June 25th, 2014

The disaster that is Obama’s foreign policy

Be afraid. Be very afraid (from Walter Russell Mead):

A group [ISIS] more radical than al-Qaeda, better organized, better financed, commanding the loyalty of thousands of dedicated fanatics including many with Western and even U.S. passports? And this group now controls some of the most strategic territory at the heart of the Middle East?

Welcome to President Obama’s brave new world. After six years in office pursuing strategies he believed would tame the terror threat and doing his best to reassure the American people that the terror situation was under control, with the “remnants” of al-Qaeda skittering into the shadows like roaches when the exterminator arrives, Obama now confronts the most powerful and hostile jihadi movement of modern times, a movement that dances on the graveyard of his hopes.

Please read the whole thing.

As I wrote yesterday:

Some will say “Let them kill each other; it was bound to happen.” I say this was not inevitable at all, and an ounce of prevention would have been worth a megaton of a cure that won’t be provided anyway…

What’s more, ISIS has designs on us. Make no mistake about it. And [victory in Iraq] empowers them greatly in terms of money, support, arms, people, and territory.

Now connect up Mead’s essay with this article by Michael Totten, featuring an interview with Lee Smith about Smith’s recent book The Consequences of Syria. Here’s Smith:

My essay is an account of the Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired on unarmed opposition members, the uprising eventually became a rebellion as the opposition took up arms, and the conflict escalated into a full-scale civil war. That’s one aspect of the book.

The other part of the book concerns the Obama administration’s Syria policy, which has been one of neglect and mendacity. The administration has repeatedly misled the American public, the American media, and allies around the world about its intentions…

As I explain in The Consequences of Syria, there’s evidence suggesting that the administration feared that helping topple Assad, an ally of Iran, might have angered the Iranians and pushed them away from the negotiating table, and getting a deal with Iran was the White House’s chief goal in the Middle East…

It’s hard not to conclude that the administration’s Syria policy is a sub-set of its Iran policy. Many people were baffled for a long time, including me, that the president didn’t seem to see Syria strategically, as a way to weaken Iran. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis said that toppling Bashar al-Assad would constitute the most severe blow against the Iranian regime in 25 years. A number of administration officials seemed to recognize the same thing—from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and ex-CIA director David Petraeus. Only the president seemed to not recognize that or to see Syria in a strategic framework. What we now realize is that the president does see Syria in a strategic framework. He sees that the Syrian regime is an important ally of the Iranians and doesn’t want to be seen toppling the regime for fear of angering the Iranians…

What we’re seeing instead is a United States in retreat in the Middle East. So I don’t see what the accommodation would look like. It’s not a grand bargain with Iran, but an American fire sale, with the US virtually giving away its assets. The US is retreating from the region and leaving it in Iranian hands…

When people worry that Sunni Islamists want to create a caliphate in the Middle East they seem to forget that we already have a clerical regime in Iran. What they’re afraid might happen has already happened. And the concern coming out of Tehran isn’t sharia, but the fact that a nuclear weapons program in the hands of an expansionist regime gives them a dangerous say in the flow of energy resources through the Persian Gulf. They don’t have to actually use a bomb to destabilize the region and raise the price of energy around the world. That’s the danger—that Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf will affect how Americans, and our trading partners, live.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is an already-existing Islamist power, with an army, a navy, an air force, a ballistic missile program, a nuclear weapons program. They have a diplomatic corps as well as a terrorist apparatus. Al Qaeda doesn’t have any of that. Iran is the key strategic threat in the Middle East for American interests and American allies…

These are the consequences of Syria. Iranian expansionism. Destabilization of the region though transfers of population. And a test case for American power.

The administration has failed that test. Our friends are confused, angry, and perhaps destabilized while our enemies are emboldened and strengthened.

The Mead essay focuses on the rise of ISIS and the dangers it presents to us. The Smith essay does the same for Iran. Trouble us, they’re both right: both entities are getting stronger and both are very dangerous to us and the world.

If either of them win we’re in big, big trouble. But isn’t it inevitable that one will win? People who say “stay out of it” think somehow they’ll destroy each other. But I can’t offhand think of a war where that has happened. Ordinarily there are winners and losers. It seems that, whatever happens in the Middle East as a result of all this, we are the losers.

And it was a self-inflicted wound.

31 Responses to “The disaster that is Obama’s foreign policy”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    “It seems that, whatever happens in the Middle East as a result of all this, we are the losers.”

    Yup, and as long as we cannot find the will to kill these people wholesale that we will continue to be losers.

    “I can’t offhand think of a war where….” to end it you had to make it too terrible for your enemies to wage. Not recently.

  2. rickl Says:

    After six years in office pursuing strategies he believed would tame the terror threat

    Obama didn’t believe any such thing.

  3. Sharon W Says:

    Engaging the “War on Terror” on their turf was a strategy. The Left that constitutes the voters that gave us Obama et.al. is made up of a block of people that have no clue what a real threat is. Further it is made up of those that think you deal with one with lawsuits and courts and others that are just plain ignorant (or stupid.)

  4. Sharon W Says:

    Amazingly stupid when people would opine, “War for oil” as though that were some sort of sin. More than 50% of the world’s oil (yes, world’s) flows through the Persian Gulf and has been protected by our 5th fleet. These fools seem clueless that if the truck doesn’t deliver groceries (etc., etc., etc.) to our local area–life as we know it is altered. Between this and the threats to our electric grid, we are plenty vulnerable.

  5. George Pal Says:

    “Ordinarily there are winners and losers. It seems that, whatever happens in the Middle East as a result of all this, we are the losers.”

    How, under what circumstances, could we ever be anything but the losers – excepting an intercessory Providence raining down fire and brimstone on the Islamic Middle East? We will not call Islam for what it is: religious pretense for the purpose of legitimacy; and a destructive, reprobate, retrograde death cult about which the only complimentary thing that could be said of it is it is more sophisticated than the Thugee cults.

    If you will not acknowledge the essence and the degree of what you are up against how can you ever win?

    Geopolitical segregation would be a start. Remove all foreign muslims from the country and the entire West, as worshippers/believers of all that is antithetical to Western principles. Expel all OIC member countries from the UN for inveterately violating the UN’s own charter of Human rights. Stop all interfaith dialogues – they only legitimize the devil as a good faith participant. Limit trade participation, limit international flights (of national airlines). A half decade of such will have the Salafists, Wahabis, Sunnis, and Shiite fighting each other with ten-rupee jezails (Kipling, again, Arithmetic On The Frontier – apparently we’ll never learn that lesson). Whatever could be done will not be simply because it would strain the narrative and indict the narrators as either unimaginably stupid, or remarkably treacherous – so much for the blessings of democracy.

  6. Ann Says:

    Everything seems to be falling into place for a terrorist strike here — Federal judge rules U.S. no-fly list violates Constitution

  7. J.J. Says:

    What has happened was not according to Obama’s plan. That is, whatever passes for his plan. A set of utopian beliefs, (all provably wrong by the way) held by most progs has led him to this pass. To mention a few: We must always negotiate! We must always be humble. We must recognize that their culture is as valid as ours. We must not be too belligerent or look too scary. Etc. Knowing history and human nature would have let them arrive at different conclusions and plans. But they don’t know those things – they’re too busy trying to rewrite and change them. Their chickens are coming home to roost.

  8. Ann Says:

    Didn’t Walter Russell Mead vote for Obama in 2008? Wonder if he ever wakes up in a cold sweat remembering that.

  9. parker Says:

    As others have noted, we refuse to to aknowledge who the enemy really is and lack the will to do what it takes to crush them. The shia and the sunnis are going to face off in a holy war that could go nuclear sooner than many may think and that would turn everything upside down.

    Meanwhile ISIL is certainly capable of carrying out attacks on Americans both here and abroad. Thank you messiah for all you’ve done for the jihadists.

  10. Gringo Says:

    All very predictable from Obama’s autobiography. Recall that when in college he “sought out..Marxist professors” in order to not be considered a “sellout.” Also recall that Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan the December of Obama’s freshman year. Anyone who, in light of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, still “sought out…Marxist professors” was a pretty hard-core leftist.

  11. Lee Says:

    Oh, wait! Didn’t the One speak his magickal words and fix the entire problem?


  12. artfldgr Says:

    Al-Qaeda is a global militant Islamist and takfiri organization founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several other militants

    Is to this:
    A group [ISIS] more radical than al-Qaeda

    The way that

    Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a student activist movement in the United States that was one of the main representations of the New Left. The organization developed and expanded rapidly in the mid-1960s before dissolving at its last convention in 1969. SDS developed from the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID), the youth branch of a socialist educational organization known as the League for Industrial Democracy (LID). LID descended from the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, started in 1905.

    Is to this:
    The Weather Underground Organization (WUO), commonly known as the Weather Underground, was an American radical left organization. Originally called Weatherman, the group became known colloquially as the Weathermen. Weatherman organized in 1969 as a faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Their goal was to create a clandestine revolutionary party for the overthrow of the U.S. government. The Weathermen grew out of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction of SDS. In 1970, the group issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government, under the name “Weather Underground Organization”.

    they would set off around 25 bombs…

    the point to ISIS is to legitimize the other organization who can then take a moderate position, and declare that they are contrite and part of the system. the only way to appear cleaner is by standing next to something dirtier.

    the concept will be something like the militant leaders are dead, the people that remain want to work together and have a place at the table and are willing to forgo the violence as ISIS allowed them to see themselves and the futility of that path. they may even help the different administrations do something about ISIS and so earn better regard.

  13. Matt_SE Says:

    Things may be very different in 2.5 years, but the next administration may be able to get another coalition going.
    All bordering states are in danger from ISIS. They should converge from all sides and wipe ISIS out.
    I think it would be in their best interests to do so, and one may be forgiven for thinking it shouldn’t be that difficult to persuade them.

  14. Eric Says:

    Sharon W: “Engaging the “War on Terror” on their turf was a strategy.”

    More than that, geopolitically and culturally central post-Saddam Iraq could and should have “played a key role in the region” (Obama) as a US partner, as described on the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq website:

    After a long and difficult conflict, we now have the opportunity to see Iraq emerge as a strategic partner in a tumultuous region. A sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq that can act as a force for moderation is profoundly in the national security interests of the United States and will ensure that Iraq can realize its full potential as a democratic society.

    Post-Saddam Iraq was the key to winning the War on Terror. Was.

  15. Eric Says:

    Neo: “If either of them win we’re in big, big trouble. But isn’t it inevitable that one will win? People who say “stay out of it” think somehow they’ll destroy each other. But I can’t offhand think of a war where that has happened. Ordinarily there are winners and losers. It seems that, whatever happens in the Middle East as a result of all this, we are the losers.”

    Agreed. That logic didn’t work when applied to Saddam v Iran and it’s even worse for ISIS v Iran.


    Q: Why not remove the Iraq enforcement and free Saddam?

    A: See Saddam’s history from 1980 onward.

    Dealing cautiously with unsavory competitors that are rational actors is normal for the US. However, Saddam proved to be an irrational actor with dangerously poor judgement. The US simply could not trust Saddam with any less than full compliance on all obligations, weapons and non-weapons related, especially after 9/11.

    Freeing a noncompliant Saddam was out of the question. The Duelfer Report confirms that Saddam was not rehabilitated.

    IR realists like to claim US interests, including regional stability, were better served with Saddam countering Iran. I think they’re stuck in 1980 with our ally, the Shah, only just replaced by our enemy, the Ayatollah, and Baathist Iraq, led by then-new President Saddam Hussein, thought to be the lesser of 2 evils. IR liberals understand that by the time of the Bush administration (either one works), the Iran-Iraq conflict was a source of the region’s problems, not a stabilizer. The faulty premise of IR realists is Saddam could be trusted, yet Saddam acting out of control, destabilizing, and against US interests is the reason for the US intervention with Iraq in the first place. They’re effectively proposing an unreconstructed Hitler should have been propped up in Germany in order to serve as a regional counter to the Soviet Union. Hitler + USSR = the worst of World War 2, not peace in our time. The IR realist belief that after 9/11 we should have trusted and empowered a noncompliant Saddam to deal with Iran on our behalf is madness.

    The fact is that Saddam was given opportunities throughout the Iraq enforcement to rehabilitate and stay in power, yet did not. The Duelfer Report describes Saddam growing increasingly irrational in his thinking even as he consolidated power and reconstituted his WMD capabilities. Saddam was convinced Iraq needed WMD in order to counter Iran as well as Iraq’s other enemies. Iran’s WMD development is bad enough by itself. An irrational Saddam with dangerously poor judgement spurring an urgent Iran-Iraq WMD arms race was neither the way for the US to counter Iran nor a formula for regional stability.

  16. Eric Says:

    Add: Rather than “somehow they’ll destroy each other”, I think some people (ie, IR realists) are stuck on a narrow, simplistic notion of a US v USSR ‘cold war’ counterbalancing as though that’s a natural and naturally stable geopolitical state.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    It’s like an engineered catastrophe.

  18. NeoConScum Says:

    R.I.P. Dr. Fouad Ajami.

    Driving to work this a.m. and listening to Bill Bennett on the radio and he said that Dr.Ajami had passed. A Great Historian of the Middle East and longtime scholar at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Studies and more recently at the Hoover Institution.

    This news really breaks my old neocon heart.

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    Eric, a lot of people can’t do basic population growth math. They’ve never seen the simulation models. They think that terrorists can be wiped out by killing them using Democrat methods, and that they will soon not be able to recuperate their losses.

    That’s like thinking Dems will run out of slave fodder for elections and social justice. They don’t run out, because if they ever did run out of cannonfodder, they would raid for foreign women and sell them as new mothers, to boost their population growth, and thus regenerate their crude terror tactics.

    Westerners have this idea that wars, like WWI and WWII and nuclear wars in the ME, would actually wipe out people’s will to fight. Since that’s what happened in Europe during such conflict states.

  20. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Funny in a way, all this effort to get out of the Middle East and we will almost certainly get in under worse conditions in bigger way than we ever had before.

    Dr. Ajami’s death is great and tragic loss.

  21. southpaw Says:

    Neo says:”They don’t have to actually use a bomb to destabilize the region and raise the price of energy around the world. That’s the danger—that Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf will affect how Americans, and our trading partners, live”

    You’re forgetting that BO HAS planned for this. Let’s not forget he’s an expert in energy policy – not to mention every other topic in human history.. Solar panels, wind farms, algae, biofuels, coconut oil, cow farts, bicycles, hamster wheels, and over inflated tires are more than sufficient to fill the energy nerds of mankind. it’s not his fault if nobody listens to his advice. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

  22. Phil D Says:

    “And it was a self-inflicted wound.”

    The time the self inflicted wound was “inflicted” was in the sixties and the “West” has been on a suicide course since.
    Islam is just profiting.

  23. colagirl Says:

    ICYMI, Mead has another depressing interview up wtih Robert Kagan:


    They discuss Russia and China as well.

  24. neo-neocon Says:


    That’s not me talking. That’s a quote from the interview Michael Totten did with Lee Smith. It’s long, but the whole thing is indented.

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    The Left is contemptuous of costs because they don’t believe it matters. With the certainty of those who are devoted to magic, like those who burned the library of Alexandria, costs don’t matter because the government will pay for it. Like barbarians they don’t really see the connection between Truth — or God if you prefer — and consequences. Goodies are simply there. Arithmetic is only useful for convincing people, for making the spell work. Peace comes if you want it hard enough. Healthcare can be made universal by spending Other People’s Money. Science is but a persuasive device, but it’s the wanting, it’s the will that makes things happen. How simple can it be? The Republicans are denying poor people medical care because the states won’t expand Medicaid. Medicaid is subsidized, don’t you see? It’s just free government money.

  26. Sergey Says:

    As I remember from my history courses, in 30-year long war in 17th century Germany where protestants and catholics killed each others just like sunni and shia do now in Iraq, the whole population of Germany was halved.

  27. Artfldgr Says:

    Recently a book about Hillary illustrated the power of magic even more forcefully. It claimed on the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate the president told Hillary to say the attack was caused by a video produced in LA.
    She had no doubt that a terrorist attack had been launched against America on the anniversary of 9/11. However, when Hillary picked up the phone and heard Obama’s voice, she learned the president had other ideas in mind. With less than two months before Election Day, he was still boasting that he had al Qaeda on the run.
    If the truth about Benghazi became known, it would blow that argument out of the water.
    “Hillary was stunned when she heard the president talk about the Benghazi attack,” one of her top legal advisers said in an interview. “Obama wanted her to say that the attack had been a spontaneous demonstration triggered by an obscure video on the Internet that demeaned the Prophet Mohammed.”
    That would make it a non-terrorist attack because the Secretary of State said so. If this account is accurate, it corroborates the administration’s tendency to view al-Qaeda in terms of magic. The Telegraph says the Kurds repeatedly warned Washington of the impending disaster. “I have completely lost hope in America after listening to President Barack Obama,” the head of Kurdish intelligence, Lahur Talabani, said. But they were just facts, and facts are trumped by narrative.
    How could Obama admit to error, when having built his power on sorcery he must now cling to infallibility? The power of magicians to command the weather is destroyed once the magician is exposed as fake. For a sorcerer a mistake is not mere error but catastrophe. So the idea that reality can be trumped by perception is now the ultimate in modern sophistication, a necessary device to support the world of magic. In actuality this viewpoint is a reversion to the mentality of the cave-man, a return to the days when nature was an incomprehensible mystery to pacified by a witch-doctor.

    -sword and sorcery

    the issue is that socialists are people who dont see a real world but a cartoon world in which they have little understanding of how things work, but lots of ideas based on the surface view

    they are the kid that criticizes dad for driving to slow an not good, but then steals the car, cant drive, and puts it in alake. because cargo cultist ideas are not real

    this is how the whole administration behaves and why its so paranoid.

    its the old old communist paranoia that inside the “first order principals” that they cant see is a trick.

    that barbarians have no need to understand how to make an ak47, they only need the ak47 to use its magic to kill.

    this is why they follow an ideology
    why the herd is a parade of self copying idiots…
    why they are abysman, and believe taxes dont harm bsiness. because the more they tax nothing happens to the surface of what they see… so they think it can infinitely tax. the selling of things from the state being free is just appealing to a cargo cult mentality that cant imagine the whole chain of things that go into the reality of it.

    havent you people ever wonderd what a persons mind is like if they have no facts or principals of understanding?

    the left may rail against intelligent people who worship as that to them, makes them, on the surface as crazy. but they wont dig deeper as theology is complicatedc and itsd easier to have a cargo cult mentality about it.

    look, there are saints, so the catholics must be coopying their pagan roots and worshiping not only god and jesus and the holy spirit (if they remember that last one exists at all).

    what they dont understand is the difference between VENERATION and WORSHIP.

    what they dont get is that the persion in the church beleieves that god and jesus and the spirit is all about and that when you accept them into you, your self changes… so they do not worship the saints, but venerate the saints as people who illustrate the change that is from accepting. ie. chirist is in them, and we know it, so we celebrate christ in man.

    everything is cargo cult as the majority of people do not know much about how things work. they see a lighswtich, and its wonderful magic to them…
    but if the switch breaks, they cant understand why they cant make the magic work, and they have to pay a magician so much to fix it!!!

    the prison created by surface stuff is insidious in that they see the difference between their lack of competnecy, and the others compentency as they are more manipulative or better at the fakig it than they are. they cant imagine that substance is real (or reality is real) (or that the church is what revealed a reality to them), and so, they claim that these winners are cheaters


    because if there is no substance (we must be equal) and if we are qual and there is no substanvec then the other perosn has nothing special we dont have and so the only thing they muist have is more people who can trick others for them, and we have less. they have more money, etc.

    not that they have first prinicpals that allow them to do things like build a nuclear weapon… which the cargo cultist barbarians cant do… or even conceptualize

    to them the ricore of science is just anotehr pentagram on the floor and goofing the peoplewatching.

    when they stand up to take power they make high falluting claims and such cause they believe with the station and title comes the magic wand.

    make is so is how the captain of the enterprise got thingsdone… stalin just gave orders… etc

  28. Artfldgr Says:

    “Wonks” who spin messages, destroy data and actually believe that paper printed at the Federal reserve is valuable can also believe that a ‘speech is a substitute for strategy’. They may regard themselves as modern men, yet their modernity is only a trapping. They are like the teenager who remarked, as someone wrote, on observing the Statue of Liberty, that the green lady statue was clutching an iPad in her left hand. Today we don’t even care what Lady Liberty stands for, or what law is inscribed in the tabula ansata; that is a hundred year old trivia question nobody knows the answer to any more. The really significant question is: does Lady Liberty’s iPad have a Retina display and where can I get one at a government subsidy? -Sword and Sorcery

  29. Artfldgr Says:

    For those who dont know its the date of liberty…

  30. neo-neocon Says:


    I absolutely agree that cargo cult thinking has become dominant, and that it’s the guiding principle of this administration.

    Obama’s entire career seems to be based on cargo cult. But he wouldn’t have had that career if the voters didn’t think that way, too.

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    By disease, not war.

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