American Elephants


Thinking About U.S. Foreign Policy Or — Not Thinking. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Greenfield wrote a few days ago:

It was the fall of ’38 and the motion was submitted to approve “the policy of His Majesty’s Government by which war was averted in the recent crisis and supports their efforts to secure a lasting peace.”

The policy being referred to was the Munich Agreement which carved up Czechoslovakia and the war being averted was World War II which would come shortly anyway. Of the hope that war would be averted through appeasement, Winston Churchill said, “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.”

Echoing that old Munich motion, the pro-Iran left is calling the nuclear deal that lets Iran keep its nukes and its targets their Geiger counters, Obama’s “achievement”. Any Democrat who challenges it is accused of obstructing the only foreign affairs achievement their figurehead can claim.

Victor Davis Hanson offered his view of the Obama Doctrine:

Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.

The methods to achieve this recessional are tricky — as they are for any aging sheriff, guns drawn, who hobbles slowly out of a crowded saloon on his last day on the job. American withdrawal must be facilitated by the semblance of power. That is, rhetoric, loud deadlines and red lines, and drones can for now approximate the old U.S. presence, as America insidiously abandons its 70-year role as architect of a global system that brought the world unprecedented security and prosperity. “No option is off the table” tells most foreign leaders that very probably no option ever was on it.

Winston Churchill, to the House of Commons May 2, 1935:

It is possible that the dangers into which we are steadily advancing would never have arisen…[but] when the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which might have effected a cure.

There is nothing new to the story. It is as old as [Rome]. It falls into that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foreign, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.

Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States:

The US and Iran speak very different diplomatic languages that cannot be bridged by a dictionary alone. In the West, candor is central to confidence-building; for the diplomats of the Islamic Republic, deception is a way of life.

Daniel Pipes, in the Washington Times:

The recent fall of Fallujah, Iraq, to an Al-Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted in 2004 to 2007 to control the city – all that effort expended and nothing to show for it. Similarly, outlays of hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize Afghanistan did not prevent the release of 72 prisoners who have attacked Americans.

[Maladies] run so deep in the Middle East that outside powers cannot remedy them. Water is running out. A dam going up on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia threatens substantially to cut Egypt’s main water supply by devastating amounts for years. Syria and Iraq suffer from water crises because the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are drying up. [The] poorly constructed Mosul Dam in Iraq could collapse, frowning half-a-million immediately land leave many more stranded without electricity or food. Sewage runs rampant in Gaza. Many countries suffer from electricity black-outs and especially in the oppressive summer heat that routinely reaches 120 degrees.

People are also running out. After experiencing a huge and disruptive youth bulge, the region’s birth rate is collapsing. Iran, for example, has undergone the steepest decline in birth rates of any country ever recorded, going from 6.6 births per woman in 1977 to 1.6 births in 2012. This has created what one analyst calls an “apocalyptic panic” that fuels Tehran’s aggression.

The Wall Street Journal offered “An Obama Foreign Policy IQ Test:”

During a visit to Washington last week, U.S. commander in Afghanistan General Joseph Dunford offered a take-it-or-leave-it scenario: Maintain a post-2014 force of 10,000-strong that is minimally sufficient to train the Afghan military and protect U.S. diplomats, spies, aid workers and troops—or pull out entirely at year’s end. The Pentagon added a political sweetener by calling for a complete withdrawal of the residual force within two years. In other words Mr. Obama could claim to have ended the Afghan war as he leaves office. The generals know their Commander in Chief.

President Obama has been here before. In his first term he had to deal with a difficult leader about a future U.S. military presence in Iraq. He settled for a complete pullout. Unlike in Afghanistan today, at least the war in Iraq was over and the country’s military was reasonably well-trained and funded.

We now know the Iraqi withdrawal was one of the President’s worst blunders. Without America’s calming presence, Iraqi politicians reverted to bad sectarian habits. U.S. troops could have also helped stop the jihadist spillover into Iraq from Syria’s civil war. Al Qaeda has returned and taken control of chunks of Anbar Province, which had been pacified at great cost in American lives.



Today’s Must Read Essay, Not to Be Missed. by The Elephant's Child

Today’s must read column is by Victor Davis Hanson, who explains the Obama Doctrine for America — our foreign policy, theory and practice.

Summed up, the Obama Doctrine is a gradual retreat of the American presence worldwide — on the theory that our absence will lead to a vacuum better occupied by regional powers that know how to manage their neighborhood’s affairs and have greater legitimacy in their own spheres of influence. Any damage that might occur with the loss of the American omnipresence does not approximate the harm already done by American intrusiveness. The current global maladies — Islamist terrorism, Middle Eastern tensions, Chinese muscle-flexing, Russian obstructionism, resurgence of Communist autocracy in Latin America — will fade once the United States lowers its profile and keeps out of other nations’ business.

Do read the whole thing. I think Dr. Hanson is spot on, though I wish it were otherwise. We will pay a high price for our gullibility in electing this man.

If you find that piece rewarding, as I did, you may appreciate Dr. Hanson’s self-described ‘apocalyptic essay’ on Monday, in which he is not so optimistic, but excellent, as always.

 



All U.S. Troops In Iraq Will Be Home By the End of the Year by The Elephant's Child

President Obama has declared his strategy of removing all American military forces from Iraq by the end of the year a success, and he said “Ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities ” since taking office. “Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of the, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home.  The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.  That is how America’s military effort in Iraq will end.”

Funny, last week he was saying that we are still negotiating with the government in Iraq for American troops to stay longer and help Iraqis to train their military. And in February 2009, to an audience of Marines at Camp Lejune, he stated:

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

That clear and achievable goal has not been met.  Iraq is not sovereign, stable or self-reliant. Their difficult next door neighbor, Iran, keeps interfering.  They had a successful parliamentary election in February 2010, with a not so successful outcome.  There were all sorts of political parties, and the government has not been completely formed, there is no agreement on how the state will be run, or just who will run it. Iraq may not be able to protect its territory or its airspace. The government is not just, representative or accountable, and those new ties of trade and commerce with the world—never mind.  But the surge worked.  We won.

President Obama, back when he was just a senator from Illinois said” I have been a consistent and strong opponent of this war.” Of the surge, he said “I cannot in good conscience support his escalation.  It is a policy which has already been tried and a policy which has failed.”  Harry Reid, leader in the Senate, said of the surge when it was underway “This war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything.” So, there is some confusion here about attitudes and aims.

Democrats simply could not overcome their seething emotion about the Iraq War. The cries of Bush Lied, People Died, they accepted as gospel truth, though Bush lied about nothing. Every cooperating government’s intelligence services agreed that Iraq had WMD. There was a very large coalition that went into Iraq and fought together. The deposing of Saddam and his brutal government followed by free elections were like an earthquake in the Middle East. To assume that the current protest and revolt in the arab Middle East is unrelated to Iraq is naive in the extreme.  Yet the war in Libya, in which we had no national interest whatsoever, entered on a president’s say so without any approval of Congress is a valiant effort with a successful conclusion that Democrats are celebrating.  Consistency is not one of their strong points.

The administration had a real opportunity in Iraq, and they blew it.  They did not focus on helping Iraq to meet the opportunity. I don’t know if they ever understood the difficult position of Iraq situated between Iran and Syria, both bent on increasing their influence in Iraq and forcing removal of the U.S. military from the Middle East. They got their fondest wish.  Now Obama is concentrated on his reelection effort, and bringing the troops home will appeal to his anti-war base. So much for American goals and objectives. Let us hope that the price is not too high.

Here’s the Foreign Policy take on “How the Obama administration bungled the Iraq withdrawal negotiations.” Christian Whiton’s commentary for Fox News: “Obama Ignores that U.S.Won in Iraq—Twice.” Carl M. Cannon’s essay on: “The Obama Doctrine, Made Plain at Last in Libya, Iraq,” is here. Fredrick M. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan were among the most perceptive commenters on the entire War in Iraq, their piece is “Retreating With Our Heads Held High.”



Sunday Roundup: Obama Waffles, Democrats Puzzle, Survivors Found! by The Elephant's Child

—An 80-year-old grandmother and her 16-year-old grandson were found still alive under the rubble in Nishinomaki nine days after the earthquake and tsunami.  Both were very weak but able to shout  when search and rescue teams were scouring the debris. A miracle tale of survival.

—We don’t know what we are doing, says David Warren, my favorite Canadian commentator.  He moves from the Powell Doctrine, a relic of Colin Powell’s days in the Pentagon, to the “Just War Theory,” of the Catholic Church, to Obama’s apparent lack of a theory.  “Prudence, in the higher moral sense, cannot be reduced to a formula…Into sin we may fall, but we must try to live justly.” We want Gadhaffi to go away, but he doesn’t want to.  The article provides food for thought.

—Democrats are still trying to puzzle out the tsunami in American politics that has swept over the country since the red ink began flashing a danger signal. Why do people want the federal government to cut its budget? Advocates of Big Government just haven’t personalized spending enough.  Democrats have to make the spending cuts specific and relevant to people. It’s all public relations. Expect a return to claims of Granny surviving on dog food and crumbling schools having to close.

—The Congressional Budget Office sees trillions more in red ink under Obama’s budget.  Lots of gimmicks, fudging the numbers and overly optimistic assumptions.  The lowest deficit over the next ten years will be $600 billion, much higher than anything we saw under Bush.  The “new spending” proposed added just $8.7 trillion in new spending, but the CBO analysis found that the total would actually add up to $9.6 trillion

—Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform—32 Democrats and 32 Republicans. ” We need the White House to be engaged,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb), “there is no question that tackling tax reform and entitlements is tough. …We won’t have any chance unless the president joins with us in the good-faith effort.”

How do you spell the name of Libya’s dictator? (202,000 results on Google) The media cannot agree.  There is no single spelling because his name doesn’t romanize directly from Arabic. Probably just about any way you want to.  This post suggests 17 different ways, other posts suggest vastly more.  Who knew?

—Michael Kinsley, reliably left, writes a funny column on the nature of budget wars, which can be summed up in four words— “You Can’t Cut That”  1.  Expression of general support for deficit reduction. Reference to easy answers (there are none). Reference to burden (all must share).  2. Reference to babies and bathwater.  Former should not be discarded with latter.   I expect that we will be hearing all of his complaints/excuses in the ensuing weeks.




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