers subscribe to this largely discredited theory.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new. We have now had five years of an administration whose defective instincts have resulted in consistently flawed U.S. foreign policy behavior.
I do not believe we can afford another three more years of this. President Obama and his team need to develop a new approach for dealing with foreign policy matters.
My humble suggestion is as follows -- it is time for President Obama, and his administration, to adopt the Costanza Doctrine. It comes from the television comedy show Seinfeld. The salient principle of the Costanza Doctrine is the statement -- "(i)f every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."
And President Obama and his administration have been wrong quite a few times. They were wrong to oust Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, and ship advanced weaponry to the Libyan Islamist rebels. They were wrong to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood was "largely secular" and "moderate" and willing to govern democratically. They were wrong to leave the defense of our (not quite a) consulate in Libya in the hands of Islamist militias on September 11, 2012. They were wrong to draw a "red line" on Syria. They are wrong to reach out time and time again to the unyielding fanatical Iranian mullahs on nuclear weapons. And they were wrong to "preemptively shutter 21 different American embassies across the Middle East and North Africa in response to NSA-collected terrorist chatter."
These Obama administration actions have harmed American national security interests. For example, let's look at the situation in Egypt. In 2009, in Cairo, President Obama began his campaign to repair relations with the "Muslim World." In 2011, in one of the larger Muslim nations, Egyptians began to protest their President Mubarak, supposedly for democratic reasons, but really for economic ones. Soon after, President Obama called for Mubarak to resign, which he eventually did. This was a mistake, and a strange one at that, considering that President Obama did not similarly call for the resignation of the anti-American Iranian regime when comparable protests occurred in Iran. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood party then won power, assisted by the Obama Administration's push for immediate elections. Once again, this was a mistake, as the Obama Administration should have known that only the MB was organized enough to win a quick election.
During their year in power, the MB increasingly showed its violent and undemocratic side, but the Obama Administration never threatened U.S. aid, even though the MB actions were violating legal conditions on U.S. aid to Egypt. The MB government ignored the deteriorating Egyptian economy, and began to threaten other nations. Finally, disgusted by MB rule, the Egyptian people rose in mass demonstrations of millions of people in the streets -- demonstrations opposed by the U.S. ambassador -- and the Egyptian military overthrew the MB government. Only then did the Obama administration begin to threaten aid to Egypt, although they wisely chose not to immediately cut it off. Now they are pushing for some sort of political compromise, even though the MB will never accept less than complete military capitulation. Because of all this, over the space of two years, the administration has managed to antagonize all segments of the Egyptian population.
I am certainly not suggesting that by following the Costanza Doctrine, the Obama administration will produce perfect policies. But more often than not, the instincts of the president, and his administration, are demonstrably faulty. A quick fix for these bad instincts, and the bad policies that have resulted from them, would be for the administration to do the opposite. Just like George Costanza.
I realize that it is unlikely that the Obama Administration would ever stoop to following the example of a TV sitcom. But expecting President Obama and his administration to implement better policies without recognition that their failures stem from their faulty instincts and assumptions seems to me even more unlikely.
Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law.