Obama calls criticism of his Syria policy 'horses**t'

Fallout from Hillary Clinton's very public break with President Obama's foreign policy continiues, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have picked up on Clinton's theme that the president's policies in Syria led to the formation of ISIS.

At a meeting with Senators and Congressmen from both parties, the president came in for heavy criticism from both sides for his actions - and inactions - in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Then, according to Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast, Senator Bob Corker let him have it:

Just before the congressional recess, President Obama invited over a dozen Senate and House leaders from both parties to the White House to talk about foreign policy. According to two lawmakers inside the meeting, Obama became visibly agitated when confronted by bipartisan criticism of the White House’s policy of slow-rolling moderate Syrian rebels’ repeated requests for arms to fight the Assad regime and ISIS.

According to one of the lawmakers, Sen. Bob Corker asked the president a long question that included sharp criticisms of President Obama’s handling of a number of foreign policy issues—including Syria, ISIS, Russia, and Ukraine. Obama answered Corker at length. Then, the president defended his administration’s actions on Syria, saying that the notion that many have put forth regarding arming the rebels earlier would have led to better outcomes in Syria was “horses**t.”

White House officials confirmed the charged exchange between Obama and Corker but declined to confirm that Obama used the expletive. The interaction between Obama and Corker was a tense moment in the otherwise uneventful meeting.

Corker’s office declined to comment for this story. But days after the White House meeting, Corker wrote a blistering op-ed for The Washington Post criticizing Obama’s handling of foreign policy. “Today, after three years of bold rhetoric divorced from reality, 170,000 Syrians are dead, and we are not innocent bystanders. The president encouraged the opposition to swallow deadly risks, then left them mostly hanging,” the senator wrote. “Extremist groups from Syria have surged into Iraq, seizing key territory and resources, and are threatening to completely undo the progress of years of U.S. sacrifice.”

Top Democratic lawmakers agreed with Corker and Clinton that doing more to support the moderate rebels would have at least had a chance of averting or mitigating the current crisis, which has now spread to large parts of Iraq as ISIS expands its newly declared Caliphate.

In truth, arming the Syrian rebels was a close call. But as Richard Eptstein, senior fellow at the Hoover Institutiion, points out, the president is better at wringing his hands and complaining he can't do anything than making decisions:

The President suffers from two fundamental flaws. The first is that he is unwilling to make decisions. He much prefers to play the role of a disinterested observer who comments on a set of adverse events that he regards himself as powerless to shape, of which Assad’s carnage in Syria is the prime example. The second is that he fundamentally misunderstands the use of force in international affairs. He handicaps himself fatally by imposing unwise limitations on the use of American force, such as his repeated declarations that he will not send ground troops back into Iraq.

To put these points into perspective, it is important to address two issues that Friedman never raises with the President: military strength and American influence. Regarding the first, Freidman fails to discuss President Obama’s conscious decision to reduce the budgets for, and hence the size of, American military operations throughout the world. In the President’s view, cutting down on the size of the military reduces the American temptation to intervene in disputes around the globe, and thus prevents misadventures such as our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan that have sapped American strength with little or nothing to show for it.

The second issue Friedman never addressed is the deterioration in world peace that has happened since President Obama became president. No one can claim that Iraq was at peace when George W. Bush left office, but the violence had been curbed. Since Obama has taken over, relative tranquility yielded to factional squabbling, followed by vicious aggression that caught the President woefully off guard. Iraq is not alone. The number of hotspots in the world—including Gaza, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Ukraine and the China Sea—is increasing. The President wrings his hands over how difficult it has become to find credible allies in the world to address these problems without ever asking why no one trusts him. So he resolves to hold back on the use of American force overseas. Armed with that certainty, every tin pot dictator and terrorist group thinks it has an open field in which to run.

President Obama has never led anyone, anywhere, at any time in his professional career. Never met a payroll, never led men in battle, never had to deal with the political opposition as a governor, and was never forced to stake out a controversial political position (his anti war views sat very well with his Hyde Park constituents).Why would anyone expect Barack Obama to suddenly acquire leadership skills when he never demonstrated that he had any once in his life?

His successor will be forced to pick up the pieces of a shattered world in 2016.


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