Abrams: US foreign policy in 'shambles'

Rick Moran
An excellent op-ed in Politico by State Department vet Elliot Abrams on Obama's "unintelligible" Syria policy:

In March 2011, President Obama committed the United States to action in Libya that involved roughly 100 cruise missile firings, 12 U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean, and 75 U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft including B-2 bombers. And the Libyan case involved no use of chemical warfare by Muammar Qadhafi. Still, the president saw no reason to seek a congressional vote.

This context makes his claim that he must seek a vote now, in the Syrian case, unintelligible. It cannot be a matter of principle, or the principle would have applied to intervention in Libya as well. From all appearances, the president either lost his nerve, or more likely read opinion polls suggesting that intervention would be widely unpopular. He came to this decision abruptly, after sending out his new secretary of state to make two powerful, emotional, and affecting war speeches that explained why we must act. And he came to this decision, by all accounts now appearing in the press, without even consulting Secretary of State John Kerry, relying instead on his mostly young and comparatively inexperienced White House staff.

This erratic conduct leaves U.S. foreign policy in a shambles. A few examples should suffice. Who, in Jerusalem or Tehran, will now believe that "all options are on the table" and that the president might really use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? Which neighbor of China, facing that nation's rising military power and hoping for America to offset it, will now believe that the "pivot to Asia" has any real military content? Who in Moscow or Beijing will now think this president is a leader who must be feared?

This delay in striking Syria will also make any eventual strikes less effective. In 2007, when Israel struck the Syrian nuclear reactor then under construction, Israel and the United States engaged in elaborate and successful efforts to maintain secrecy until decisions were made and the strike finally launched. Why? Because it was obvious that Syrian President Bashar Assad could take such steps as putting human hostages (foreigners, political prisoners, or children, for example) at the site if he discovered our intentions. Now we have given him weeks to take steps to protect the chemical weapons-related sites in this manner, and to move the materials to new locations. The president said this would make no difference, providing this evidence: Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has "indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive."

The title of Abrams article: "How not to run a foreign policy":

Surely this episode will be studied in schools of government for decades, as an example of how foreign policy should never be conducted: without apparent guiding principle, unpredictably, by fits and starts, and via statements and speeches that are misleading if they are not incoherent.

That's a pretty good summation of our foreign policy during the Obama years.

An excellent op-ed in Politico by State Department vet Elliot Abrams on Obama's "unintelligible" Syria policy:

In March 2011, President Obama committed the United States to action in Libya that involved roughly 100 cruise missile firings, 12 U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean, and 75 U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft including B-2 bombers. And the Libyan case involved no use of chemical warfare by Muammar Qadhafi. Still, the president saw no reason to seek a congressional vote.

This context makes his claim that he must seek a vote now, in the Syrian case, unintelligible. It cannot be a matter of principle, or the principle would have applied to intervention in Libya as well. From all appearances, the president either lost his nerve, or more likely read opinion polls suggesting that intervention would be widely unpopular. He came to this decision abruptly, after sending out his new secretary of state to make two powerful, emotional, and affecting war speeches that explained why we must act. And he came to this decision, by all accounts now appearing in the press, without even consulting Secretary of State John Kerry, relying instead on his mostly young and comparatively inexperienced White House staff.

This erratic conduct leaves U.S. foreign policy in a shambles. A few examples should suffice. Who, in Jerusalem or Tehran, will now believe that "all options are on the table" and that the president might really use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? Which neighbor of China, facing that nation's rising military power and hoping for America to offset it, will now believe that the "pivot to Asia" has any real military content? Who in Moscow or Beijing will now think this president is a leader who must be feared?

This delay in striking Syria will also make any eventual strikes less effective. In 2007, when Israel struck the Syrian nuclear reactor then under construction, Israel and the United States engaged in elaborate and successful efforts to maintain secrecy until decisions were made and the strike finally launched. Why? Because it was obvious that Syrian President Bashar Assad could take such steps as putting human hostages (foreigners, political prisoners, or children, for example) at the site if he discovered our intentions. Now we have given him weeks to take steps to protect the chemical weapons-related sites in this manner, and to move the materials to new locations. The president said this would make no difference, providing this evidence: Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has "indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive."

The title of Abrams article: "How not to run a foreign policy":

Surely this episode will be studied in schools of government for decades, as an example of how foreign policy should never be conducted: without apparent guiding principle, unpredictably, by fits and starts, and via statements and speeches that are misleading if they are not incoherent.

That's a pretty good summation of our foreign policy during the Obama years.