Foreign Policy

The New Appeasement: Obama’s emerging deal with Iran

Obama and Iran

As news is emerging about the President’s deal with Iran — one that has become less a plan to stop that nation from becoming nuclear capable and is now a debate “over the scope of that [nuclear] capability…” — the world is starting to look a lot more dangerous, leaving non-interventionists and libertarians both angry and betrayed depending on their prior allegiance. Yes, that same President who so aggressively wanted to get our boys out of Iraq and Afghanistan, has looked the other way and perhaps even aided the proliferation of dangerous weapons of war — and he’s done it nearly unilaterally:

●First, a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability.

●Second, in the course of the negotiations, the Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran to extend its influence across the Middle East and seems ready to concede Tehran a place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies.

●Finally, the Obama administration is signaling that it will seek to implement any deal it strikes with Iran — including the suspension of sanctions that were originally imposed by Congress — without a vote by either chamber. Instead, an accord that would have far-reaching implications for nuclear proliferation and U.S. national security would be imposed unilaterally by a president with less than two years left in his term.

2014: A Year In Review

 Year In Review

A new year has begun. A new slate upon which to write our hopes and dreams, a new opportunity to do better, to be better, to rise above past disappointments, and to build upon past successes. As we look to the future, however, wisdom dictates we study the past to gain enlightenment and clarity. Though seemingly impossible, our memories telling us they occurred long ago, each and every one of these stories occurred in just the last year…

We kicked off the year in January with overheated rhetoric and under-heated weather, first forced to suffer through another of Obama’s interminable State of the Union addresses, where he tried to one-up Joe Biden by plagiarizing himself (which makes sense, considering Obama thinks he is smarter than the rest of us, so who else would he quote?). This speech was pretty much a copy-and-paste montage of past speeches; whining that the rich need to pay more, we need to “invest” more in “renewable” energy, and how six years of his economic policies don’t have us where we want to be yet, but are showing promising gains…blah, blah, blah. Add to that more promises of more bailouts for people who took on bad loans, to be paid for higher taxes on people who paid for the first bailout, plus a renewed demand for a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill, which seems pointless now that Obama has decided he is Emperor after all and will just make law by executive fiat, and refuse to enforce provisions he doesn’t like.

The GOP Needs to construct its own foreign policy narrative

On Tuesday, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb — who many remember as former Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, and even more recall as a respected novelist and fierce Marine of the Vietnam era — stood at the podium of the National Press Club and announced that he’s at least considering a run for president in 2016.

 

He was frank that he’s assessing support and will decide in several months if he’s all in. And, as expected, he was asked questions about positions already being staked out by the presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and how he felt given his expertise —and there’s no doubt he’s an expert on matters of national defense — about our current engagement with ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The takeaway was that we have a very incoherent foreign policy in these matters and we’d do well to develop and communicate a more concrete set of strategies. “It is not a healthy thing when the world’s dominant military and economic power has a policy based on vagueness,” he said. And that’s a reasonable thought. Somewhere in there was also the mention that we shouldn’t be an occupying force in that region of the world, but that was hardly a surprising position for someone known as one of the harshest critics of the Iraq War under Bush.

He also talked about economic fairness and even touched on corporate cronyism, as is typical of someone at least attempting to hash out a platform. But the talk of war is of interest because, almost immediately following his speech, media pundits that were in attendance began tweeting and writing that Webb had given an impassioned “anti-war” speech, possibly to set him in opposition to “hawkish” Hillary Clinton.

White House Foreign Policy Dangerously Changes by the Day

When word filtered out yesterday that President Obama, on the heels of his reiteration of “no boots on the ground” to the military men and women at CENTCOM, had instructed the Pentagon that he was the final say on any individual airstrike in Syria (“…[to] better ensure the operation remain focused on his main goal for that part of the campaign: weakening the militants’ hold on territory in neighboring Iraq.”), pundits rightly began to ask questions.  Allahpundit at HotAir had several, including the possibility that Obama must consider our new engagement a “counterterrorism” measure rather than a traditional war:

Here’s why Rand Paul’s critics are epically wrong about foreign policy

The reaction to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s Wall Street Journal column on Middle East interventionism isn’t surprising. Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post called Paul “ignorant” and suggests he could be lying about the arguments for and against. Adriana Cohen at the Boston Herald called him “clueless” and someone who should “wake up to reality.” Pema Levy at Newsweek says Paul is just trying to copy a page out of President Barack Obama’s 2008 playbook regarding opposition to the Iraq War. The Democrats called Paul’s foreign policy slogan “Blame America. Retreat from the World.”

This isn’t true at all. He told Breitbart.com on August 27 he was in favor of airstrikes against ISIS, but wanted to talk to Congress first. That’s the Constitutional stance because Congress has to approve war.

Hillary Clinton’s big criticism of Barack Obama is that he didn’t go to war against Syria

Back in June, Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy shed some light on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record. No, we’re not talking about her cataclysmic failure in Benghazi or any of her other mistakes during her time in Foggy Bottom.

Healy’s warning was that Clinton — throughout the course of her national profile as first lady, U.S. senator, Secretary of State, and, now, Democratic presidential nominee in waiting — has never met a war she didn’t like. She helped present the case for the Iraq war and the ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and terrorist elements — ties, by the way, that didn’t exist.

More recently, Healy notes, Clinton urged President Obama to intervene in Libya. And, of course, the Obama administration joined the NATO campaign in 2011 to depose the North African country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. The intervention in Libya — which is, basically, in the midst of an internal conflict so violent that both the U.N. and the U.S. have evacuated staffers from their embassies — is generally thought to be one of this administration’s foreign policy blunders.

Clinton was also supportive of U.S. intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. President Obama, however, didn’t take that step, largely due to congressional and public opposition to yet another war.

But Clinton is now criticizing President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, an approach she helped craft during in four years as his secretary of state. In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton criticized the White House for not throwing its full weight behind the Syrian rebels fighting Assad’s regime:

Here’s how interventionists are demagoguing Rand Paul’s foreign policy views

Late last month, a Pentagon official under the name Joseph Miller criticized Rand Paul for stating that he was opposed to more ground troops in Iraq. Miller was late to the party, unfortunately. Just a week prior to this op-ed being published, Rick Perry published his own op-ed addressing similar concerns. Given that they are so similar, I’m actually unsure if Mr. Miller actually read Perry’s foreign policy indictments, or Rand’s rebuttal to those arguments.

It would seem that Miller not only missed Perry and Paul’s exchange, but fundamentally misunderstands Rand Paul’s foreign policy, the results of all our efforts in the Middle East, and the actual cost that the United States has paid so far for the Iraq war.

Miller calls Paul an isolationist in the very first paragraph. I could discuss at length how this demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Paul’s foreign policy views, but Rare’s Jack Hunter has actually already covered that. The last thirteen years should serve as indictment enough that our foreign policy has failed. We cannot reliably identify who our enemies are. When we can, we usually end up funding them or are found of providing them with armaments in the first place.

Military intervention in Libya failed: United Nations pulls out of Tripoli due to violence caused by Islamic radicals

Muammar Gaddafi addresses the United Nations

In 2011, NATO decided it was a good idea to intercede in Libya, and try something that western powers had done many times before in the Middle East and North Africa — remove a dictator. This is something that plays well with westerners, because they are generally of the opinion that dictatorships are bad, even when they happen to be in nations with governments that are slowly taking control of every aspect of their lives.

The problem is a cultural divide, and a failure of understanding. What cannot be comprehended is that while dictators are viewed as bad in western culture, they’re usually a necessary evil or even a good thing in regions where Islam has a strong foothold.

While it might be tempting to doubt that, consider how wonderfully things have gone in Iraq and Egypt, just to name two nations, since their respective “authoritarian albeit generally secular” leaders have been removed. Libya is facing similar issues.

Muammar Gaddafi was at best eccentric, at worst insane. Yes, he did involve himself in at least a few conspiracies to attack western powers, but when it came to dealing with Libya, he tended to keep the people from doing what they are now.

When he was in power, sectarian violence was kept under control, and if someone disagreed with Gaddafi, they were silenced. That doesn’t look anything like democracy, but democracy doesn’t look anything like what the people of that region have ever had, even in times when they have lived in relative peace.

Americans are tired of war: Old Guard Republicans attacking Rand Paul show how truly out of touch they are

Power structures and ideological dynamics change quickly in Washington, and when a sea change happens you almost feel sorry for the losing side, who usually doesn’t realize it for a while, still clinging to their anachronistic worldview and thinking it’s mainstream. But there comes a time when you just have to point and laugh at people who have lost, and lost big, and don’t even realize it.

Politico has a new summary of all the defense hawk attacks on Rand Paul’s alleged “isolationism,” including Rick Perry, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mackenzie Eaglen from the American Enterprise Institute. In denouncing the freshman Senator’s skepticism of interventionism, they cite the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course 9/11.

Yes, “it’s been a long time since 9/11,” as Cheney said, lamenting what he sees as forgetfulness about the threat of terrorism, but also, it’s been a long time since 9/11. At a certain point you have to stop buttressing your entire foreign policy narrative with the biggest failure of our national intelligence and defense systems since Pearl Harbor. We haven’t reverted to a pre-9/11 mindset, we’ve evolved to a post-post-9/11 mindset. The world has changed, again; global interventionists haven’t.

Perhaps sadder still than their reliance on the 9/11 shibboleth is the delusion that hawks are still the mainstream of public opinion or even the Republican Party:

You’ve been warned, America: Hillary Clinton has never met a war she didn’t like

A war weary American public may not be aware of what they’re in for if Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 presidential race. But Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, is shining some light on the former Secretary of State’s terrible foreign policy record.

Healy joined the Cato Daily Podcast on Wednesday to discuss Clinton’s approach to foreign affairs as it relates to her new book, Hard Choices, telling host Caleb Brown that she’s never met a war she didn’t like.

“[Clinton] has been getting a lot of questions about Iraq recently,” said Healy, “and that is as it should be, because her role in helping perpetuate the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam is certainly something that ought to be looked at in terms of her fitness for higher office.”

Clinton, he explains, was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the war in Iraq, pointing to her comments from the floor of the Senate, in which she said parrotted talking points used by supporters to make the case for military intervention.

“She apparently says something very strange in the memoir. She says that, ‘I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had,’” Healy notes. “It’s pretty clear she didn’t. She gave a floor speech in 2002 explaining that ‘the facts are not in doubt.” And among those facts, Saddam Hussein’s robust nuclear program, the idea that he’d harbored al-Qaeda operatives.”


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