The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The World Is a Mess

For a time, I lived relatively close to then-Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman. I'd didn't know him personally and sometimes disagreed with him on policy issues, but I always admired his independent thinking. Lieberman was hated by Connecticut progressives for his strong advocacy for an aggressive posture against a variety of the world's bad actors. Like all politicians, Lieberman wasn't perfect, but he was reasonably genuine, surprisingly moderate, and a free thinker (particularly by today's standard when every Democrat seems to be cast in the Stepford wives mold).

Lieberman so infuriated Connecticut's Democrats that they nominated another to run in his place, only to have Lieberman run as an Independent and win!

In today's Wall Street Journal, Lieberman comments on the current state of our foreign policy (without mentioning that the foreign policy he's taking about is Barack Obama's). He writes that a nation should be loyal to its friends, and at the same time try to convince its foes to see thing differently, but never at the expense of its friends. He quotes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who recently said: "The world is a mess." He then states:
But it is at just such times when it is most important to get involved, to take sides, and make clear that we know who our friends and foes are—and that we will stand with our friends and against our foes. Over history that has proved to be an effective way for a superpower like the U.S. to clean up the "mess" of geopolitics and prevent regional conflicts from becoming wider wars.

Unfortunately, in recent years that has not been the foreign policy of the U.S. and our closest European partners in NATO. When other powers—Iran, Russia and China—have acted aggressively, we have reacted ambivalently, slowly or not at all. Too often we have sent a message of uncertainty to our allies and enemies, making the former more anxious and the latter more ambitious.

The conflict in Syria is a painful example. When the uprising against Bashar Assad began, it was dominated by patriotic Syrian freedom fighters who pleaded for our help. Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the Arab world urged us to provide arms to the rebels and offered to help. We laid back. Iran and Russia did not. They saw the larger importance of the Syrian conflict and poured in weapons and personnel to support Assad.

The result has been enormous loss of life, the "re-election" of Assad, and a big opportunity for Islamist extremists who now control large areas of Syria and Iraq that they have declared an Islamic caliphate from which they plan to attack America. The worst of that would likely have been avoided if we had supported our natural allies in Syria early on.

The disappointment and anxiety of our Arab allies and Israel have only grown as the P-5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran have gone forward in a way they believe gives too much to their foe, Iran, and listens too little to their counsel. In the clearly stated opinion of friends like the Saudis, we and the Europeans have been naïve and ineffective and, as a result, they have begun planning how to deal with a nuclear Iran. Those plans include obtaining their own nuclear weapons.

The actions of the U.S. in response to the current war between Israel, our closest ally in the region, and Hamas, a violent, extremist organization, have further divided us from our allies. The Obama administration has rightly supported Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas's missile and terrorist attacks, but the administration's recent efforts to broker a cease-fire sent an unsettling message. The White House seemed to be siding with Qatar and Turkey, supporters of Hamas, and against not just Israel, but also Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority, who don't want to see Hamas emerge stronger from the conflict. The U.S. succeeded in infuriating Israel, encouraging Hamas and Iran, and once again shaking the confidence of our friends.
The Obama administration is mired in a fantasy ideology that believes that hard men in places like Syria, Iran, China, Russia, and yes, Gaza, can somehow be frightened by words and words alone, by red-lines that are spoken, but never enforced with actions, or by continuous and meaningless gestures and sanctions that are laughably ineffective. Obama and his team of 2s allow "humanitarian concerns" to trump all other actions, and as a consequence, elevate a false moral equivalence when none exists. They either do not understand good from evil or are hesitant to define things in such stark terms.

Does this president truly believe that talking and more talking will somehow dissuade Iran from its headlong push for nuclear weapons? Does his still believe that his early indecisiveness and inaction in Syria was a "nuanced" move, rather than an unmitigated disaster? Does he currently think that his anti-Israel positions of late are best for our only friend in the region and will somehow cause a collection of barbaric Islamists to like and listen to us?

Madeleine Albright is absolutely correct—"the world is a mess." I wonder if Barack Obama understands why that is. Probably not.