Jeffrey Goldberg has made a valiant effort in a lengthy [and often repetitious] article in The Atlantic [striving desperately to become high-brown] to present a comprehensive explanation of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy. Goldberg is both exhaustive and sympathetic, giving us extended references to intimacies with the President over many years – dating, as he tells us, to Obama’s days as an unknown Illinois state senator.
Goldberg fails, however, for one simple reason: he trifles with the facts as well as the interpretations.
Many of my readers will abandon us here, for what we will have to do is to burrow into the article. Nor can we do more than skim the surface of our differences with Goldberg’s misstatements and interpretations.
• “xxx Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union.xxx” The New Oxford tells us “bellicosity:” means “Demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight”. Does that really describe a Churchill as leader of a lonely Britain holding out against the most criminal tyranny the world had ever seen? Or later against Communism which had taken tens of millions of lives of innocent citizens in Both the Soviet Union and China?
• “xxx Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union xxx” That’s a very interesting if wholly bogus interpretation of the implosion of the Soviet Union in the face of a relatively passive foreign policy of Bush I and an even more passive policy advocated by Scowcroft.
• “xxx Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was ‘Don’t do stupid shit.’ xxx” Goldberg repeatedly quotes this Obama axiom as a guideline to making foreign policy. Enough said.
• “xxx Four years earlier, the president believed, the Pentagon had ‘jammed’ him on a troop surge for Afghanistan. Now, on Syria, he was beginning to feel jammed again.xxx” Goldberg neglects to remind readers that at the same time Obama injected new troops into Afghanistan, he announced a deadline for withdrawal – hardly a great strategic concept.
• “xxx Within weeks, Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, would engineer the removal of most of Syria’s chemical-weapons arsenal—a program whose existence Assad until then had refused to even acknowledge.xxx” The operative word is “most”; Assad has continued to use chemical weapons against his own people; only days ago there was another instance in Aleppo.
• “xxx A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory xxx” One of Goldberg [or Obama’s] more curious statements given the fact that the more often heard accusation [obviously false given their vast differences] is that Washington think tanks are enthralled by Jews/Zionists/Israelis.
• “xxx Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. xxx” “xxx But achievements nevertheless xxx” Oh? The Cuban dictatorship remains in place having made no concessions, arresting new political dissidents even as the Obama-Castro agreement was announced. The Paris climate-change accord binds no one to anything, is based on scientific assumptions under fire, and does nothing to clear up the controversial claims of the Obama supporters that human activity is the critical issue. The Trans-Pacific Parntership trade pact is yet to be accepted in any of the constituent partners and is now under attack from both right [Trumpites] and left [Obama’s trade union supporters]. The Administration itself admits that the Iran nuclear “deal” is yet to be proved, that Tehran continues to pour billions [now augmented by the dropping of sanctions] into a worldwide state terrorist network, and is demonstrably proceeding with the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
We won’t bore our readers with additional examples. But the Goldberg presentation of what he ceremoniously calls The Obama Doctrine is a tissue of false information and prejudiced interpretation. There is no Obama Doctrine except a general withdrawal of American power in critical areas of the world with the traditionally anticipated results.
Posted in Assad, Basher al Assad, energy, EU, foreign policy, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Latin America, oil economics
Tagged Obama and Snowcroft, Obama leaves the world, Obama's strategy, Obama's vacuums, Obama;s rationalizations, Snowcroft, The Obama Doctrine, the world leaves Obama, withdrawing Ameruican power
The Obama Administration is facing the ultimate exposure of the failure of its lauded strategy of “leading from behind”.
The phrase came into use when Washington stood back in 2011 while its European allies toppled the Mohammed Qadaffi regime in Libya. Qadaffi had abandoned his earlier pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism — including the bombing with the Syrians of Pan Am 103 over Scotland in 1988. But he was collapsing under the siege from Islamist terrorists. By 2014, the country was being torn apart between an Islamist-led administration in Tripoli and an internationally recognized government based in the eastern city of Tobruk.
Now Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] is threatening a Libyan takeover in the near chaos that has followed. Not only would the would-be caliphate acquire a critical North African staging area for migration to Europe, but it is already installed in Libya’s principal oil producing area. With the largest oil reserves and production in Africa – larger than both Nigeria and Algeria – growing control in Libya would enhance the self-proclaimed international revenues and leadership of the Islamic terrorists based in Syria and Iraq.
Local affiliates of the Islamic State last year grabbed the coastal city of Sirte, Mohammed Gadhafi’s hometown. And they have moved on to four other strong points, some closer to the critical oil fields. With warmer weather approaching, European governments – already overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of Mideast migrants – fear Libya could become an even greater trampoline for an enlarged invasion of refugees and economic migrants from Black Africa.
There is virtual chaos among the country’s six million people with two power centers vying for control. Turkey and Qatar, with their strong ties to the Moslem Brotherhood, are supporting the Islamists in Tripoli on its Western border with troubled Tunisia. Egypt, which feels threatened directly by Libyan events on its western border, and the United Arab Emirates are backing the more secular regime in Tobruk in the east.
Daesh is operating from four different points in the country which would demand a sizeable allied operation.Sec. of State John Kerry has been trying with the help of Washington’s allies to put together an interim government which could call for international assistance. The U.S. already has a Special Operations team operating in the country and the British and Americans are operating drones overhead. British sources have already proposed a plan for a 10,000-man joint expeditionary force. Another drawn up by the Italians calls for a 6,000 invasion source to reestablish order. Both anticipate American leadership as well as transport which the allies do not have.
The diplomats’ plan for a united Libyan government to call for foreign intervention to boot out the Islamic state is moving slowly. The United Nations has failed for more than a year to get the two rival administrations and their allied militias into a unity. And there is growing concern that Daesh may consolidate its hold. Britain, Italy and France are urging the U.S. to intervene immediately even before a government is formed. The White House is reportedly concerned Islamist terrorist control of Libya would be catastrophic.
Libya, always a contested approach to southern Europe – as it was during the World War II between Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Nazi army and the Britain’s Desert Rats– is critical to any kind of regional stabilization.
Handling the crisis this time around is going to take direct American intervention at the head of the line, however much nostalgia there is now at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for Obama’s formula of the U.S. as a backseat driver.
Posted in energy, EU, Europe, foreign policy, Hillary Clinton, Libya, Middle East, Obama, Obama foreign policy, oil economics, politics
Tagged leasding from behind, Libya, Libya and US, Libyan crisis, Obama's strategy
Apparently Pres. Obama has learned a lesson from his lack of strategy in Syria: The Financial Times reports he has finally acceded to Sec. of Defense Ashton Carter’s pleas to assert freedom of the seas in Southeast Asia.
Within the next two weeks, senior American officials say, U.S. naval vessels will challenge Beijing’s claim to incorporate vast stretches of the South China Sea into its territorial waters.
The vessels will enter the 12-mile limit which Beijing has drawn along “the nine dot line”, its only claim to a group of coral shoals where it has been building at breakneck speed. During the past two years, the Chinese have scooped up enough mud and gravel to build thousands of acres on the several islands replete with military airstrips.
The new bases permit China to advance beyond the so-called first-island chain which has restricted its naval activities to occasional feints across the Strait to threaten the Taiwanese, and contest islands long claimed and occupied by Japan in the East China Sea.
These new bases, hundreds of miles from their Mainland ports and justified only with ancient maps showing vague Chinese claims could become important for projection of strategic power, already menacing nearby Philippines and Vietnam.
The White House has been reluctant to permit the Navy to exercise time-honored rights of passage in one of the world’s most important naval commercial waterways, whether recently because of the state visit just concluded of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, or a part of Obama’s general withdrawal of American power around the world. That lack of resolve has put into question former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” which the Obama Administration has made part of its worldwide strategy.
It has been clear, however, that although there were glowingly optimistic statements anticipating the Xi visit, Obama got nowhere in negotiating any of the major issues which now confront the two countries. These include, of course, recent Chinese hacking of U.S. cybernetworks, violation of intellectual properties of American and other foreign companies, or other trade issues such as the manipulation of its currency [which Washington has refused to formally recognize, a flagrant example exercised on the eve of the visit with a Chinese devaluation.].
But no issue between the two countries has carried such dangerous longterm implications and possibilities of confrontation as Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. The move could be even more important – and fraught – than any of the red lines which Obama has drawn, and then violated, in Syria and the Mideast. Or as important as the growing aggressive behavior of Russia’s Valdimir Putin in Ukraine, and now, in Syria.
A successful test of traditional right of peaceful passage through international waters, in this case those which Beijing has unilaterally claimed as its own territory, is seen by most traditional naval scholars as something long overdue.
Today China’s elaborate and rapid efforts to create a “blue water” navy are still in their infancy. American spokesmen, including the highest echelons of the U.S. Navy, have in the past recognized that China has the right and as an emerging great power, would, build a modern naval fleet. At one point, an American admiral, noting the difficulties of building and maintaining aircraft carriers – China has rebuilt one bought from Ukraine and has another building – was something the U.S. might assist in for a “peacefully emerging China”.
But increasing signs of aggressive behavior by the Chinese have vitiated, at least for the time being, that kind of open military collaboration. And, in fact, Beijing has generally rejected the most routine military to military communication which has become normal and practical among the major powers in their effort to avoid untoward incidents.
Insisting , along with traditional U.S. allies in the region, that peaceful passage through international waters must be preserved and the valid claims of neighboring states honored, is, however much a risk now, one to be preferred than at a later time when Beijing’s resources will be greater and when dangerous precedents would be established.
Posted in China, Clintons, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Obama foreign policy, Syria, Taiwan, Vietnam
Tagged Chinese aggression, freedom of seas, Hillary's "pivot", nine dot line, Obama's strategy, right of peaceful transit, South China Sea, US Navy
There is almost a childlike innocence to the foreign policy initiatives of the Obama Administration, to be admired for their insouciance — were it not that they are contributing to world instability and promising even greater disaster for the U.S.!
The President, almost off the cuff [or at least off the teleprompter] acknowledges that there is no strategy for taking down the Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or ISIS]. That’s despite the fact that only a few months ago he announced he intended “to degrade and destroy ISIL” with a full fledge strategy underway .
But at the same time, the Pentagon announces that it is sending another 450 trainers into Iraq to try to restructure Baghdad’s badly tattered government military, joining another 3,000 or so American military already in-country. In a sense, it is a repetition of the President’s initial strategy in Afghanistan where simultaneously he announced reinforcements at the same time he announced a future total withdrawal.
It does not take much street smarts to know that such announcements are not only contradictory but reveal to even the dumbest and weakest of enemies just what opportunities await them and suggest how to exploit them.
It is no secret, of course, that the President does not want to admit – and never will perhaps – that his 2008 campaign “strategy” proposal which he immediately implemented, demanded a complete withdrawal from Iraq. It certainly helped bring on new regional disasters and, politically, suggested to the American people the huge sacrifices of the two Iraq wars had been for naught.
Now, alas! it appears that he is not going publicly to admit [one has to ask, to himself as well?] that Washington has few options but to move back into Iraq with substantial forces. Not to do so would embolden all those forces lined up, ironically, with both the Sunni Islamic terrorists who support Daesh and the Shia Islamic terrorists allied with Iran who dominate the Iraq government and whatever resistance it is able to mount to its enemies.
Whatever the shortcomings of Daesh – not excluding its continuing contest with other Islamic terrorist groups including Al Qaeda, particularly in Syria – it has been on a roll. The capture of Ramadi was not the relatively minor “setback” that White House was able to coax even outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Edward “Marty” Dempsey into saying.
It places Daesh in a position, if nothing else, to mount a continuing campaign of terror including the almost unanswerable weapon of suicide bombings against the two million Iraqis inside the capital less than 60 miles away. It also has been instrumental in aligning Iraqi Sunni forces with it, or neutralizing them, and in a surprisingly successful campaign to enlist foreign volunteers, even some from the U.S.
We don’t for a moment suggest that we have the necessary strategy for what needs to be done. Nor do we, on the other hand, believe that such strategies have not been proposed and elaborated – and thus far rejected at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. – by the Pentagon.
But as amateur historians, what we do remember is one of the lessons of American engagements overseas during the whole postwar period – especially the terrible echo of “Vietnam” with its 54,000 American dead.
That lesson was pure and simple: if you are going to fight a war, you must fight it anticipating all the worst possibilities for as generals have always said, the battlefield changes the moment the first shop is fired. If you are to push a failing Vietnamese military aside, then send in the forces you need for the worst of situations. If you are to bomb Hanoi, do it immediately with maximum strength, not increase it incrementally and gave your enemy the ability to meet it. If you are enforcing a naval blockade, then mine the Haiphong harbor instead of chasing small craft up and down a 500-mile coastline, etc., etc.
Much has been made by our fellow talking heads of the American public’s fatigue after the long years of seemingly nconclusive war in the Middle East. That is certainly true.
But it is the primary obligation of leadership to examine current situations with more information than the average citizen and to anticipate the problems ahead. Then the necessary decisions, however difficult they are, have to sold to the American people with whom this president still has considerable support.
Dribs and drabs is not the way to go.
Posted in China, CIA, crude oil, foreign policy, Iraq, Obama, Obama foreign policy
Tagged dribs & drabs in Iraq, Obama won't admit, Obama's strategic lack, Obama's strategy, Obama's strategy admission Iraq & Vietnam