Robert Tracinski At The Federalist: ‘With Bergdahl Trade, Obama Stops Going Through the Motions’

Full piece here.

‘That’s the pattern we’re now seeing. Obama has stopped going through the motions of caring what happens in Afghanistan. Before his term is over, he wants us out of Afghanistan, he wants terrorist detainees out of our custody, he wants to wash his hands of the last vestiges of American intervention overseas.

This is his declaration that he’s just not interested in the War on Terrorism any more. Unfortunately, I suspect we’re going to find in the years to come that the war is still interested in us’

It’s tough to imagine how the Haqqani network and the Taliban are people we can do business with. They’re generally Islamic purists and reactionaries who’ve treated th[eir] own people badly enough. In taking territory, they often kidnap and kill civilians who get in the way, clearing out villages and halting all economic activity during the fighting. When in charge they are usually brutal (unsurprising in a land run previously by tribal and ethnic warlords).

So why are our troops there? Well, even though we supported some of these same guys during the Russian invasion, the Taliban most recently ran Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and still run parts of the tribal, non-government controlled Pakistani border regions (Pakistan is a big draw for terrorist activity all around). They have their own local concerns and ambitions, but acting as Islamic guerrilla fighters, they were natural allies to bin Laden and Al Qaeda leadership whom they harbored; that pan-Arab group of Islamist radicals and guerrilla fighters with global ambitions and briefly, terrible reach.

We have objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they are mainly are to ensure there aren’t further attacks on our soil, nor that this area again becomes a place that harbors the kinds of people who can pose a direct security threat to make attacks on our soil or interests. More broadly, they can threaten not only us, but the West and beyond, and arguably even global stability and order. There are pockets of sympathetic groups throughout the Muslim world, and some even living in the West. But this is the region where pound for pound, it’s most likely you’ll find folks like A.Q. Khan running around, people with nuclear know-how and perhaps the willingness to use it so that it might fall into questionable hands.

This blog welcomes any criticism, or new thinking as how to best address these objectives, and protect our interests, and maybe even redefine or challenge those objectives and interests.

Simply aiming to close Guantanamo Bay where many enemy combatants are being held, or expecting to withdraw troops and announce the end of the conflict in Afghanistan with political timing in mind strikes this blog as naively optimistic, and quite possibly very dangerous without proper consideration of those objectives.Let me know what I’ve got wrong.  I don’t know what I don’t know, and I’m trying to figure out what I do know.

There’s Susan Rice again, staying on message.

At what cost?


Related On This Site:  From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

A Few Thoughts On The FATA Region Of PakistanFrom The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?’

Related On This Site:  18 million people and growing: Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’

Freedom Of Expression: Two Friday Benghazi Links-Eli Lake & David Harsanyi

Eli Lake at The Daily Beast: ‘Obama Administration Accused Of Slow Walking On Benghazi:’

‘Those emails suggested a haphazard process for arriving at the final talking points on Benghazi in the days and weeks after the attack. It also showed that ultimately the CIA’s then deputy director, Michael Morell removed lines in the drafts of those talking points saying it was an act of terrorism and linked to Islamic extremists.’

There was a tremendous amount of unrest throughout the Muslim world in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring.’ Long-standing governments of generations had fallen, while violent and potentially violent protests engulfed the region. One of the main thrusts of this administration’s foreign policy has been to appeal to those who would determine their own fates through democratic uprisings and ‘free and fair’ elections. This administration has placed a lot of faith, as well as arguably four American lives in this case, into a vision of the ‘moderate Muslim’ being able to lead to elective democracy in the wake of those changes.

Whether or not it would have saved lives is unclear, but I think it’s fair to speculate that a military response to the seven-hour firefight that went on in Benghazi would have inflamed, or been seen to inflame, these tensions, and certainly would jeopardize parts of this foreign policy vision.

I’m guessing this had a lot to do with the decision to send-out Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, to push this narrative and focus so heavily on a video made by an American citizen. Re-watching the video, and assuming no ulterior motives, Rice seems almost a little desperate, even, to cling to an explanation favorable to her interests:


This part of David Harsanyi’s piece I definitely agree with:

‘First of all, the United States government should be actively defending the right of Americans to make stupid videos if they want. Not only does it have no right to make excuses for its citizens’ freedom of expression, it sets a dangerous precedent by doing so.’

Those are troubling instincts.

***In Egypt, a returned, al-Sisi led military autocracy executing Muslim Brotherhood members after the Brotherhood’s dramatic failure to govern is not exactly reassuring. In Syria, a full-on, protracted Civil War scenario attracting Islamists from all over is not exactly reassuring either. There’s been no real advancement on the presumed two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, while Libya remains a basket-case and funnel for Islamists around North Africa and also to Syria.

And from a reader.  Dexter Filkins at the New Yorker. Letter From Iraq-‘What We Left Behind.’

Not exactly a democracy, it seems:

‘When the last American soldiers left Iraq, at the end of 2011, the bloody civil war between the country’s Sunni and Shiite sects had been stifled but not resolved. Now the sectarian violence had returned, with terrifying intensity. For more than a year, thousands of Iraqis, nearly all of them members of the Sunni Arab minority, had been gathering to rail against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government’

Addition:  How much of this is because of the withdrawal?

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran?


On June 15th, 2007, Charlie Rose sat down with Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy and geo-strategy.  That’s over six years ago!

I was surprised to find that Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, described very nearly what the Obama administration’s current Iran policy seems to be.  Runs from 32:52 to 35:10 (Sorry I couldn’t embed with the exact time-stamp).

A few minutes can explain a lot.  Well worth your time.

Addition:  Here’s a brief summary of that argument:

1.  The Iranians and the Iranian regime, despite what their intentions may be, have a right to enrich uranium up to 5% according to international law.   They’re doing this.

2. We’re asking them to abandon this right as a precondition to any negotiations, creating an asymmetry.  We should offer to lift sanctions first in return just to get them to swallow their pride and sit down for talks.  This pride may extend beyond the mullahs and regime, and go into the cultural and national psyche of Iranians.

3.  Whatever their intentions may be, unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime isn’t out and proud about nuclear enrichment and weaponization.  They’re at least claiming to follow international law which gives us some leverage.

As Kissinger points out, if we pursue this track we also need to be thinking that it all may be a time-buying exercise by the regime, we’ll have to use back channels and other means to at least get a sense that we’re getting SOMETHING for our troubles.

***After Syria and the Assad/Putin affair, and watching this administration’s leadership and strategy, I can say I’m highly sketical, to put it mildly.


I can see Obama straining for some kind of legacy here, to lay himself down and bring some sort of Egypt/Israel peace accord home after seizing the Rohani window, but it’s clearly a longer shot.  Even if your aim is some kind of peace treaty, the price is high, and Obama’s typically been longer on ideals & speeches and shorter on delivery.

He’s also got the pro-peace, activist base to appeal to at home.  Domestically, Obamacare is crumbling and his poll numbers are sinking, which may create some daylight between the liberal/Left activist base and the realpolitik of the liberal internationalist policy-makers and elite.

Looking at the current state of Egypt, the continuing civil-war in Syria spilling over its borders, the Kurdish uprisings, the restless Turks and the spurned Saudis, it’s reasonable to wonder if Obama’s attuning himself to the costs associated both domestically and abroad for pursuing such a deal.

So, who’s running our foreign policy?

Well, people like Susan Rice and John Kerry, apparently working according to plans very similar to those Brzezinski laid-out above, under the ultimate direction of Obama.



You do diplomacy with leaders you have.

The President has said that a nuclear Iran isn’t an option.

So, what other, other options do we have?

Addition: Over Egypt, John Kerry’s doing things his way, against the wishes of the administration and Susan Rice’s aggressive, disjointed, democracy  promotion.

Related On This SiteIsrael, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments.

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, went the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’

From The NY Times: “After Benghazi Attack, Talk Lagged Behind Intelligence”

Full post here.

‘Even as Susan E. Rice took to the Sunday talk shows last month to describe the Obama administration’s assessment of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, intelligence analysts suspected that the explanation was outdated.’

The CIA is going to take some responsibility for the intelligence it seems, but not necessarily for those acting (or not acting) on it.

It appears that Ansar Al Sharia, an Al Qaida affiliate, and other extremists were gaining ground in Benghazi and points east of Tripoli (as other intelligence showed) and coordinated this attack.   Why have we waited for over five weeks to still not send the message that such violence is not acceptable, appeasing our most violent enemies?

If we are doing this as part of a larger strategy to appeal to and include the “Muslim-on-the-street” in our policy-making, and not inflame such folks further and allow really bad people to gin up support for their own causes across the Middle East, how is that working?  How is the liberal internationalist platform under Obama’s leadership working out with respect to our freedoms at home (speech) and our security?

It’s still not clear to me why we chose to bet on the opposition horses (and many extremists) in Libya to overthrow Gadhafi, but dawdled on Syria and Assad by the logic of our current policy (though we likely have special ops and some intelligence on the ground).  Syria is turning into the protracted civil conflict feared, which is also spilling over into Turkey and Lebanon along sectarian lines.

More broadly, we are still in a war on terror, targeting Al Qaida and Al Qaida groups in AfPak which is helping us to meet our Afghanistan objective.  This is done through drone strikes which cause retaliation, and a current administration approved surge as well.  The centerpiece of the current administration’s policy is the timeline and withdrawal.  Al Qaida is regrouping in Somalia and Yemen and other locations, and the Iranian and Pakistani governments have close ties with terrorist organizations.  How is our current timeline for withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan going to help win this war on terror?

What’s the strategy?  Who’s responsible?  Anyone?

The Foreign Policy Initiative suggests a safe zone in Syria…so much for the U.N.

Addition:  Walter Russell Mead has this:

‘If President Obama’s biggest problem in a foreign policy debate is that his grand strategy is in crisis, Governor Romney’s biggest problem is that the Obama strategy offers what most voters want. Americans are profoundly tired by the Middle East; they don’t think we can do much good over there, they don’t like or understand the region and they want to get out’

Related On This Site:  Lara Logan On Afghanistan Via Youtube: ’2012 BGA Annual Luncheon Keynote Speech’

The rise of Islamism across the region…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

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