Tag: Foreign Policy

Surviving the New Cold War

As you have probably heard, Yemen has collapsed into chaos. The President we were backing had fled the country and Iran-backed Shia rebels appear to be establishing control. Saudi Arabia is intervening and it looks like Egypt may get involved as well.

All this is a sign of Obama’s failed foreign policy according to … holy crap … Vox?:


Bergdahl To Be Charged

Well, knock me over with a feather:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A few things to unpack here:

First, getting Bergdahl back was justified. We don’t leave men behind and the idea, currently promulgating in liberal circles, that Republicans would rather he have been left to rot, is garbage. The criticism that Obama faced was for the way this went down — releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, not informing Congress of the deal, trying to pretend that Bergdahl served with honor and, in the case of one Administration official, branding his accusers as psychopaths.

Second, it’s amazing to watch the pretzels the sufferers of Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome are twisting themselves into. When Bergdahl was first released and the criticisms of his conduct emerged, the Left took the “how dare you!” narrative. When he was returned to active duty, they pilloried Republicans for having had the temerity to have questioned his honor. Republican criticism of the deal was labelled as placing party above country (even though many Democrats agreed that Obama broke the law in brokering the deal). Now that he’s been charged, we’re back to, “we don’t leave a man behind.”

Berdahl is innocent until proven guilty, obviously. But let’s not pretend the Republicans are the only ones who used his release as a political football. And let’s not pretend that this was a great deal. As David Burge noted on Twitter the other day, it’s becoming clear that this Administration couldn’t negotiate a 99-cent deal with a dollar store.

Trying Their Hand at Diplomacy

Barack Obama has been negotiating with Iran for a potential deal that would delay their nuclear ambitions while lightening sanctions. We’ve been debating the wisdom of this in the comments for a while. The Republicans oppose any deal without more sanctions and invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the President, an unusual move (although I found Netanyahu’s speech itself to be reasonable and conciliatory).

But this week, things took an interesting turn:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

As a matter of law, the Republicans are right. Any deal will not be a formal treaty ratified by Congress. As a matter of practical politics, however, I find this meaningless. If, two years from now, Iran is violating the terms of the deal, there will no problem in revoking it. However, if the deal is working, I don’t see how a Republican President could possibly revoke it and basically put Iran on a faster path to a nuclear weapon. If we were to unilaterally back out, Iran would be able to resume a nuclear program without international sanctions, which is a worse situation than we have right now. In fact, I would argue that issuing this threat at this time is likely to make the Iranian situation worse. Doug Mataconis:

First of all, as several observers have noted since the letter was released yesterday, the threat that an agreement reached with the Obama Administration might not be honored by the next President, or that it could be undermined by Republicans in Congress through a variety of methods is likely to reinforce the position of Iranian hardliners who are against any agreement at all. This letter reinforces exactly what they already believe, that the United States cannot be trusted and that Iran must move forward with a nuclear program to protect its national interests. Second, the current sanctions regime is working largely only because the other major nations in the world are on board with it because they believe that it will help in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva to persuade the Iranians that there could be a benefit to agreeing to limits on their nuclear program, namely the gradual lifting of sanctions. Even the Russians and Chinese have signed on to this strategy, for now. If these other nations start to see the U.S. as taking a hard line position that makes diplomacy impossible, though, it’s unlikely that they are going to stick with the program or that they will agree to the kind of tougher sanctions that Republicans, and the Israeli Prime Minister favor. If the international sanctions regime is undermined, then there goes the pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table. Finally, the simple fact of the matter that these Republicans seem to be ignoring is that Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program the way that nations like Libya and South Africa, to pick two examples that Senator Cotton cited this morning, did simply because history has shown them what happens to regimes who give up their WMD programs, such as Libya and Iraq, and those that do not, such as North Korea. Rather than aiming for an impossible objective, then, it strikes me that the best alternative is to try to get the Iranians to agree to confine their research to peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Senator Cotton and his colleagues just helped to undermine that objective.

I would also add that it endangers the cooperation Iran is giving us in fighting ISIS, which I regard as the greater of two evils at the moment.

Iran’s foreign minister has responded to the letter quite forcefully, indicated the letter is having the effect of encouraging Iranian hardliners. And parts of the Left Wing is accusing the Republicans of sabotaging Obama on foreign policy. I’m inclined to somewhat agree.

Foreign policy is one of the few arenas where the President has primary authority. Congress has some say — funding the President’s initiatives and ratifying treaties and so on. But it is not the job of Congress to act like amateur diplomats. Acting like amateur diplomats is the job of Obama’s bumbling State Department. I said as much when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria to meet with Assad: that was not her damned job. It was not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy then; it’s not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy now.

As is their wont, the Left is taking a reasonable point and becoming absurd, accusing the Republicans of “treason” for this. This isn’t treason, no matter what you think of it. I’d reserve that to … say … a sitting Senator negotiating with a hostile foreign power to influence an American election.

It’s one thing for Congress to influence policy through the power of the purse or the power of law. But this sort of direct communication with a foreign government during negotiations is a bridge too far. They need to cut it out. If they want to cancel any deal with Iran, they can try to pass a law over Obama’s veto. Or they can the election in 2016 and abrogate it then. But they need to leave off the theatrics. The situation with Iran is delicate enough without 47 senators barging into it.

The Foreign Policy Preview

It’s no secret that one my biggest concerns with a potential Romney presidency is foreign policy. I’m not exactly thrilled with Obama’s brand of bumbling around, of course. The mess in Benghazi is close to exploding into a full blown scandal (and would have already, if the MSM were doing their job).

But Romney’s been making some unsettling noises about increasing defense spending and using the military option on Iran. And I look at his foreign policy team and see 17 of the 24 are former Bushies or neocons and I shudder.

So a week ago, Romney gave what was supposed to be his big foreign policy speech. It’s a good time for it. Apart from the Benghazi cock-up, we have warnings that the Taliban and AQ may be resurgent (I’m dubious of the latter; pretty convinced of the former). And they are not changed, having recently shown the courage to gun down a defenseless 14 year-old girl for promoting education.

So what did I think of the speech? Apart from various mis-statement of facts (embassy attacks are down from the Bush years overall; the Navy is not short of ships), it did nothing to assuage my concerns. It was ripped straight of the bad old days of agression and hubris overseas. Read Gene Healy’s analysis:

In his speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney called for a new approach to the Middle East, based on “these bedrock principles: America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might.” Those are attitudes, not principles. And if jut-jawed self-assurance that we know what we’re doing in the Middle East was the key to victory, we’d have a little more to show from the last 11 years of war. Hope is not a strategy, but hubris isn’t either.

At VMI, Romney criticized President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” as a sign we’re neglecting our allies elsewhere. Romney’s not against pivoting toward Asia per se, since “China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region.” But also he wants us to refocus on Europe, brush back Putin, arm the Syrian rebels and get tougher with Iran. A Romney administration will pivot like a dervish, directing American force and authority everywhere at once. At a press conference the morning of the speech, his top foreign policy aides even refused to rule out boots on the ground in Libya.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what Romney really thinks. As I’ve noted before, the GOP response to Obama’s foreign policy is to criticize no matter what he’s doing, even flipping their criticism when the policy changes. Romney excoriated Obama for (wisely, in my opinion) not supporting the Iranian protesters; but they’d criticize him if he had. He blasted Obama for not getting involved in Syria, as though there were anything to be gained by getting into that mess. He criticized him for drawing down our presence in Iraq … on Bush’s timetable, actually. And I’m still not clear what he thinks we should have done in Libya. The only theme is that Obama is wrong. Whatever Obama’s doing, even if it’s what Romney advocated two months ago, it’s wrong.

This reflexive criticism has consequences, apart from sounding dumb. It means that when Obama really has screwed up, as he apparently did in Benghazi, the criticism is ignored because … well, the Republicans are always going on about Obama.

More to the point, what new solutions is Romney proposing? More military spending, more troops, more involvement, more drones trikes, more sanctions on Iran, more “pressure” on Libya and Egypt — in other words, doing everything Obama is doing, only more so.

This did not go unnoticed by those who aren’t in the tank for either Obama or Romney. Rand Paul, God bless him, smacked down Romney while still saying he’ll support him.

Romney chose to criticize President Obama for seeking to cut a bloated Defense Department and for not being bellicose enough in the Middle East, two assertions with which I cannot agree.

Defense and war spending has grown 137% since 2001. That kind of growth is not sustainable.

In North Africa and the Middle East, our problem has not been a lack of intervention. In the past 10 years we have fought two full wars there, and bombed or sent troops into several others.

This past year, President Obama illegally began a war with Libya, taking sides with the rebels to unseat an admittedly bad man in Moammar Gadhafi.

Paul calls Obama’s policies an “act first, think later” policy and believes that Romney will do the same, only more so. I can’t help but agree. For both of the candidates.

The myth is falling apart?

Think back to 2008 how we where told Obama was going to be the second coming. He was going to fix everything wrong in the world. Remember that peace prize they gave him, with so much fanfare, pomp, and circumstance, for not being Bush. Recall all that talk about how he and the left where going to reset the massive damage of 8 years of Bush’s cowboy policies had caused and instantly heal everything because he was just so damn smart and good at this stuff. Think about all those foreigners and locals that loved the “Hope & Change” meme and the promise of clean air, clean energy, clean politics, and love amongst the people of the earth.

Fast forward 3+ years. The guy has pissed on every ally’s leg and told them it was warm rain. The enemies that suddenly would see the wisdom of Obama’s ways and the new US policies are more numerous, more emboldened, and even making fun of Obama. We have had an expansion of the areas of conflict, with Obama taking his right as the executive to new heights Bush could only have dreamed off getting away with, and even had a real war for oil. The oil was for the Europeans however, but that’s details. Iran is on the verge of a nuke, Israel is frightened and thinking it has to deal with this itself, because nobody else cares, and even the Arabs are worried the US has gone insane. The economy is still a mess, but even after a trillion dollar patronage bill and 3 straight years of trillion and a half deficit spending, another $5 trillion of new debt, and the economic wonders that Obamacare portends, it’s all Bush’s fault.

Things are falling apart, but Team Obama however seems more concerned with b-ball and race baiting. At least many of the rubes are finally catching on. This guys is a far worse political animal than the one he demonized and separated himself from in order to win the last election. Must suck that despite the LSM’’s complicity people are finding out that the emperor has no cloths on and that he is not just his own worse enemy, but bad for us all.

The Palestinian Push

The Palestinian Authority is pushing for recognition as a full state by the UN. They are a few votes shy of forcing the US to either accept it or veto it.

While I support the existence of a Palestinian state, eventually, I think full statehood is a bad idea, partly for reasons outlined by Fareed Zakaria:

At the end of the day, there is only one way you’re going to get a Palestinian state. And that’s if the Israelis agree to it. They have the land; they have the guns; they have the money. Palestinians may regard it as deeply unfair, and I understand that. But it is the world that we live in. The only way they’re going to get a Palestinian state is to engage directly with the Israelis.

And the only way they are going to engage with the Israelis is to get control of their own damn country, especially Gaza. Israel can not put up with being rocketed on a periodic basis. The push for full statehood is mostly a push to further isolate Israel, rather than work with them.

And that’s the key point here. The Palestinians have basically ignored every olive branch for the last 90 years. And, for all their rhetoric, the Arab nations don’t really want a Palestinian nation either. Jordan and Egypt happily occupied and oppressed areas that were supposed to be Palestinian and much of the territory that is supposed to be Palestine is still owned by Jordan, who haven’t even hinted at complying the UN mandate of … 1948. This isn’t really about a Palestinian state, which could have been created anytime in the last six decades. This is about cutting out Israel. This is about the Palestinian Authority getting their country without having to abandon their genocidal intentions.

Obama, to his credit, is siding with Israel. The indications are that he will either call for a year long “study” to delay things or veto it. France is playing their usual “the dog at my homework” game and supporting giving non-member state status. Britain seems likely to align with us. And everyone is trying to make sure this doesn’t come to a head in the Security Council.

We’ll see what happens. I haven’t been happy with Israel’s behavior lately. And at least part of the reason previous deals failed was because Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were undermined by their own government. But we can’t agree to this transparent ploy to create a nation that is effectively at war with an ally. Thankfully, our Administration understands that.