The Dangerous Naivety of American Foreign Policy

Jonathan Rosenblum, director of Jewish Media Resources, wrote in the Jerusalem Post (April 4, 2014) that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy is tainted by “narcissism and naivety.”

There appears to be an inability to grasp that other nations have a different set of values that are irreconcilable with those of the U.S. and the West. They cannot accept that there are leaders and regimes  with completely different political and religious motivations from progressive liberal, or even democratic philosophies.

Obama/Clinton/Kerry have operated as if all they have to do is smile and sing “All we need is love” to persuade ideologies to adapt and embrace a compliant America. It really doesn’t work that way, and now we are being to see the evidence of that. Just look at how they assessed rogue leaders.

Hillary Clinton, during her reign as Secretary of State, called Bashar Assad a “reformer.” Just look at how he is “reforming” Syria.  President Obama called Putin his “partner.” How that partnership is working out can be seen in the Crimea and in how Russia is allied with Iran. About the Ukraine, John Kerry’s telling response to Russia’s capture of the Crimea was, “In the 21st century you just don’t behave in 19th century fashion.” Really? Putin just did!

Obama’s “reset” button with Russia seems to have set the world back to the Cold War era. According to the Obama/Clinton, she of the “global village” geopolitics/ Kerry political theory, the world is too “interdependent” for errant behavior that does not comply with an American vision of a better planet.  As Rosenblum pointed out, it never occurred to them that interdependence cuts more ways than one. Interdependence means that Ukraine is dependent on Russian oil and gas so that, when Obama says he’s going to loan Kiev a billion dollars Putin raises the price of their energy supplies to the Ukraine and pockets Obama’s dollars. Interdependence means that Europe is also in the pocket of the Russians for their energy needs. It would be fine if Obama had opened up the American oil and gas fields to offer an alternative source but he didn’t, refusing also to sign a deal with Canada for the Keystone pipeline. So much for “reset” and “interdependence.”

Bowing to the Saudi king and apologizing to the Muslim world may have won Obama the Nobel Peace prize, but it didn’t win America any kudos or brownie points with the Islamic world. 

Entreating the smiling face of Iran’s Hassan Rouhani with graciousness did not lead to a change in his country’s nuclear ambitions. Instead, Tehran saw America’s softening as weakness and insulted the American people by appointing Hamid Aboutalebi as their Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. He was a member of the hardline Muslim student group that held fifty-two American diplomats hostage for over a year in 1979.  John Bolton described this move as poking “a thumb in the eye of the United States.”  The impotent U.S. State Department will, doubtless, swallow hard and grant this man an entry visa into America, while Rouhani keeps smiling like the Iranian version of the Cheshire Cat.

The American view that all Washington needs to do is play nice and the radical world will soften their attitude to the West will lead Iran to its breakout nuclear capacity. This will inevitably cause nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Turkey and Egypt cannot compete in becoming regional pivots between a nuclear Iran and a potentially nuclear Saudi Arabia without their own nuclear capability. Furthermore, they have seen what happened to Libya once Gaddafi was persuaded to surrender his nuclear capability to appease the West, and they don’t want to share his fate, a fate that included him being bombed by America and the West. They also witness the violence within Syria and Iraq. Both countries had their nuclear programs decimated, allegedly by Israel. Now they are nations torn apart without a nuclear deterrence to hold back invading forces.

Israel thought that it had a strong and staunch ally in America. Today, Israel sees firm backing by the U.S. military, but a weakening in political support from the White House and State Department. An “even-handed” Washington approach has left Israel with an administration that openly blames Israel for impending breakdown in peace talks. Despite the fact that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership will not agree the terms leading to an end of conflict agreement, and refuses to recognize Israel as the Jewish State, Kerry warns Israel of dire consequences if it does not surrender its essential security and demographic needs, and give up major parts of its heritage and roots, such as Jerusalem.

A secular America cannot understand a Middle East is anchored in a deep religious conflict that cannot be settled by assuming that all people want is a nice quiet life. They do, but their sense of value transcends such material benefits. Religion really does matter. In the Middle East religion is not simply a soul-soothing spirituality that makes you feel good to face the day. It is, for Israel, a GPS that guides the character and destiny of the nation. 

America assumes that enemies cannot really mean what they say. Israel reminds America that the world couldn’t believe Hitler really meant what he wrote in Mein Kampf as they gave him Austria and the Sudetenland. The rest, as they say, is history, and the Jews were the prime victims of this bout of wishful thinking. Today, it takes the prime minister of the Jewish State to tell the world that Iran, while denying the Holocaust, is planning the next Shoah in its hatred of Israel. 

A secular America is deaf to the anti-Semitic threats of the Palestinian leadership towards Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is no less radical that Hamas in his refusal to acknowledge Israel as the Jewish State, that Jews have no heritage or history in Jerusalem, and that the Jewish Temple there never existed. He also calls for a Palestinian land under Shariah law that will be Judenrein, free of Jews. The Palestinian leadership has decreed that any Arab who sells land to a Jew will be executed. All this is warmly applauded in the Islamic world, and is ignored by the secular West as irrelevant.

With the impending collapse of the Kerry-inspired Israel-Palestinian talks it is time for any American administration, in fact for Europe and the international community, to realize the Palestinian game plan which is to have the international community recognize a “Palestinian state under occupation.” That is why Abbas is keener to rush to the United Nations and International Criminal Court, rather than compromise on an end of conflict agreement and the establishment of a free and independent state.

When one studies everything that has preceded us to this point it is clear to see the narrative drift that has deprived Israel of its international legitimacy, caused in part by an American-led drive for an unobtainable Two-State solution that has led Israel into a blind alley from which it may be impossible to escape from. 

Once the concept of a “Palestinian state under occupation” is adopted, this could be the death knell for Israel as we know it, because, using Palestinian tactics, if Israel pre-1967 is Palestine, then Israel post-1967 is also Palestine, and therefore not the Jewish State. And this is the ultimate example of American foreign policy at its worst.

Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’