Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Please, Kick Us: More Amateur Hour in the State Department

 

Denise recently asked whether Obama has put a “kick me” sign on our backs. I have a few thoughts about this.

I recently interviewed Turkey’s former ambassador to the United States, Faruk Loğoğlu. He is appalled–like many in Turkey–by the soft-headedness of the Obama’ Administration’s diplomacy in this region. He finds Obama’s speeches about his personal warmth toward Islam ludicrous and inappropriate. “Obama can’t play the religious game,” he said. “He should be playing the security game. His policy toward Turkey is a bad imitation of the worst parts of Orientalism.”

It’s not merely the ideological color of the Obama Administration’s diplomacy that worries me, but its incompetence. I’ve lately been examining in very close detail the events that led to Turkey’s “No” vote on the Iran sanctions package in the UN. I’ll be writing about this elsewhere; and the details are too complicated to summarize here. But one thing leaps out: our incompetence. How could there have been any ambiguity–and obviously there was–in our communication with Turkey about our negotiating position on the nuclear fuel swap deal? How is it possible that Turkey was receiving critically different messages from the White House and the State Department on an issue as significant as the Iranian nuclear program, for God’s sake? It’s inconceivable, but on looking closely at the evidence, it is clear that this is just what happened.

When the State Department Spokesman sends a completely inappropriate birthday message to to Ahmadinejad via Twitter, it is, likewise, a symptom of utter amateurism. Apologists for this incident have suggested to me that this wasn’t such a big deal; it was sarcastic, they say, and it wasn’t a diplomatic note or official communiqué. I am guessing that had that Tweet said, “Tomorrow we bomb Iran into rubble,” the same people would have thought it quite a big deal indeed.

It is hugely significant when the tone coming out of the State Department is childish, inappropriate, and supine; it is fundamentally unserious to put such a message on Twitter; and it is beyond belief that anyone there would think “sarcasm” about this situation–we are talking about kidnapped US citizens who are being held hostage in Iran–conveys American resolve. Signaling counts. Signaling that you are damned serious does not start wars, it prevents them.

More amateurism: I’ve expressed my reservations about the supposedly surpassing moderation of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim here. Now I see reports that Clinton may be planning to meet with him on her Asian trip this week. As an appalled Chuck Devore correctly observes,

While Ibrahim enjoys the support of Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith calls him out as an anti-Semitic demagogue unworthy of meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State. Tellingly, when Ibrahim was recently in New York, shadowing a visit there by Prime Minister Najib Razak, he met with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT). Ibrahim was a co-founder of IIIT which listed the Malaysian politician as a trustee as recently as last year.

The problem is that IIIT is a Muslim Brotherhood front that has repeatedly been tied to terrorist network financing.

As Chuck DeVore also correctly writes, “Malaysia is no Myanmar and Ibrahim is no Aung San Suu Kyi.”

A meeting with the US Secretary of State is an important signal of legitimization. If you’re in any doubt of this, read the Malaysian press.

Any U.S. acknowledgment of the existence of the Pakatan would be a tremendous blow to the Malaysian ruling coalition. Its message should be taken very seriously by Najib and his Umno-BN. …

Although, there is no official appointment in Clinton’s calendar to formally meet the Pakatan trio, high-level sources tell Malaysia Chronicle that they are likely to be invited to a social function or a meeting that will also be attended by civil society groups.

The Obama administration has said it is keen to show support for democracy and civil society in its foreign policy.

Support for democracy and civil society? It’s not clear whether they said this in connection with this prospective meeting, but if so, the Pakatan trio? Meaning among them, Hadi Awang? Surely they jest. I repeat: Right now, Anwar is in an electoral alliance with the PAS, of which Hadi Awang is the president. It takes but three seconds on Google to establish the extent of this party’s commitment to democracy and civil society. They’re the ones who favor stoning for adulterers and amputations for thieves. Our Secretary of State has no business, none, conveying legitimacy on someone like this, his party, or anyone he’s in concert with–ever. No good could possibly come of it.

As for Anwar himself, do we seriously mean to suggest that we have no problem with him? If there should be any unified message coming from the United States, it should be this: Politicians who trade in anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism go straight to the diplomatic deep freeze. They shouldn’t even dream that we’ll lift a finger to boost them, politically.

I might look at things differently if we needed Anwar, if there was some point to this prospective meeting, if there were any conceivable gain or advantage that might accrue. But it’s quite the opposite. All it could do is convey the message, “We don’t pay attention to this stuff, so go right ahead, indulge yourself–we’ll still pop around for tea and cookies.”

Yes, meeting this group of clowns would be like walking around with a “kick me” sign on our foreheads. And it’s also just plain incompetent. Doesn’t anyone at State know how to use Google?

Apropos of all of this, there was an excellent article in Newsweek (yes, really) last week: Is it Islamic or Islamist? The authors are right; being able to tell the difference between the former and the latter is essential. I’m not sure anyone at the State Department is even trying.

More from this author:

BERLINSKI > Murkowski and Fagan: A Guide for the Perplexed

BERLINSKI > Moderate Muslim Watch: Notes From the Malaysian PR War

BERLINSKI > Sex Scandal–Moderate Muslim Watch Style!

There are 11 comments.

  1. Matthew Gilley Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: “His policy toward Turkey is a bad imitation of the worst parts of Orientalism.”

    Hardly surprising considering that Edward Said was one of his professors at Columbia, and an early mentor.

    • #1
    • November 1, 2010, at 4:44 AM PDT
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  2. TerryW Inactive

    “It’s not merely the ideological color of the Obama Administration’s diplomacy that worries me, but its incompetence.” Hmmm…let me see, you are surprised that a President, with no real world experience, and a Sec of State, with no real world experience are incompetent? Look at how well the Bush administration/Colin Powell delt with issues in Turkey in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in getting access for our troops to come down from the north…oh, wait a minute……

    • #2
    • November 1, 2010, at 6:41 AM PDT
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  3. Profile Photo Member
    Claire Claire Claire,What are you talking about?

    I distinctly remember hearing the Smartest Woman in the World explain that, “Cooperative engagement backed up by smart power will define Washington’s approach to the rest of the world.”

    She further stated that “Diplomacy will be the vanguard of Obama’s foreign policy, and that military force would be taken only as a last resort.” (That means Never)

    “One need only look to North Korea, Iran, the Middle East, and the Balkans to appreciate the absolute necessity of tough-minded, intelligent diplomacy — and the failures that result when that kind of diplomatic effort is absent,” she said in one of several implicit swipes at Bush’s record.

    “The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology.” (or the Belief that America should come first) “On facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice”

    Are you suggesting that we return to Cowboy Diplomacy?

    Or are you just suggesting that they take off the Rose Colored Glasses they seem to be wearing?

    • #3
    • November 1, 2010, at 8:42 AM PDT
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  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    Terry Whittington: “It’s not merely the ideological color of the Obama Administration’s diplomacy that worries me, but its incompetence.” Hmmm…let me see, you are surprised that a President, with no real world experience, and a Sec of State, with no real world experience are incompetent? Look at how well the Bush administration/Colin Powell delt with issues in Turkey in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in getting access for our troops to come down from the north…oh, wait a minute…… · Nov 1 at 6:41am

    One of the biggest lessons of the Obama Administration is how much experience counts.

    • #4
    • November 1, 2010, at 8:43 AM PDT
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  5. flownover Inactive

    We have had 60 plus years of Islamist coddling at State, culminating in a thick coat of slime from rolling in the gutter at the UN. Hideous relativism allows us to wink at the misogyny of their cult/religion.

    Our State Department is adrift. Obama parked Hillary there, in the handicapped ego space next to the door. She has no agenda other than self-promotion and he has no inkling of international relations past the Chomskyite tripe he digested in college. He knows that it gets smiles in his milieu when he says certain things.

    What he sees from his audience is misinterpreted by him as approval, but it’s just pleasing packaging to them.

    Lost opportunities were mostly military restraint. Withdraw from Europe, withdraw from Korea, withdraw from Iraq after first war. Imagine if we had actually pinned the Russians, Chinese down and then negotiated ? Imagine if we had captured Saddam in the first Gulf War ?

    International approval may have been lacking. But having Boutros Ghali and Kofi Annan look up from their bloody business to wag a finger shouldn’t slow down good works. Didn’t they pause at Ruanda to scold Israel for “apartheid “?

    • #5
    • November 1, 2010, at 9:27 AM PDT
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  6. Dave Roy Inactive

    This is an excellent post, Claire.

    It saddens me that we have such an unserious administration when it comes to foreign policy; an administration that thinks platitudes and “we love and respect Islam” statements mean a hill of beans to those who want to kill us.

    I hate being of a country (I’m not living there now, or I would say “in”) that’s being laughed at on the international stage.

    I think that’s extremely dangerous, especially when we have a President who goes on record saying we can “absorb” another 9/11. Yes, I know what he means, and he’s right, we can. But you don’t *say* that and be respected.

    It just makes me sad, and angry.

    • #6
    • November 1, 2010, at 11:37 AM PDT
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  7. John Marzan Inactive
    It’s not merely the ideological color of the Obama Administration’s diplomacy that worries me, but its incompetence. I’ve lately been examining in very close detail the events that led to Turkey’s “No” vote on the Iran sanctions package in the UN. I’ll be writing about this elsewhere; and the details are too complicated to summarize here.Turkey is not an innocent player in this. Along with Brazil, Turkey brokered an alternative agreement to UN sanctions that was very favorable to iran while the US was trying to get a consensus for new sanctions in the UN.And it was Turkey and Brazil–not China and Russia–that later voted NO on those UN sanctions.
    • #7
    • November 1, 2010, at 12:38 PM PDT
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  8. John Marzan Inactive

    Krauthammer wrote on May 21, 2010:

    It is perfectly obvious that Iran’s latest uranium maneuver, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, is a ruse. Iran retains more than enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. And it continues enriching at an accelerated pace and to a greater purity (20 percent). Which is why the French foreign ministry immediately declared that the trumpeted temporary shipping of some Iranian uranium to Turkey will do nothing to halt Iran’s nuclear p

    It will, however, make meaningful sanctions more difficult. America’s proposed Security Council resolution is already laughably weak — no blacklisting of Iran’s central bank, no sanctions against Iran’s oil and gas industry, no nonconsensual inspections on the high seas. Yet Turkey and Brazil — both current members of the Security Council — are so opposed to sanctions that they will not even discuss the resolution. And China will now have a new excuse to weaken it further.

    But the deeper meaning of the uranium-export stunt is the brazenness with which Brazil and Turkey gave cover to the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions and deliberately undermined U.S. efforts to curb Iran’s program

    • #8
    • November 1, 2010, at 12:44 PM PDT
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  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Trust me, John, I know. I know this story about as well as anyone who wasn’t actually sitting in the negotiations does; I know what happened almost to the minute. We definitely played a role in the debacle by not seeing what was happening and clearly signaling exactly where we stood on it. It’s a long story, and I’m writing about it–the piece will probably be out in December.

    • #9
    • November 1, 2010, at 12:59 PM PDT
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  10. Charles Mark Member
    Charles Mark Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    When Obama sucked up to Chavez he blew any personal credibility he might have had as a strong leader- the only question is whether his successor can preserve US credibility? On another note, if a terrorist is trying to smuggle a package of explosives from the Middle-East on a plane without being caught, surely the last place they would be addressed to is a synagogue? I keep thinking I’m missing something but I can’t figure out what?

    • #10
    • November 2, 2010, at 5:39 AM PDT
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  11. outstripp Inactive

    Amazingly, Obama is cosmopolitan without being sophisticated. His family background and upbringing are cosmopolitan, but but his worldview is painfully naive. Or perhaps worse. Have you seen John C. Drew’s testimony? We all said and believed crazy things in college, but the extent to which Obama has attempted to conceal these beliefs (and not reveal and joke about them), suggests that he may (still) have something to hide.

    • #11
    • November 2, 2010, at 9:10 AM PDT
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