Two Days: All the Evidence We Need that Obama Foreign Policy Approach is Wrong

There will likely be attention - across the political spectrum -  to today’s news regarding the Libya debacle. The topic is top of mind and the administration can run, but it can’t hide. Witness this report in the Huffington Post:  

The deadly September attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya was not precipitated by an anti-American protest, as had originally been reported, the State Department disclosed Tuesday night.  … This revelation stands in contrast to the story originally reported by the Obama administration and others, who claimed that a protest against the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims” outside the American consulate was co-opted by violent extremists.

But, let’s also focus on some other news from the last two days:

Civil War Leaves Syrian Economy, Cities in Ruins. 

In Syria’s cities and towns, entire blocks of apartment buildings have been shattered … centuries-old markets have been gutted by flames and gunfire …  many factories, oil pipelines, schools, hospitals, mosques and churches [that] have been systematically destroyed in nearly 19 months of violence. Aside from the human tragedy of the many lives lost in Syria’s civil war — activists estimate the death toll has now passed 32,000 killed — there is the staggering damage to the country’s infrastructure, economy and cultural treasures.  …  Experts warn that whenever the civil war ends, it will take a monumental international effort, and perhaps a generation of Syrians, to rebuild what has been broken. (AP)

How does the policy of downplaying the tragedy in Syria look now? Was it right to insist upon deferring to the UN Security Council, wherein the administration knew China and Russia would veto any meaningful action in response to some of the worst human rights atrocities and worst assaults on civilian neighborhoods the world has ever seen?

North Korea Says South, US Within Missile Range.

North Korea on Tuesday warned that the U.S. mainland is within range of its missiles, and said Washington’s recent agreement to let Seoul possess missiles capable of hitting all of the North shows the allies are plotting to invade the country. …. ‘We do not hide … the strategic rocket forces are keeping within the scope of strike not only the bases of the puppet forces and the U.S. imperialist aggression forces’ bases in the inviolable land of Korea but also Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland,’ the spokesman said. ….North Korean long-range rockets are believed to have a range of up to about 6,700 kilometers (4,160 miles), putting parts of Alaska within reach, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry. (AP)

How has the policy of “engagement” with the world’s most ruthless regimes and most brutal dictators fared? Did we get anywhere by offering them concessions in exchange for keeping their ruthlessness confined within their own borders? How did “talking” with the Kim dynasty about their nuclear program work out?

Al-Qaeda Making Comeback in Iraq, Officials Say:

Al Qaeda is rebuilding in Iraq and has set up training camps for insurgents in the nation’s western deserts as the extremist group seizes on regional instability and government security failures to regain strength, officials say.  …  During the war and its aftermath, U.S. forces, joined by allied Sunni groups and later by Iraqi counterterror forces, managed to beat back al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch. But now, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, the insurgent group has more than doubled in numbers from a year ago — from about 1,000 to 2,500 fighters. And it is carrying out an average of 140 attacks each week across Iraq, up from 75 attacks each week earlier this year, according to Pentagon data. (AP)

Let’s consider the history before we forget it: When Obama took office, U.S. and Iraqi forces were indeed managing to “beat back al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch.” Iran – which supplies the insurgency with terrorists, terror training and weapons – had suffered a setback when Maliki signed “The Status of Forces Agreement” with the U.S. This did not stop Obama from lambasting the “arrogance” of the U.S. position and reemphasizing that the war “never should’ve been waged.”

Analysts predicted that Iran would “exploit the power vacuum” as the U.S. withdrew. This did not stop Obama from announcing the withdrawal of U.S. forces in advance, thus allowing extremists to mobilize while they laid in wait.  Nor did it stop him from stressing the finality and totality of our withdrawal when he announced the end of combat operations in August, 2010.

Regardless of where one stands on the Iraq War, this was not wise. In an excellent piece in Foreign Affairs, Michael Scott Doran noted that Iran’s geopolitical and ideological “grand strategy” is to wear the United States down. “The shadow war in Iraq was thus a prelude to an impending regional contest. …. Over the years, Iran has injected itself into the Arab-Israeli conflict as a way of projecting its power and influence into Arab societies and, importantly, as a way of undermining American prestige.”  And, Iran has “injected itself” into Egypt, Syria and Somalia.

Iran and its proxies are eager to hijack the Arab Spring. The United States, on the other hand, currently lacks eagerness for its strategic alliances and its democratic principles. In the words of Doran, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas bear a “ruthlessness and intensity of focus that the United States  – a distracted Gulliver – cannot match.” 

***The Associated Press deserves credit for reporting on these stories.

  1. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Thank you jetstream and ConservativeWanderer.  It’s fun being part of the Ricochetti – a caring, intelligent, witty  group – sure to keep me on my toes!

  2. DocJay

    The world is unraveling in so many places and these disasters will seem like the salad days if Obama is voted in again.   

    It’s nice that AP covers actual stories, that’s almost like journalism.  

  3. flownover

    You want some more bad ? You  have room ?

    Check out Sudan. Obama/Clinton dithering is creating yet another genocide feather in a Clinton cap . That and a loss of influence, massive starvation, instability for the new government of South Sudan , and more of the same from Bashir.

    Sudan has three wars going at once.

    2 things on the Arab Spring / No Nuke screwup.

    They really, really want to send Egypt a big check, must be some of that headed back here somehow. And Valerie Jarrett is not going to let her native country down ( born in Iran).

  4. liberal jim

    The status of forces agreement was negotiated by no other than the great leader GWB.  It was his way of retreating from a country he should have never invaded.  Before GWB we had a million Christians in Iraq and no Al Qaeda   Now we have no Christians and plenty of Al Qaeda.    Sorry blaming Iraq on Obama won’t fly.  He got out to bad he did not have the guts to do the same in Afghanistan.     

  5. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    liberal jim: The status of forces agreement was negotiated by no other than the great leader GWB.  It was his way of retreating from a country he should have never invaded.  Before GWB we had a million Christians in Iraq and no Al Qaeda   Now we have no Christians and plenty of Al Qaeda.    Sorry blaming Iraq on Obama won’t fly.  He got out to bad he did not have the guts to do the same in Afghanistan.      · 2 minutes ag

    I’m not “blaming Iraq on Obama” but rather pointing out what most have forgotten – the way Obama constantly drew attention to his country’s own failures and his unjudicious way of dealing with the situation.

  6. DocJay

    Islam is a cancer.  Avoid it if possible but if it’s there then kill it and all the surrounding tissue.

    liberal jim: The status of forces agreement was negotiated by no other than the great leader GWB.  It was his way of retreating from a country he should have never invaded.  Before GWB we had a million Christians in Iraq and no Al Qaeda   Now we have no Christians and plenty of Al Qaeda.    Sorry blaming Iraq on Obama won’t fly.  He got out to bad he did not have the guts to do the same in Afghanistan.      · 8 minutes ago

    Obama did not negotiate effectively regarding the withdrawal and effectively doomed Iraq to becoming an Iranian puppet.  

    We should never have been there is correct, but only in hindsight.

  7. ConservativeWanderer
    liberal jim: The status of forces agreement was negotiated by no other than the great leader GWB.  It was his way of retreating from a country he should have never invaded.  Before GWB we had a million Christians in Iraq and no Al Qaeda   Now we have no Christians and plenty of Al Qaeda.    Sorry blaming Iraq on Obama won’t fly.  He got out to bad he did not have the guts to do the same in Afghanistan.      · 17 minutes ago

    Blame Bush!

    Blame Bush!

    Blame Boooooooooooosh!

    It gets repetitive, Jim.

  8. ConservativeWanderer
    Anne R. Pierce: Thank you jetstream and ConservativeWanderer.  It’s fun being part of the Ricochetti – a caring, intelligent, witty  group – sure to keep me on my toes! · 1 hour ago

    Now that you’re officially a permanent part, you need to wander the Member Feed and comment on some of the threads there… both serious and silly. I’m sure all the Members would love to have you in their threads. :)

  9. FirstAmendment

    I note that the current administration line is “we saved GM and killed Bin Laden.” If the latter is their summary of their foreign policy results, we are in big trouble. How inconvenient to them that al Qaeda is on the rebound, hence the lame (and now clearly bogus) attempt to blame Libya on “the movie”. Excellent post, Anne, vividly describing where things really stand.

  10. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    ConservativeWanderer

    Anne R. Pierce: Thank you jetstream and ConservativeWanderer.  It’s fun being part of the Ricochetti – a caring, intelligent, witty  group – sure to keep me on my toes! · 1 hour ago

    Now that you’re officially a permanent part, you need to wander the Member Feed and comment on some of the threads there… both serious and silly. I’m sure all the Members would love to have you in their threads. :) · 4 minutes ago

    Will do! Thanks.

  11. James Of England
    liberal jim: The status of forces agreement was negotiated by no other than the great leader GWB……  Before GWB we had a million Christians in Iraq and no Al Qaeda   Now we have no Christians and plenty of Al Qaeda……

    I’m not sure if you recall the circumstances of the state of forces agreement’s signing. Do you believe that under a President McCain, or a third Bush term, Iraq would have been abandoned in the same kind of way?

    There are still Christians in Iraq, including Christians I lived and worked with. Both those I knew who have left Iraq (mostly for Amsterdam or Jordan) and those who stayed are happier than they have ever been, although it is true that the future remains uncertain.

    There were AQ in Iraq before the invasion, mostly in parts of Iraq where Saddam’s writ did not run. It is true that the Saudi AQ were then mostly in Saudi Arabia, where they were making headway against the Saudi government in a struggle that, distracted by Iraq, they went on to lose. I’m not sure that sucking them out of an arena they were effective in for Anbar was unfortunate.

  12. James Of England
    ConservativeWanderer

    jetstream: Anne, noticed that the subtitle “guest contibutor” has been removed, great news, I’ve very much enjoyed your posts, thanks for staying. · 3 minutes ago

    Indeed!

    Welcome to the ranks of the permanent Ricochetti, Anne! · 5 hours ago

    Amen.

  13. jetstream

    Anne, noticed that the subtitle “guest contibutor” has been removed, great news, I’ve very much enjoyed your posts, thanks for staying.

  14. ConservativeWanderer
    jetstream: Anne, noticed that the subtitle “guest contibutor” has been removed, great news, I’ve very much enjoyed your posts, thanks for staying. · 3 minutes ago

    Indeed!

    Welcome to the ranks of the permanent Ricochetti, Anne!

  15. Chris Johnson

    As with most of government, this is about waste.  In this case, the waste of lives and careers.  Too many have given too much to quixotic policy objectives.  And that includes the locals in our arenas of foreign policy adventurism that are now left holding the bags, while we debate which political party will abandon the next adventure.

    It is difficult to imagine a future where allies can rely upon the United States, a place where we admit amongst ourselves that foreign policy is fungible and where there is no long term national vision.  We have no values that soldiers and diplomats can rely upon as a bedrock for future relationships.  Our representatives overseas cannot look people in the eye.