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Harmless as an enemy, treacherous as a friend

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

The Obama administration’s foreign policy has a surreal quality about it. Mr. Obama talks of a 60 nation coalition fighting ISIS, but we and the Saudis seem to be alone. More trainers will be inserted into Iraq, hopefully to encourage our Shiite allies not to run away quite so fast. Vladimir Putin, still unchecked, continues to nibble at the edge of the Ukraine while casting covetous glances at Poland and the Baltic States. Mr. Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, continue to hector Israel while Iran moves steadfastly toward obtaining nuclear weapons.

The two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is, if not dead, on life support. It could have been different but the Obama administration’s policies have not only not made a two-state solution possible, they have done a great deal to make it even more unlikely.

It would have been necessary to diminish extremists among the Palestinians by cutting Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s links with Iran. Instead, Mr. Obama seems determined to help Iran become a regional power. Moderate elements in the Syrian resistance could have been identified and encouraged at the beginning of the Syrian civil war, thus enabling Israel to have some confidence in the security of the Golan Heights. Instead, a red line was crossed with no consequences. Iraq might have been stable had Mr. Obama not hurriedly eliminated any American presence, thus allowing the Shiite dominated government to degrade the Sunni-Shiite alliance and doom the benighted country to internecine warfare. The potential for an ISIS dominated western Iraq can only constrain Israel even further.

The Mideast now heads toward nuclear proliferation because Mr. Obama, so eager for some kind of agreement with Iran, has forgotten his “Iran can not be allowed to have nuclear capability,” and changed it to “I think we can make it more difficult,” then changed it again to “it will take them more than a year to finally get a weapon − unless they cheat.” The Saudi’s, among other former allies, have announced they will immediately seek to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.

In December 2014, Mr. Obama pointed to a friendly Yemen as an example of what smart power and leading from behind can achieve in the fight against terrorism. On February 11, 2015, the United States hurriedly abandoned its embassy in Yemen, leaving all the sophisticated military gear and vehicles behind. The Islamic State, in October 2014, was a junior varsity outfit, according to the president. In June 2015 the Islamic State routinely burns Christians alive and threatens three Mideast capitals − Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad.

Our allies around the world watch, wonder and wait. The Egyptian government has despaired of achieving any agreement with America and now reaches out to the Russians. The Kurds in Iraq are American’s best hope for a successful alliance with a faction that really fights ISIS. Yet, Mr. Obama refuses to arm them with the heavy weapons necessary to fend off ISIS.

The administration still dithers and ponders over supplying the Ukrainians with defensive weapons. The Russians have supplied their allies in the Ukraine with T-80 tanks, sophisticated rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. We have supplied humanitarian aid, such as blankets, rations and even psychological counselors. That’s correct, we have even sent in psychological counselors. Actually, that may not be a bad idea. Our Ukrainian allies are probably dealing with a sense of abandonment at the moment and a bit of counseling might help.

The Poles and the Czechs may also need a bit of counseling. If you recall, the United States had an agreement with the two countries to install a missile defense system, targeted, not unwisely, at Iran. In 2009, Mr. Obama, at the request of Mr. Putin, dropped the Poles and the Czechs like they were a bad habit. The United States betrayal of their allies was seemingly necessary if Hillary Clinton was to be allowed to appear on the stage with the Russian foreign minister and punch the reset button. Talk about a moment that will live in the history of American diplomacy.

The Poles are still lobbying for more American involvement in Eastern Europe. The Czechs, not so much. It’s hard to surprise or disappoint the Czechs as they have had a world of experience with larger nations honoring security agreements. See Czech history, 1938 and 1948.

Poland and the Baltic states view Russia with apprehension. The American response to Russian aggrandizement is both expected and instructive. The State Department has announced that the United States is considering stationing equipment in Poland and the Baltic States. Seems we are very good at considering what to do. It’s the doing where we fall short.

If there was a word to describe Mr. Obama’s policy I think it would be “passivity.” He seems to believe we can’t ask others to follow our example, not when we have yet to apologize for the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, the 100 Years War, the 30 Years War and on and on.

“Obama’s Christians-have-sinned dismissal of the West’s moral standing,” according to Charles Krauthammer, “is not new, however. It is just a reprise of the theme of his post-inauguration 2009 confessional world tour. From Strasbourg to Cairo and the U.N General Assembly, he indicted his own country . . . For arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantanamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.”

As our enemies watch America retrench while ignoring self-imposed red lines they can only be emboldened. Meanwhile our friends watch and become ever more apprehensive as Mr. Obama seeks to readjust the global order in a way that favors our old adversaries and discomforts our friends.

As Bernard Lewis warned, more and more of the world thinks of us as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.

 

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