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Ed Driscoll

The Democrats’ ‘Smart Power’ Lies in Ruins

September 3rd, 2013 - 3:15 pm

“Democrats Suddenly Realize What They Miscalculated About the World: Everything.” When you see a headline like that, you know that Jim Geraghty’s latest “Morning Jolt” column is a must-read:

As we await Congress’s decision on authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria, Democrats are suddenly realizing that their foreign-policy brain-trust completely misjudged the world.

Being nicer to countries like Russia will not make them nicer to you. The United Nations is not an effective tool for resolving crises. Some foreign leaders are beyond persuasion and diplomacy. There is no “international community” ready to work together to solve problems, and there probably never will be.

You can pin this on Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Susan Rice, but most of all, the buck stops with the president. Those of us who scoffed a bit at a state senator ascending to the presidency within four years on a wave of media hype and adoration are not quite so shocked by this current mess. We never bought into this notion that getting greater cooperation from our allies, and less hostility from our enemies, was just a matter of giving this crew the wheel and letting them practice, as Hillary Clinton arrogantly declared it, “smart power.” (These people can’t even label a foreign-policy approach without reminding us of how highly they think of themselves.) They looked out at the world at the end of the Bush years, and didn’t see tough decisions, unsolvable problems, unstable institutions, restless populations, technology enabling the impulse to destabilize existing institutions, evil men hungry for more power, and difficult trade-offs. No, our problems and challengers were just a matter of the previous hands running U.S. foreign policy not being smart enough.

Well, here we are, five years later.

Although, as Glenn Reynolds writes in his latest column at USA Today, to anyone paying attention, the gap between reality and those who were convinced they were delivering “smart power” was rather dramatic, right from the start:

Things got off on the wrong foot right away with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s botched “reset” with Russia — even the “reset button” was improperly labeled, owing to a translation error that substituted the Russian word for “overcharge.” The whole reset attempt was, at any rate, the product of wishful thinking. And it soon became clear to most observers that Russia under Vladimir Putin viewed itself as a rival, not an ally, of the United States. Russia even announced its withdrawal from a major arms-control agreement. In fact, although Mitt Romney was mocked for calling Russia our greatest “geopolitical foe” last year, that’s looking pretty spot-on today as Putin lines up behind Syrian President Bashar Assad and frustrates the United States in numerous settings across the globe. Not much of a reset here.

Then there’s our relationship with the British. Under previous administrations going back to World War II it was a “special relationship.” Now it’s … not so special. Even back in 2009, Obama treated the British rudely, leading one British pundit to ask: “Does Obama have it in for Britain?” More recently — even as British troops were dying alongside Americans in Afghanistan — Obama snubbed the British by remaining neutral on the Falkland Islands. Well, not quite neutral: In another bout of “smart diplomacy,” Obama tried to call the Falklands by their Argentine name — Las Malvinas — but blew it, calling them instead the Maldives, an entirely different set of islands located half a world away. Can someone buy this guy a globe?

Now Obama wants to do something about Syria, and — while the Russians do their best to interfere — the British have decided that they’re not going along this time, thank you. It’s the first time a British prime minister has lost a war vote since 1782. Now Obama — having boxed himself in with his off-the-cuff “red line” remarks from last year — has changed tack and decided that he, too, will consult Congress after all.

Perhaps he’s hoping to lose that vote, as well, so that at least he can blame Congress for whatever happens next. But the real question is how we got in this situation to begin with. And the answer is, through a series of unfortunate decisions ranging from Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, which ignited the Arab Spring uprisings, through the mishandling of Libya and Benghazi, to his unscripted, and unthought-out, “red line” remarks.

Veteran warblogger Michael Yon quotes British MP Adam Holloway, who writes that “Outrage is not a strategy.  I thought military action always had to have a purpose behind it – so what is the endstate here?  Hit, and then hope?”

“I am not sure in what way even limited strikes help the people living in my constituency: how does this further Britain’s or America’s national security?

“There cannot be a sane person in Britain who would not think it a good thing for us to get involved in the war in Syria if by doing so it would ease the horrors faced by the Syrian people – and dire risks to people in neighbouring countries.

“We must be guided not by our alliance to America, but by our duty to understand that military force should only be used in support of a clear purpose and with a clear objective in mind – in support of our national interest. I am yet to be convinced that there is a strong and clear-cut case that military action will deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons – nor am I convinced that in 20 years time some other tyrant thinking of using chemical weapons will turn around and say to his or herself “Whoops, better not do that:  remember what Obama, Cameron and Hollande did back in the summer of 2013”.

“The use of chemical weapons was indeed a crime against all of humanity.  But by firing one missile we are involving ourselves in a civil war on the side of a fractured opposition which includes people with proud links to Al Qaeda. By striking now, without clear cause and purpose, we risk consequences that we have not even thought of: this is a case of hit – and then hope.”

But to someone like Mr. Obama, who marinated for years under Saul Alinsky’s acolytes, Rev. Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright, and Pentagon-bombing former Weatherman Bill Ayers, outrage and hate has always been an end in and of itself. It just makes for an even worse foreign policy than a domestic one.

Oh and what’s the endgame here, as Holloway asks? John Kerry inadvertently dropped the mask today:

Testifying before the Senate foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to rule out putting boots on the ground in Syria: “In the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies — all of us, the British, the French, and others — to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the President of the United States to secure our country.”

Later, attempting to walk back those comments, Kerry said he was merely “thinking out loud” in an attempt to answer a “hypothetical question.” He added, “The president has no intention and will not and we do not want to put American troops on the ground to fight this or be involved in the fighting of the civil war.”

The actions of the left — and their jingoistic superhawk supporters at MSNBC — are enough to make you believe that their dovish posture from 9/12/01 through November of 2008 was merely anti-GOP partisanship.

Err, because it was:

left_not_antiwar_anti_gop_2007-2009

That chart certainly helps to connect the dots — and the left’s huge 180° pivot — between 1998 and today.

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While this site is fond of quoting the PA announcer from the first episode of Season 2 of MASH -- the "Five O'clock Charlie" episode -- I think in this case a quote by Margaret to Hawkeye from the first episode of Season 7, "Commander Pierce" are more appropriate:

"If only Frank Burns could see you now. It's not so easy to play the clown when you have to run the circus, is it?"

In this case, we've got Obama in the Hawkeye role, who won his job by basically attacking everything Frank W. Bush did when it came to dealing with radical Islam and Middle East foreign policy. But now he's in charge, and the British Parliament's refusal to set itself up as Obama's scapegoat de jour has left the president so desperate to avoid potential blame he's actually going to obey the Constitution and go to Congress for a war authorization, so he'll have someone to pass the buck to down the road.
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