Two Reactions To Netanyahu’s Speech To Congress

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest ‘The Prime Minister’s Speech:’

The whole of Obama’s foreign policy comes under scrutiny, including backsliding away from the tougher line on Iran at the beginning of the p5 + 1 negotiations, into what is now only a ten-year time-line.

Mead:

‘So the Moderate Islamist strategy, essentially the only strategy that is un-horrible enough for liberal strategists to contemplate without self-loathing, is, while not totally useless, incapable of stabilizing the region or of making the terror madness go away—or even of keeping the threat within some kind of marginally acceptable bounds.

Even so, the proponents of this strategy can’t bear to let it go. The alternatives are so ugly and dispiriting, and so deeply unwelcome to the Democratic base, that the Obama wing of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment can’t bear to think about them, much less conduct American foreign policy on different and more realistic lines. (Camp Clinton, by the way, seems somewhat less inhibited.) As a result, the deeper the Obama administration’s Islamist strategy runs into the mud, the more bitter its proponents become about what they increasingly see as the Israeli millstone around the neck of American foreign policy. This is when high minded liberals and progressives find themselves tempted to echo the arguments of the anti-Israel paleocons, and when fantasies of an all-powerful, unpatriotic Israel Lobby begin to loom in their minds.’

Oh, there’s always someone to blame.

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Notice Dan Drezner doesn’t focus on Obama’s overall policy achievements, but rather on the little that Netanyahu’s speech may have achieved relative to its stated aims; his inability to sway the people actually making Obama, and Americas,’  foreign policy .

Which is true, as far as it goes:

‘Meanwhile, the GOP leadership in Congress, when they’re not busy disagreeing with each other over strategy, can take solace that they one-upped Obama in the war of foreign policy trolling.

And since the American public still supports cutting a deal with Iran, the Obama administration can be confident that their message of “let’s continue to make a good faith effort on negotiations” will be well-received at home.’

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As for me, I’d still like more realism, and think that there perhaps was a window for dealing with the mullahs in Iran, but that such a window has likely passed as the deal appears to get worse as the expectations get lower.

I don’t find much in common with Obama’s team and his pro-peace, activist base, and find little to recommend them from the consequences of his Middle-East policies in action so far.  I think he’s got many wrong ideas and remain skeptical about how our leverage is being used in negotiating with such dangerous people.

Witnessing party Democrat reactions to the speech is sad enough, as is the grumbling and confusion over at the GOP and my general distaste for the political class at the moment.  Such seems to be life in D.C., a two-party town, when it comes to dealing with Iran.

These are the people we’ve got.

***Addition-I’m assured by an emailer that the people in Iran who don’t favor the mullahs and may not favor deliverable nukes (for the glory of Persepolis, by Jove), are very ‘moderate’ indeed.  Just like all those moderates in the Muslim Brotherhood, the moderates in Syria and Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and even Libya, they are about to burst into pure democratic social justice awareness and peaceful democratic self-governance.

Short of that, the global trans-national peace raft and coalition of concerned institutions has TOTALLY got ISIS, the mullahs, the Wahhabis, the Israelis, al Shabaab, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, the House of Saud, Hamas, Hizbollah, the King of Jordan etc…under control.

This is what global progress looks like, and if you disagree, you’re pretty clearly a warmonger.

Thanks emailer!

Another addition:  As posted, what worldview could help account for our current foreign policy?:

Well, this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius:

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Some Foreign Policy Links-Israel, Gaza, ISIS & ‘Peace’

Walter Russell Mead links to two good pieces: ‘White House Blindsided By Israeli/Egyptian Relationship

Mead:

‘It is clear from the above account that the White House has been consistently behind the eight ball on shifting patterns in the Middle East, and that U.S. diplomacy was seriously hampered by its failure to grasp the consequences of the burgeoning Egyptian-Israeli relationship’

It seems no one in the region, perhaps not even Hamas, wanted the Israel/Gaza peace-deal as brokered by John Kerry. The Israeli and Egyptian leadership have responded without our lead and in their own rational interests, a move which seems to have taken the current administration by surprise, as it has been busy simultaneously withdrawing U.S. influence from the region while still trying to pursue its aims.

Say you’re a committed isolationist, and you’re tired of the being the ‘world’s policeman,’ or at least believe U.S. interests may well be unsustainably overextended.

But now also think about what’s important to you (I’ll try to find one that’s near and dear): Your safety and security here at home, a sustainable economy and energy prices, free trade and human flourishing, less dictatorship and human suffering under autocrats and some recourse for human rights, human freedom, and international law and order of one kind or another.

When we withdraw, other interests fill the void. We may not like what we get.

On that note, not only is ISIS an ideological coalition of savage, ahistorical true-believing Islamists, blowing up ancient tombs (just like the Taliban did with slave labor those Buddha statues in Bamiyan), ISIS is also on a campaign, as I write this, to exterminate Iraqi Christians:

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They’ve also driven a group of Yazidis from their homes into the surrounding mountains to starve and die or return and be butchered:

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Perhaps the administration feels burned by the time it pursued humanitarian intervention in Libya, which has turned into a disaster, and thus has since withdrawn into a peace cocoon.  Perhaps it’s still trying to bridge the Iran gap, and keep that deal alive.  Of course, this relies on us doing business with the Ayatollah at the end of the day, a man whose power derives from the Islamic revolution in Iran.

On that note, Dan Drezner notes in the WaPo that in order to get to this point in our diplomacy, the administration has been concentrating foreign-policy decision-making in the White House. I suspect this is how you arrive at youthful, earnest hashtag activism (the kinds of people most willing to work with Obama on campaigns and follow his lead).

Drezner:

‘But I’ve written before that the foreign policy process matters significantly, and while it’s good for the White House to be interested in foreign policy, this does seem like an over-concentration of authority.’

Here we are.

Obama’s West Point Speech-Rhodes Scholarship?

Dan Drezner is now at the Washington Post: ‘The Two Things That Need To Be In Obama’s West Point Speech:’

Transcript of the speech here.

Drezner on Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser:

‘I’m not going to lie — whenever Ben Rhodes starts talking to the press, I get worried about the Obama administration’s foreign policy trajectory.  Rhodes tends to have a few simple international relations memes that he likes to get out into the public square’

He finishes with:

‘So if this speech says: a) military action is risky; but b) we have no positive economic agenda; and c) no plan for what to do if matters get even worse — then this is not going to be a very good speech at all.

Am I missing anything?’

Well, having read Obama’s speech, I don’t think he’s missed much.

As for the economic agenda, I’m guessing when you’re far enough Left and ideologically rigid as Obama often appears to be, not much is going to change.  He’s consistently brought the concerns of peace activists, environmentalists and labor unions to the fore at home, while investing in some of the dysfunction of the U.N. and hashtag diplomacy abroad.

Obama:

‘You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example. We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it is taking place’

Does leading by example involve waiting on the U.N in Syria, emboldening Putin and Tehran’s interests by hedging on a redline, and sitting back while terrorists fill in the opposition? Does leading by example involve avoiding hard decisions and watching a long, protracted Civil War unfold, with Assad still hunkered down in power, using chemical weapons, while over a hundred thousands Syrian are dead? Does leading by example involve a humanitarian crisis in full bloom, destabilizing the region many times over, and posing new security threats for all of us?

Is that the kind example we want to set, even for ourselves?

Adam Garfinkle offered the Rhodes hypothesis‘ a little while back:

Rhodes is the main one, I believe, who either convinced or strongly reinforced the President’s intuition that the United States is vastly overinvested in the Middle East, that we need to pivot to Asia at the expense of our investments in the Middle East and Europe, that in the absence of traditional American “Cold War-era” leadership benign regional balances will form to keep the peace, and that the world is deep in normative liberalism and well beyond the grubby power politics of earlier eras.

All of this is very trendy and sounds “progressive” and smart, but, of course, it is mostly wrong.

What am I missing?

Addition: More from David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy here.

‘Further, as Obama has shown, the problems we face today cannot simply be addressed by undoing the mistakes of past American presidents. Genuine new thinking is needed. Precious little, unfortunately, was offered in the president’s West Point remarks.’

I’ve been referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

Naive foreign policy is naive foreign policy.

I don’t believe that we can appease Islamic extremists, which is the whole premise of this administration’s approach…blunt American power and incentivize Muslim societies to drive the extreme elements out through international cooperation: Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Just how far Left is this administration anyways? Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

A Few More Syria Links-‘Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

A pretty damned good overview of Syria for the non-initiated, including what’s been going on since 2011 and the backstory at the thehowardbealeshow. Recommended. Really.

Julia Ioffe at the New Republic-‘The Syria Solution: How Obama Got Played By Putin & Assad’

What do you do when you have little to no strategy, a map that isn’t lining up with events, and no clear vision of what you want to achieve?:

This, to borrow a phrase from a Congressional staffer at his wits’ end, “is an unmitigated clusterfuck.”

Strong language, but, you know, perhaps quite appropriate here.  This blog is generally more skeptical of the liberal internationalist ideals and the human rights crowd running foreign policy, because no matter how successful the realpolitik, they can often put the cart before the horse.  I suspect few people expected the cart to be unhooked from the horse and left in the mud for a few years.

‘As it stands now, Russia and France have taken the lead on working out a plan to get Assad to hand over his chemical weapons, a lead Obama seems all too happy to relinquish. Hammering out the details will take a some time, and, while they’re at it, Assad will still have his chemical weapons but will no longer be under the threat of a U.S. military strike. (Who knows if he’ll use them, but he certainly hasn’t let up on the conventional shelling.) Putin has succeeded in throwing sand in the gears of the American political process and separating the U.S. from its allies, and the current American handwringing over Syria seems likely to grind on for weeks. And a pro-Assad paper ran with the following headline this morning: “Moscow and Damascus Pull the Rug Out From Under the Feet of Obama.”

Our foe, the obviously undemocratic Putin, has come to rescue our cart!  Of course, by opportunistically taking advantage of our leadership vacuum and uniting Russian opinion against us.  Our profile and influence diminish further.  Assad, our clear foe and ruthless dicator thug stays in power, maybe the chemical weapons the Russians have been supplying to him are taken away, but probably not.  The Civil war continues and continues to spill out all over the place.

That’s if Putin is even serious.

Meanwhile, our allies and possible alliances remain ignored, unconvinced, or can be seen turning away with looks of disbelief, back to their own politics to play this for what they can and pursue their own interests as they see fit, perhaps at our expense.   At the same time, our enemies, like Al Qaeda, remain under little to no pressure from anyone to become more ‘moderate,’ while Iran’s regime keeps one foot in the ‘international community’ pretending to be civil, with the other kicking furiously towards deliverable nuclear weapons, the Shia crescent, and regional domination.

At home, public opinion remains strongly against this war, and deeply skeptical of our political leadership.

I fail to see much upside here.

Dan Drezner tries to spin this deal into something tolerable, perhaps some kind of victory towards inducing foes and bad actors towards the goal of international law and the Geneva Conventions, but, think about it:  A gaffe made by Kerry is pounced upon by Putin and Assad in order to help our President out of his own corner…towards international cooperation:

‘Despite a series of mistakes, screw-ups, u-turns, and flubs, it’s possible that the Obama administration can, at the end of the day, claim credit for forcing Syria’s regime into relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile and signing on to the convention banning its use.

Take the deal. Take it now.’

Here’s to hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Addition:  Get ready for the President’s speech, and the refrain that this was a war averted and brilliant game of chess by the President.  The ideals were advanced.  All is well.

Related On This Site: More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others