Presidents come and presidents go, but the State Department’s foreign policy establishment is forever. And no matter how many times its remedies fail to heal problems (and usually cause worse ones), it keeps on applying them, without an ounce of self-reflection. And in Barack Obama, the lifers at State have a president after their own heart – one whose vision of the world coincides exactly with theirs, and who takes their recommendations without question and fronts for them eagerly, no matter how often and how abysmally they have failed.
Here are six policies that have failed miserably again and again, and yet are still front and center in the Obama administration’s foreign policy planning:
6. Supporting the Afghan regime
The corrupt and treacherous kleptocrat Hamid Karzai is gone, but his legacy lives on. The new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, is almost certainly still receiving those bags of cash from the CIA, and the new regime shows no more interest in accountability than Karzai did. It was revealed Thursday that
nearly $420 million in weapons and other “sensitive items” have gone missing from U.S. Army bases in Afghanistan and are not likely to be recovered due to mismanagement and improper accounting, according to an internal report by the Pentagon’s inspector general obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
These include “some 15,600 pieces of equipment—including ‘weapons, weapons systems, and sensitive items,’” which “went missing in the past year from Army facilities in Bagram and Kandahar, accounting for around $419.5 million in losses, according to the report, which was issued in late October and marked ‘for official use only.’”
Will this slow down the flow of money and materiel to the Afghan regime? Don’t be silly. Despite the regime’s corruption, unwillingness to do anything to curb green-on-blue attacks, and inability to stop the Taliban, this won’t even be a speed bump.
Yet Obama and the State Department have never explained exactly what benefits to the United States will accrue from the massive expenditure and loss of American life in Afghanistan – they know the mainstream media and the Stupid Party will not call them on it, so why bother?
5. Fighting terrorism with money
Late in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish then-Foreign Minister and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu launched what they called the “Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience,” which CNSNews.com said was intended to “support local communities and organizations to counter extremist ideology and promote tolerance.” It would do this essentially by giving potential jihad terrorists money and jobs – an initiative that proceeds from the false and oft-disproven assumption that poverty causes terrorism.
Kerry demonstrated his faith in this false assumption when he spoke about the importance of “providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment” into jihad groups. The GCTF is devoting $200 million to this project, which it calls “countering violent extremism” (CVE).
Getting this right isn’t just about taking terrorists off the street. It’s about providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment. In country after country, you look at the demographics – Egypt, the West Bank – 60 percent of the young people either under the age of 30 or under the age of 25, 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18, all of them wanting jobs, opportunity, education, and a future.
This will be $200 million down the drain, for a lack of “economic opportunities for marginalized youth” doesn’t fuel Islamic jihad terrorism in the first place. In reality, study after study have shown that jihadists are not poor and bereft of economic opportunities, but generally wealthier and better educated than their peers. CNS noted that “according to a Rand Corporation report on counterterrorism, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2009, ‘Terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated, or afflicted by mental disease. Demographically, their most important characteristic is normalcy (within their environment). Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.’ One of the authors of the RAND report, Darcy Noricks, also found that according to a number of academic studies, ‘Terrorists turn out to be more rather than less educated than the general population.’”
But none of this has sunk in among the political elites.
4. Working to topple Assad
Barack Obama has long had Bashar Assad in his sights, but has been stymied by the fact that the only significant opposition to the Assad regime are Islamic jihad groups. Now, however, he thinks he has found a way to square the circle: remove Assad, and the jihadis’ raison d’etre will be gone.
CNN reported Thursday that Obama “has asked his national security team for another review of the U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.”
Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council, explained: “Assad has been the biggest magnet for extremism in Syria, and the President has made clear that Assad has lost all legitimacy to govern.”
The fact that this is even being considered shows that Obama doesn’t take seriously the Islamic State’s proclamations that it is a new caliphate that is going to keep on trying to expand. He thinks they’re just fighting to get Assad removed, and so if he obliges them, they will melt away.
But who does he think will replace Assad? Does he seriously think he can find someone who can immediately marshal enough support to be able to withstand the Islamic State? If he picks an Alawite, the ruler will have the same problems Assad does. If he picks a Sunni, the Islamic State leaders will say he is an apostate puppet of the Westerners, and fight on. Meanwhile, the disruption in Syria will give an opportunity to the Islamic State, which will be the force best situated to take advantage of a power vacuum in Syria.
So what Obama is saying is that to defeat the Islamic State, we have to let the Islamic State win. And you can see his point — at least then it will be out of the headlines and he won’t have to be constantly hearing about it. Or so he thinks.
3. Arming the “moderates”
Alistair Baskey also said Thursday that “alongside our efforts to isolate and sanction the Assad regime, we are working with our allies to strengthen the moderate opposition.” Who are the moderates in Syria? In September 2014, Obama said: “We have a Free Syrian Army and a moderate opposition that we have steadily been working with that we have vetted.”
That was over a year after Free Syrian Army fighters entered the Christian village of Oum Sharshouh in July 2013 and began burning down houses and terrorizing the population, forcing 250 Christian families to flee the area. Worthy News reported that just two days later, Free Syrian Army rebels “targeted the residents of al-Duwayr/Douar, a Christian village close to the city of Homs and near Syria’s border with Lebanon….Around 350 armed militants forcefully entered the homes of Christian families who were all rounded-up in the main square of the village and then summarily executed.” And in September 2013, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Free Syrian Army as “a real moderate opposition,” the FSA took to the Internet to post videos of its attack on the ancient Syrian Christian city of Maaloula, one of the few places where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken.
Even after all that, Obama was calling them “moderates.”
2. Working for “democracy” in the Middle East
Bruce Riedel, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence Project, recently advocated another failed remedy, claiming that,
the extremists’ narrative argues that only violent jihad can bring about change and justice in the Islamic world. They argue the Arab spring proves that peaceful protests and demonstrations, elections and democratic change don’t work in Arabia and the world of Islam.
He warns that “a Western policy that is blind to the urgent need for reform and justice is certain to end in catastrophe.”
This was exactly the Obama administration’s policy when it turned against Hosni Mubarak and warmly endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt. This was the analysis Obama was following when he aided the Libyan jihadis against Gaddafi and the Syrian jihadis against Assad (although in the latter case the rise of the Islamic State has exposed his Syria policy as confused and incoherent).
When the U.S. followed this analysis and stopped backing dictators in Muslim countries, favoring instead popular revolutionaries and the “democratic process,” the result was not stability and the weakening of jihad groups, but chaos and anarchy in Libya, unrest and instability in Egypt, and the strengthening of jihad groups the world over. The Brotherhood regime in Egypt fell because many secular Muslims don’t want to live under Sharia oppression.
However, Sharia advocates are numerous in Egypt and other Muslim countries — so the result of backing “democracy” in Egypt and other Muslim countries was not the establishment of peaceful, stable Sharia regimes (which would not be a desirable outcome anyway, cf. Saudi Arabia and Iran), but more violence. The dictators were bloody and reprehensible; the “democratic process” in all too many Muslim countries has resulted in regimes that are scarcely less bloody and far less stable.
Nonetheless, Obama is certain to follow the Brookings recommendations. What would he say if there were a free election in Iraq and Syria now and the Islamic State won, or even got a significant percentage of the vote? Washington policymakers seem to assume, as George W. Bush and so many others assumed, that elections in Muslim countries would lead to the establishment of pro-Western, secular, stable republics. It has never happened. Why will it happen next time?
1. The “two-state solution”
Obama continues to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, despite their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. “Unfortunately,” Brookings’ Riedel laments, “for six years the Obama team has tried to push the two-state solution without any success. It rightly blames both Israeli and Palestinian intransigence for its failure. But the core issue is Israel’s refusal to end the occupation of the West Bank.”
Anyone who still thinks after the Gaza withdrawal that a Palestinian state would bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians hasn’t been paying attention. We were told in 2005 that “occupation” was the problem, and if Israel withdrew from Gaza, the Gazans would turn to peaceful pursuits. Only a few people, including me, warned that Gaza would just become a jihad base for newly virulent attacks against Israel. Events proved us correct.
Now Obama and Kerry want Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank, and they assure us that this withdrawal from this “occupation” is really the one that will finally bring peace and take the wind out of the jihadis’ sails. A Palestinian state, Riedel says, will “severely undermine” al-Qaeda’s appeal “and over time dry up its base” — and he claims this even after acknowledging that “Israel’s destruction” is al-Qaeda’s goal.
Why would the establishment of a Palestinian state now, after the Arab Muslims rejected it in 1948 and the “Palestinians” rejected it in 2000 (and other times), bring peace when the goal of Israel’s total destruction, which Hamas has repeatedly and recently reiterated, would remain? Why would another Israeli withdrawal accomplish what earlier Israeli withdrawals — not just from Gaza, but also from Sinai and southern Lebanon — did not?
Riedel doesn’t consider these questions. He can’t, because any honest answer would show his analysis to be false and based on wishful thinking. Yet Brookings, a Qatar-funded group that publishes justifications for jihad terror and gives jihad terror supporters and enablers access to the world’s most powerful people, and that is strongly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel, is extremely influential in Washington. Its recommendations will be followed.
What is needed is a massive change in Washington – a change much larger than that which the 2014 election brought. What is needed is a change in the entire political culture, and a sweeping away of the mindsets and false assumptions that have led to these failed policies being repeatedly applied. But it is not on the horizon.
image illustration via shutterstock / Mark Van Scyoc