Foreign Policy Mythology

 

In this instant age, even the very recent past is forgotten. This means that very recent history can also be rewritten. Witness President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s re-telling of their foreign policy story and the way “reporters” have embraced it. “Of course” they strongly support Israel. They have “always” maintained a “strong sanctions regime” against Iran. They have done “everything they [we] can” to help the Syrian people. The list goes on. Thus, we must start deconstructing foreign policy mythology. Let’s start with the assumption that this administration’s foreign policy is smart, caring and sophisticated – a myth easily dispelled with an honest look at the record.

Smart? Was it smart to alienate and abandon our allies while catering to potential enemies?

Recall that Obama, Clinton and Panetta: embraced a minimalist response to Iran’s nuclear program; sought a “reset” in relations with Russia by offering a reduction in our own nuclear arms before asking anything in return; devastatingly revoked plans to install missile defenses on Polish and Czech soil; provided a lavish and welcoming reception to Chinese leaders at the White House while giving a strangely cold and “unavailable” reception to the British upon their first visit;  unceremoniously “returned” the bust of Churchill which England had sent as a gift in a show of post-9/11 allegiance; chose Syria’s Assad as “peace intermediary” in the Middle East; made public, preemptive demands upon the Israelis while making no such demands upon the Palestinians; centered policy around “talking” with the world’s worst tyrants and offering them concessions in exchange for keeping their ruthlessness confined within their own borders; bowed to Hugo Chavez; and sent fawning letters to the “Supreme Leader” of Iran.

Caring? To the dismay of human rights groups and citizens stuck in repressive regimes, Clinton began her career as Secretary of State by indicating that she would not include human rights in her list of topics for discussion with the Iranian, Chinese, Syrian and North Korean governments.

Recall that this administration: turned a blind eye to Russian resurgence and oppression in Georgia, Chechnya and Ukraine; was silent in response to the cries of brave young Iranian protestors for help; has said nary a word for innocent Iranians languishing in notorious prisons or innocent North Koreans suffering in concentration camps; responded to every obstruction and hostile act of the totalitarian North Korean regime with more offers of concessions in exchange for its ever-elusive “cooperation;” focused on economic disagreements with China while ignoring the plight of Chinese democracy advocates; came very close to ignoring the bloodbath in Syria (and did ignore it at first). Nowhere is the lack of humanity more evident than in the Obama administration’s Syria policy – a policy so indifferent to human suffering and so counterproductive to Middle Eastern struggles for democracy that it can only be called abhorrent.

Sophisticated? The response to recent events in Libya makes clear this administration’s lack of foreign policy sophistication. But this too will soon be forgotten.

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  1. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Fantastic indictment.  

    And yet: is there any indication that the “caring” and “sophisticated” crowd have learned from these mistakes, or are the just going to double-down on bad policy?

    (I think I know the answer to this, by the way…)

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe
    Rob Long: Fantastic indictment.  

    And yet: is there any indication that the “caring” and “sophisticated” crowd have learned from these mistakes, or are the just going to double-down on bad policy?

    (I think I know the answer to this, by the way…) · 13 minutes ago

    If Obama is re-elected, as he told Medvedev, he wil have a freer hand. I shudder to think what he will do with that hand.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KeithRice

    It occurred to me that Leftist were in fact anti-American when I realized that their slogans were indistinguishable from USSR propaganda, and their preferred policies only served to make the US weaker.

    Is there anything about Obama’s foreign policy that is clearly distinct from an anti-US position (under the constraints of needing re-election)?

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DocJay

    Nice article.  Our short memories  work against Obama too.  Team Obama wanted his 47% video to be released about 2-3 weeks before the election but needed to do damage control related to Obama’s foreign policy failings recently.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrowsNest

    Paul Ryan agrees, and hopefully when Mitt speaks this week we will hear an indictment as searing and comprehensive as this, followed by a sober and clear-minded vision for American leadership in his administration. 

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Devereaux

    Ms Pierce – impressive.

    “Sophisticated? The response to recent events in Libya makes clear this administration’s lack of foreign policy sophistication. But this too will soon be forgotten.”

    ?What exactly leads you to believe they HAVE a foreign “policy”. I have a hard time understanding what “foreign policy” has been for some time now. Certainly nothing there that actually takes advantage of America’s strengths and puts the enemy in a box. 

    We can thank W for changing the default position from “balance” to “you are with us or against us” but that only lasted a short while. No serious repercussions for not listening. All Obama has done is do that in spades, so it’s small wonder that no one foreign is now listening.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @flownover
    Paul A. Rahe

    Rob Long: Fantastic indictment.  

    And yet: is there any indication that the “caring” and “sophisticated” crowd have learned from these mistakes, or are the just going to double-down on bad policy?

    (I think I know the answer to this, by the way…) · 13 minutes ago

    If Obama is re-elected, as he told Medvedev, he wil have a freer hand. I shudder to think what he will do with that hand. · 1 hour ago

    He will slip it into a handcuff , imprisoning Europe and sealing the fates of millions of former subjects of the old USSR .

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Thatcher
    @Percival

    The media still can’t bring themselves to see that the Administration is presenting positions that are 180 degrees from reality.  The Administration expresses a position, and that position becomes holy writ until the next position is expressed.  Then all that came before goes down the memory hole as if it never occurred.

    We have always been at war with Eurasia.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @JackRichman

    Sophisticated? No. Sophistry? Yes.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RawPrawn

    The spirit of John Stewart Service lives on in the State Department.

    Obama and Hillary live in the worlds of their imaginations. They are the stars of their own movies.  Inconvenient facts are simply ignored and they only listen to people who tell them what they want to hear.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AnneRPierce
    Highlama: It occurred to me that Leftist were in factanti-American when I realized that their slogans were indistinguishable from USSR propaganda, and their preferred policies only served to make the US weaker.

    Is there anything about Obama’s foreign policy that is clearly distinct from an anti-US position (under the constraints of needing re-election)? · 5 hours ago

    That’s a logical question,  given policy that doesn’t serve American interests or honor American-democratic traditions.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AnneRPierce
    Devereaux: Ms Pierce – impressive.

    “Sophisticated? The response to recent events in Libya makes clear this administration’s lack of foreign policy sophistication. But this too will soon be forgotten.”

    ?What exactly leads you to believe they HAVE a foreign “policy”. I have a hard time understanding what “foreign policy” has been for some time now. Certainly nothing there that actually takes advantage of America’s strengths and puts the enemy in a box. 

    We can thank W for changing the default position from “balance” to “you are with us or against us” but that only lasted a short while. No serious repercussions for not listening. All Obama has done is do that in spades, so it’s small wonder that no one foreign is now listening. · 4 hours ago

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AnneRPierce
    Anne Pierce, Guest Contributor

    Devereaux: Ms Pierce – impressive.

    “Sophisticated? The response to recent events in Libya makes clear this administration’s lack of foreign policy sophistication. But this too will soon be forgotten.”

    ?What exactly leads you to believe they HAVE a foreign “policy”. I have a hard time understanding what “foreign policy” has been for some time now. Certainly nothing there that actually takes advantage of America’s strengths and puts the enemy in a box. 

    We can thank W for changing the default position from “balance” to “you are with us or against us” but that only lasted a short while. No serious repercussions for not listening. All Obama has done is do that in spades, so it’s small wonder that no one foreign is now listening. · 4 hours ago

    0 minutes ago

    Agree with your question as to whether this administration even has a foreign “policy.”  It’s clear that Obama and Clinton don’t respect the American foreign policy tradition nor feel any obligation to find bearings in the American past.  “Change”  is what they’ve wrought and change is what we’ve got.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RichardFulmer

    Would the Left claim that Obama’s lack of a discernible foreign policy is a strength rather than a weakness given their claims to be pragmatic rather than ideological?  Presumably, the argument would be that a lack of a set policy gives the President flexibility to deal pragmatically with any particular world event by not tying him down to a formula-driven response.  

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @barbaralydick

    Excellent piece – and thank you for the summary.

    It’s been a long, tortuous road of idiotic positions since the Administration chose to back Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.  Was this a preview of things to come?  At the time*, many of us wondered what they possibly could be thinking by taking that position.  Little did we know.

    *As we used to jest about any sand-poundingly stupid action (h/t Jonah) at Westinghouse (Nuclear Energy Systems), “someone shoulda’ cordoned off the area and lobbed in a small nuclear device…”

    (Oh dear, and my name is on this post.  Can I call any of you guys to help bail me out??? – or at least make sure I have internet access to continue reading Ricochet)

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Contributor
    @DianeEllis

    My favorite novelist is Czech author Milan Kundera.  Your post called to mind his 1978 novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.  Here’s an excerpt:

    The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten..

    In times when history still moved slowly, events were few and far between and easily committed to memory.  They formed a commonly accepted backdrop for thrilling scenes of adventure in private life. Nowadays, history moves at a brisk clip….

    Since we can no longer assume any single historical event, no matter how recent, to be common knowledge, I must treat events dating back only a few years as if they were a thousand years old.

    Welcome to Ricochet, Ms. Pierce. And thank you for refreshing our memories on recent history, which too many have seemed to have already forgotten.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    @RichardFulmer

    Amazingly, “conservative” columnist David Brooks stated in his NY Times column that “Barack Obama has been a good foreign policy president.”  

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AnneRPierce
    Richard Fulmer: Would the Left claim that Obama’s lack of a discernible foreign policy is a strength rather than a weakness given their claims to be pragmatic rather than ideological?  Presumably, the argument would be that a lack of a set policy gives the President flexibility to deal pragmatically with any particular world event by not tying him down to a formula-driven response.   · 2 hours ago

    Yes, Obama and Clinton emphasized harmony and prosperity, and implied that we could have them if only we negotiated reasonably and stopped insulting others with our standards and values. Clinton announced that “smart power” would define the new foreign policy and explained that being smart required being willing to compromise with those we disagreed with. She downplayed ideas, ideals and ideology, seeing them as divisive, and emphasized the “common interests” of the international community instead. Obama and Clinton called for toning down our use of words and actions in support of democracy and individual rights, and for embracing diplomacy and outreach as the best tools for dealing with extreme regimes such as North Korea, Syria and Iran.  All of which is an obvious disaster for the people living there.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @AnneRPierce
    Diane Ellis, Ed.: My favorite novelist is Czech author Milan Kundera.  Your post called to mind his 1978 novel,The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.  Here’s an excerpt:

    The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten..

    In times when history still moved slowly, events were few and far between and easily committed to memory.  They formed a commonly accepted backdrop for thrilling scenes of adventure in private life. Nowadays, history moves at a brisk clip….

    Since we can no longer assume any single historical event, no matter how recent, to be common knowledge, I must treat events dating back only a few years as if they were a thousand years old.

    Welcome to Ricochet, Ms. Pierce. And thank you for refreshing our memories on recent history, which too many have seemed to have already forgotten. · 53 minutes ago

     I’ll definitely read that book; first hand accounts bring human rights “home.”

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FirstAmendment

    It is indeed “foreign” policy — foreign to anything our great country has experienced before.

    • #20

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