April 7th, 2010

Obama and Karzai: a foreign policy of schoolyard taunts

This WSJ editorial (hat tip: expat) points out once again that Obama seems to have a knack for making enemies of former friends, the latest being Hamid Karzai.

No one says Karzai’s an angel. But if Obama can figure out a better partner with whom to work in Afghanistan (and who has any chance of being elected and reforming the country), he has yet to indicate it. The WSJ piece observes that Obama has been critical of Karzai from nearly the day Obama took office, leaking criticism of him in a way that was intended to shame him.

At the time, I was put in mind of JFK and the disastrous end of South Vietnam’s Diem, although that seemed an extreme comparison. And yet some are making it now, reminding the history-challenged Obama that this may not be the best course to take.

The WSJ uses the same comparison:

This treatment of an ally eerily echoes the way the Kennedy Administration treated Ngo Dinh Diem, the President of South Vietnam in the early 1960s. On JFK’s orders, U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge refused to meet with Diem, and when U.S. officials got word of a coup against Diem they let it be known they would not interfere. Diem was executed, and South Vietnam never again had a stable government.

Karzai has reportedly retaliated by saying in a private meeting that, “if the Americans kept it up, he might join the Taliban.” Then yesterday the execrable Robert Gibbs subjected Karzai to what the WSJ aptly referred to as “schoolyard taunts” (somewhat a specialty of both Mr Gibbs and Obama, I’ve observed):

“We certainly would evaluate whatever continued or further remarks President Karzai makes, as to whether it is constructive to have that meeting,” said Mr. Gibbs, in a show of disdain he typically reserves for House Republicans.

Meanwhile, American military men and women fight, serve, and die in Afghanistan. And Obama continues his contemptible course of being kind to enemies and dismissive and even insulting to allies. We can speculate on whatever possible policy objectives he may be chasing by this type of behavior—I happen to think it is part of his destructive leftist agenda for America—but there is now every indication that, on a purely personal level, the man simply gets off on being a bully.

[NOTE: The article also made me think of the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud, killed by suicide bombers two days before 9/11 in preparation for the terrorist attack on the US. They realized that America might retaliate against the Afghan government for harboring Osama bin Laden, and knew that the strong and popular anti-Taliban fighter Massoud would be the obvious choice to head a new government there in the aftermath. So they killed him. Current developments indicate how prescient the terrorists were, since Karzai hasn't the same sort of broad support and respect---although I have little doubt that, had Massoud lived and been the present leader of Afghanistan, Obama would probably have found a way to pick a fight with him as well.]


27 Responses to “Obama and Karzai: a foreign policy of schoolyard taunts”

  1. expat Says:

    Obama doesn’t like anyone who threatens his omnipotence.

  2. Steve G Says:

    Expat’s post should read “impotence”.

    This is how an expert practices statecraft.

    I am of the opinion that the USA must prevail in Afghanistan but that Obama, by demonstrating that he is weak and vacillating, is incapable of properly running this war. The question then is do we hold on in Afghanistan for three more years in the hope that a stronger president will be able to take charge and win or bring our troops home now. I suggest that we bring them home and deal with the backlash.

    Karzai is distancing himself as far and as fast as he can from Obama, in order to save his life. I don’t blame him. So, he’s a crook. So is Obama. It takes one to know one. There are bigger stakes here and Obama is showing himself incapable of dealing with (or even coming up with) any overall strategy, let alone managing the tactics on the ground.

    My prediction is that Karzai announces a treaty between Afghanistan and Iran within the next three days to three months and tells Obama to take our troops out of his country ASAP.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Karzai’s behavior is likely to be prompted by several factors;
    neo’s cited dislike of Karzai by Obama,

    Karzai’s recognition that Obama’s deadline for US military involvement means that Karzai’s ‘life support’ is going to be pulled and, he doesn’t relish becoming another South Vietnam with the inevitable reprisals that a resurgent Taliban would take against Karzai and, his family.

    Finally, there’s the highly significant recent ‘outing’ by the Obama administration of Karzai’s brother’s being on the CIA payroll for the last 8 years.

    That’s a death sentence for his brother and his brother’s family. Family is everything in Afghanistan.

    Obama used the NYT to do the outing; Karzai’s Brother On C.I.A. Payroll: NYT

    Outing Karzai’s brother is ‘an act of war’ against Karzai and his family. No wonder he’s pissed and starting to cover his bets. But the Taliban are not likely to forgive Karzai his sins and without US support he can’t survive, which is why he is so desperate to retain control of the Afghan elections. It’s literally a matter of life and death for him.

    Without Karzai however, it’s extremely unlikely that the US will be able to remain in country without being convincingly labeled by the Taliban as an illegitimate invader using a puppet government. Thus leading to the Afghan people increasingly rejecting the US presence.

    Which will, in turn lead to our retreating from Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban, who will claim to have ‘thrown out’ the ‘Great Satan’.

    That prestigious claim and the Taliban’s fanatical allegiance to their ’cause’ will result in a greatly increased likelihood that not only will the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan but will also overthrow the Pakistan government.

    Which will result in Al Qaeda getting their hands on nukes.

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    Your take, that Karzai may sign a treaty with Iran got me thinking. I agree that’s a possible alternative scenario. And that led me to consider a possible, even probable, long-term Iranian strategy. Take a look at a map of the Middle East; http://projectvisa.com/images/maps/middle_east.gif

    Specifically, the influence Iran would wield if Karzai signs a treaty with Iran (or if the Taliban take over Afghanistan/Pakistan) and Iran manages to manipulate Iraqi politics such that a ‘sympathetic’ regime was elected. Syria is already an ally of Iran and Syria effectively controls Lebanon. Turkey is moving toward the election and then imposition of a hard-line religious regime sympathetic to Iran.

    Result: Greater Iran. With allies from Lebanon up to Turkey and across to Pakistan. A swath across the M.E. that isolates the Saudi’s. An alliance that would dominate the M.E. especially as that alliance would consist of the only current nuclear Islamic countries.

  5. Steve G Says:

    One concern is that these countries have a long history of hate for each other and such a combination would need a very strong hand to hold it together. But, I agree. Isn’t this what Iran is working towards?
    And, Obama is outside on the steps playing jacks!!

  6. Occam's Beard Says:

    It’s official. We have a new worst President in American history. Jimmy Carter can go to his reward now – he’s off the hook.

    Emboldening our enemies (and yes, Virginia, we do have such, and can’t just hug it out with them) and dismaying and alienating our friends, making them look elsewhere for security – can’t go wrong with that strategy.

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Gen McChrystal attempted to repair relations with Karzai when he took command in Afghanistan. The Administration has completely undercut his effort.

    I hear of corruption in Afghanistan; I suppose that is a given. It is sort of like saying there is corruption in Chicago, or Washington. I hear that Karzai is a crook as though that is proven. I have never seen any specifics.

    As far as Karzai’s comments are concerned, there have been several perceptive posts here, and I have nothing really to add. In a tough, tough environment you do what you have to do to survive. Clearly, recent evidence has convinced him that depending on Obama led America is not good insurance.

    We must be very near the point at which no one will trust the U.S. as an ally.

    Gibbs make me sick to my stomach. Every time I see his smirky face I want to rearrange it.

  8. gs Says:

    …there is now every indication that, on a purely personal level, the man simply gets off on being a bully.

    You may have nailed it, nnc. Unfortunately, there’s a saying that underneath a typical bully there’s a coward.

    I agree with previous commenters that Obama is transforming a difficult situation into a cataclysmic one.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “these countries have a long history of hate for each other and such a combination would need a very strong hand to hold it together. “

    Perhaps but consider these facts; Iran has a long standing alliance with Syria, a ‘secular’ Bathist state. Syria effctively controls Lebanon. Iraq is 60-65% Shia.

    You yourself posited that Karzai might sign a treaty with Iran, making them essentially in alliance with Iran. Pakistan is 30% Shia, a significant minority.

    As for Turkey; Turkey Opposes Sanctions Against Iran

    The Taliban hate the US far more than they hate Iran. A case of; “Me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the other…”

    Perhaps once the Iranian’s have the status of being part of the nuclear club and that despite US opposition, holding the alliance together won’t be so hard after all, a case of mutual interests acting as the ‘glue’ needed…

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    Perhaps part of Barry’s problem is that outside of the U.S. racial guilting doesn’t work very well. (It semi-works in Europe; people will pay lip service to racial equality, but in practice don’t lift a finger, and in fact detest other Europeans, never mind other people of other races.)

    Asians in particular generally hold blacks in extremely low regard, and make no bones about it (which may have been a factor in Wen’s reaction to Obama at Copenhagen). Surprisingly, even the Africans I have known (granted all were Ph.D. scientists) have had low regard for African-Americans, considering them as disproportionately comprising clowns and buffoons. Playing the race card with these folks is a non-starter.

    No idea what Karzai’s or DinnerJacket’s views are on this, but confronting them with a black man is certainly not going to send them into full liberal grovel mode and make them take him seriously as of right to prove they’re not racist. They’ll draw their own conclusions as to whether he should be taken seriously.

    As indeed, they obviously have done.

  11. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Also worth noting; Turkey is moving into the Islamist camp and is now more pro-Iranian than pro-US. see today’s Rubin Report on this. Also Libya is releasing a bunch of Al-Qaeda.

    Yep things are changing from the evil George Bush days alright.

    Obama has been in office 14 months, anyone to guess what things will look like after 48 months?
    My mistake, 96 months, he is obliviously going to be re-elected, as the MSM notes, he is doing such a great job repairing the damage done by the previous administration.

  12. gs Says:

    BfV, my guess is he’ll take Hillary for veep and run on the race and the gender cards.

  13. expat Says:

    Here’s another bit of news from today. Putin and Tusk attended a memorial today for the Polish officers slaughtered by the Russians at Katyn. The Russians previously acknowledged the murders but denied that they were a war crime. I find it interesting that this (welcome) change came after Obama threw the Poles under his bus. I suspect Putin’s timing had more to do with gaining traction over the US than with recognizing Stalin’s legacy. Putin definitely has more dimensions on his chessboard than Obama can imagine.

  14. mikemcdaniel Says:

    Hmm. Considering what the Obama misadministration has told the public about what they’ve said to Karzai, one can only imagine what they actually said and how insulting they were in the process. Considering how insulting they are, routinely, to American citizens, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume that they were, how should we put it? Undiplomatic? Let’s also consider the nature of Afghan culture and Islamic culture and consider that such high handed behavior in that nation would be likely to set off a blood feud that would last for centuries, and Karzai’s behavior is hardly surprising.

    Let us also consider that Karzai knows that American support and aid has an expiration date, a date known to his enemies, and that he, like every other ally of the US has to understand that America can no longer be trusted, and Karzai’s behavior is even less surprising. Surely, no middle eastern leader sees Obama as a strong horse.

    Yes, Karzai has serious problems, but one does not chastise an ally in public, ever. This is the behavior of a petulant child, not a professional diplomat or the leader of the free world, unless of course, the leader of the free world is a petulant child.

    Is it not tragic that the assertion that the President of the United States is supporting our enemies and damaging our allies has become a cliche, a truism that is universally accepted as the status quo by rational people everywhere?

  15. Occam's Beard Says:

    Obama is the inverse Marine: no worse friend, no better enemy.

  16. expat Says:

    I just got this link from Hot Air: Newsweek is now reporting on Obama’s neglect of India and that Russia is starting to move to improve relations there.

    Next, we’ll be hearing complaints from the penguins in the Antarctic.

  17. expat Says:

    I forgot the link. Sorry.


  18. Steve G Says:

    I believe that India is primarily Hindu. Capiche?

  19. expat Says:

    Not to mention that the Indians really liked Bush.

  20. Mr. Frank Says:

    The list of allies that Obama has not snubbed, offended, dissed, or betrayed is getting very short.

  21. betsybounds Says:

    Well, what else on earth should anyone expect? I mean, if Obama is prepared to state clearly that we’re going to leave Karzai and Afghanistan to their own devices after a fixed (and short) interval, he should not be surprised to hear Karzai declare himself ready to join the Taliban. The Taliban do, after all, figure to control the leavings. It’s a simple matter of self-preservation: Any port in a storm. And if the U.S. leaves, it will for sure be a storm. And the Taliban will for sure be a port.

    Obama’s problem–well, at least part of his problem–is that he’s a lawyer (the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers). To say nothing of being the inverse Marine (Jarheads forever, oh yeah!).

    And that’s to say nothing of his own personal psychological problems.


  22. betsybounds Says:

    This might seem a bit over-analytical, but: I think Obama doesn’t view them (i.e.Israel, England, etc.) as the ally. He views us as the ally. He sees alliance as a one-way street. And he thinks they should, too. It’s more like submission than alliance (submission . . . isn’t that the transliteration of Islam?).

    That’s more than a little scary.

  23. Promethea Says:

    I remember when Karzai entered Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban. As I recall, he secretly went to various Afghan leaders to see if they would join him in revolt against the Taliban. I believe he went on horseback, though that may be too much misremembering.

    Anyway, he was a very brave man.

    Obambi could not begin to understand or recognize the bravery of this leader. Afghanistan is a complicated place, and our stupid President is too self-absorbed and too lazy to learn anything about it.

    I pray that somebody in our government is trying to do damage control. Are there no patriots left in the U.S. government? (Hillary Clinton–either you do something soon, or you will go down with the ship.)

    I’m going to a Tea Party on April 15, and I hope all of you are going to one too.

  24. Obama subsidies may induce Mama earn degrees | Ground Zero 2012 Says:

    [...] neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Obama and Karzai: a foreign policy of … [...]

  25. Steve G Says:

    Unbelievably, I got into a discussion with a partner in the firm who is very bright, very liberal and very Jewish. He is also very superior in his liberal outlook. At a firm meeting yesterday he mentioned something about my pessimistic views on the Obama administration and I interjected that, as far as I was concerned, Obama has not done anything right. Not one thing. So he throws back that he at least has more respect in the world than Bush. I held my tongue. That’s too large a divide to cross in what’s left of my lifetime.

    By the way, GB, I don’t believe that the Saudi’s will allow themselves to become isolated. Their antennae are more sensitive to ongoing trends in power shifting than just about any other country than Israel.

  26. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    Yes, we all know well that divide, sigh. For many people, clinging to their world-view supersedes any other consideration.

    The Saudi’s certainly are as aware as you state. And I agree that they will use every resource to avoid being isolated. I’m simply doubtful that there’s that much they can do to prevent it.

    Arguably, the dominoes are in place and balanced precariously. Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan all have either circumstance or endemic movements sympathetic to an alliance with Iran.

    I’m sure you’re aware of the radical Islamic dream of reestablishing the caliphate. Should the alliance I’ve suggested emerge, forming a ‘greater Iran’… it would compose about 70% of the smaller one of the prior caliphates.

    Jumping on that bandwagon would become a powerfully seductive idea for many other Muslim nations, perhaps an irresistible one.

  27. Steve G Says:

    Mr. Frank,
    I think we are left with (perhaps) one good ally — Haiti.

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