Obama's Foreign Policy Rebuked – by His Own Intel Chiefs
Barack Obama's foreign policy – and by extension Hillary Clinton's – received a stinging rebuke this week...from Obama's own intelligence chiefs. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, gave Congress an assessment of threats around the globe that amounted to a direct indictment of Obama's failed foreign policies.
Clapper called the dangers currently facing the United States "a litany of doom." He told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "In my fifty-plus years in the intelligence business, I cannot recall a more diverse array of challenges and crises that we confront as we do today."
Where have Obama's policies failed? You might as well put on a blindfold and throw a dart at a map of the world.
On the nuclear accord with Iran, which Obama seems to think is his crowning foreign policy accomplishment, Clapper said that Iran could begin construction of a nuclear weapons program at any time. "Iran probably views the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some of its nuclear capabilities, as well as the option to eventually expand its nuclear infrastructure."
And Clapper cast significant doubt on whether the mullahs will try to honor their part of the bargain. "Iran's perception of how the JCPOA helps it achieve its overall strategic goals will dictate the level of its adherence to the agreement over time."
But surely Obama's Iran deal will improve relations with Tehran, right? Not according to his own intelligence director. "Iran's Supreme Leader continues to view the United States as a major threat. We assess that his views will not change."
Clapper warned that Iran is still "the foremost state sponsor of terrorism" and added, "Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to US interests and partners worldwide."
On the subject of terrorism, Obama has bragged that al-Qaeda has been decimated during his watch, but according to Clapper, "al-Qa'ida affiliates are positioned to make gains in 2016."
Obama shrugged off ISIS (or ISIL) as a "jayvee team." Hardly, says Clapper.
"ISIL, including its eight established and several more emerging branches, has become the preeminent global terrorist threat. They've attempted or conducted scores of attacks outside of Syria and Iraq in the past 15 months. ISIL's estimated strength worldwide exceeds that of al- Qa'ida. ISIL's leaders are determined to strike the US homeland – beyond inspiring homegrown violent extremist attacks."
If that's the jayvee team, let's call off the varsity game.
Regarding the threat posed by North Korea, even Obama's current secretary of state, John Kerry, has admitted that Obama's – and Clinton's – approach hasn't worked. And Clapper testified this week, "It [North Korea] is also committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight-tested." The testimony came mere days after North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit.
Nor has Obama's – and Hillary Clinton's – policy of "leading from behind" worked so well in the Middle East, according to Clapper.
"In Libya, despite the December agreement to form a new 'Government of National Accord,' establishing authority and security across the country will be difficult to put it mildly, with hundreds of militia groups operating throughout the country. ISIL has established one of its most developed branch outside of Syria and Iraq in Libya."
Obama's policies haven't improved things in Afghanistan, either. "Afghanistan is at serious risk of a political breakdown during 2016, occasioned by mounting political, economic, and security challenges. Waning political cohesion, increasingly assertive local powerbrokers, financial shortfalls, and sustained countrywide Taliban attacks are eroding stability."
And then there's Syria.
Obama infamously drew a red line against the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. (Assad has them, but Saddam didn't?) But, as the Washington Post's David Ignatius told PBS's Frontline documentary series, "at the last minute, the president blinked." As a result, the documentary concluded, "extremist groups, including what would eventually become ISIS, exploited the decision not to attack, gaining a foothold by promising Syrian locals what the U.S. had not: protection from the Assad regime."
Clapper testified this week that Assad has continued to use his chemical weapons, even after supposedly agreeing to give them up. "Chemical weapons continue to pose a threat in Syria and Iraq. Damascus has used chemicals against the opposition on multiple occasions since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention" (in October 2013, after Obama drew his red line, and after Syria supposedly handed over its chemical weapons).
The intel chiefs also contradicted Obama's prediction that Russia's intervention in Syria is doomed to fail, with General Stewart declaring, "The Russian reinforcement has changed the calculus completely."
Arkansas senator Tom Cotton asked the two intel chiefs a telling question regarding what seems to be the central tenet of Obama's foreign policy: "Is the Middle East a place that prizes concessions and negotiations or strength and toughness?"
The two intel chiefs looked at each other for a moment before Stewart replied, "I would argue that in almost all these cases, strength is preferred over signs of weakness."
Stewart, perhaps less vulnerable to political winds, later added:
I think that over the last several years there have been some concerns among our partners about our commitment to the region. Our willingness to employ the force where our interests, both national and strategic interest, lies. And I think that has caused just a little bit of concern among our partners about our commitment to the region.
In other words, the Russians have backed up their words with action. Obama has backed up his words with...well, words. And more words.
Obama derided Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign for calling Russia a geopolitical foe, even as he pleaded for Vladimir Putin to allow him "flexibility." Obama ridiculed Romney's more hard-line stance. "[T]he 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."
Yet, after seven years of Obama's "flexibility" with Putin, Obama's intelligence chiefs are warning that the Cold War could be a very 21st-century thing.
"A lot of these aggressive things that the Russians are doing for a number of reasons, Great Power status, to create the image of being co-equal with the United States, etc. – I think could possibly go on," Clapper told the Senate committee this week, "and we could be in another Cold War-like spiral here."
That phone you hear ringing, Mister Obama? It's the American people calling. We want our 1980s president back.