Would you rather learn that your worst forebodings had been true; that things were not only as bad as you had feared, but worse than you could have imagined? Or would you prefer the consolation of empty hope, no matter how slender … and change no matter how slow … and hope … and change … and hope …?
Former State Department adviser Vasili Nasr, “a university professor who was seconded in 2009 to work with Richard Holbrooke, Mr Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, records his profound disillusion at how a “Berlin Wall” of domestic-focused advisers was erected to protect Mr Obama” in a new book.
“The president had a truly disturbing habit of funnelling major foreign policy decisions through a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers whose turf was strictly politics …
Admiral Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until September 2011, is quoted lamenting how little support Mrs Clinton received from the White House, even though she remained on good personal terms with Mr Obama. “They want to control everything,” Admiral Mullen is quoted as saying …
“American foreign policy has been on a four-year autopilot, which I argue has been excessively risk averse and domestically focused. I don’t see any clear decision yet to change that,” said Mr Nasr in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
Foreign Policy, which has more excerpts from Nasr’s book has many quotes which basically serve to disculpate Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton from a looming policy disaster. It paints the picture of a President who would do almost anything to do nothing.
Are you safe? Are you kidding?
The president has marketed the U.S. exit from Afghanistan as a foreign-policy coup, one that will not only unburden America from the region’s problems but also give the country the freedom it needs to pursue other, more pressing national security concerns. … This is an illusion.
But we should not kid ourselves that the rhetoric of departure is anything more than rhetoric; the United States is taking home its troops and winding down diplomatic and economic engagement — but leaving behind its Predators and Special Forces. We should not expect that the region will look more kindly on drone attacks and secret raids than it did on invasion and occupation.
If you’re not completely surprised count yourself in company with Ralph Peters, who saw disaster amble up the road, casually set up shop and make itself at home. Writing before Nasr’s book and without making apologies for anyone in the State Department Peters wrote in the NY Post that, “like Garbo, President Obama wants to be left alone.” Nobody needs to bother him with the facts.
The world annoys him. His personal interests and political agenda are domestic in focus: “An economy that works for everybody” (without everybody working for the economy, of course) is his dream. But foreign-policy crises will be his second-term nightmare.
Obama and his party behave as isolationist Republicans did in the 1930s, when they refused to take Hitler or Japanese imperialism seriously. Obama’s infamous Cairo speech, pandering to Islamists and Israel-haters, is likely to be seen by historians in a light similar to Charles Lindbergh’s giddy infatuation with the Nazis.
And Benghazi was strictly trouble on training wheels.
We have a president whose self-esteem and regal taste for power is exceeded only by his naivety about the rest of the world. Now the question isn’t whether we’ll face foreign crises — perhaps, disasters — but which crisis will strike first or hit the hardest.
Any rational person would want Nasr and Peters to be wrong. Any human being who values his safety, life and property would like to believe that these two gentlemen to be completely and utterly mistaken.
Unfortunately Nasr is writing under the goad of professional self-preservation. He probably knows, better than most, how bad things are. How high the water in the hold of the Titanic is. To mix the metaphors he can hear the powder train creeping ever closer to the magazine and would like more than life itself to make sure than when it blows that someone besides Hillary and Richard Holbrooke are holding the bag.
His account, however self-serving, has the authentic ring of fear. Still it sheds new light on some of the foreign policy mysteries that have puzzled observers. If Nasr right, the administration spends more time infighting than combating America’s enemies. And it spends more time politicking than anything else.
Therefore events in Libya, Syria, North Korea and China ought to be viewed not through the prism of national interest calculus but through the lens of domestic political advantage for President Obama. Only then can they be properly understood. None of that game theory crap. It’s “who sent you?” The foreign policy of a great state is being run not by foreign policy professionals but by political hacks from Chicago.
What could go wrong? Quite a lot apparently. Given the administration’s blunders Peters lists the places from which a catastrophe could suddenly emerge. The flashpoints he lists include, but are not limited to:
3. The Arab Spring Revolutions;
4. Afghanistan (“we’ve lost”);
6. Islamist extremism;
8. North Korea;
He adds, “And that’s not all, folks:”
Around the world, dozens of countries face looming economic crises (much of the European Community, Egypt, Argentina) or crises of governance (Cuba, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Congo, Zimbabwe, etc.), and the world is now so interconnected that none of these dangers, no matter how small they seem, can be dismissed. Threats develop in unexpected ways.
Our president means to ignore them until they explode.
Hey Mr. Nasr, come back here! Come back!