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PROBABLY NOT WITH HILLARY AND OBAMA IN CHARGE: The U.S./Russian Diplomatic Debacle: Could It Have Been Otherwise?

Did the West bungle its relations with Russia after the Cold War? Was there a better way? This debate, now a quarter of a century old, will doubtless be with us for decades. The sides don’t seem to change much, nor do their arguments. Those who opposed the enlargement of NATO in the 1990s treat the war in Ukraine as proof that they were right all along. It was madness, they say, to challenge a core Russian security interest. Enlargement’s supporters, of course, claim vindication just as vehemently. For them, Putin’s aggression shows the wisdom of bringing new members into the alliance. Including Ukraine, they suggest, might have avoided the current crisis altogether.

While they differ in their policy prescriptions, these two sides converge on one point: their view of Russia. Great powers don’t change much, they tell us. Habits of domination are not easily unlearned. So expect a future full of potential trouble, and think carefully in advance about how to avoid it.

Centuries of conflict confirm such maxims.

Well, that was before we had Smart DiplomacyTM so naturally there’s nothing to learn from history.

CATS AND DOGS, LIVING TOGETHER: OPEC Complains That United States Is Pumping Too Much Oil. “We are often reminded that in today’s multilateral world, where continents, regions and countries are increasingly becoming interconnected, there is little room for unilateral action, especially in the vast and intricate world of commodity trading. Today, operating purely through self-interest is quite simply frowned upon. As the old adage says, a problem shared, is a problem halved. Yet, when it comes to the supply of petroleum, there is a stubborn willingness of some non-OPEC producers to adopt a go-it-alone attitude, with scant regard for the consequences.”

Heh. But wait, it gets better: Egyptian TV Host Begs Netanyahu To Bomb Iran.

You know, this “smart diplomacy” stuff may not be working out very well, but it’s damn entertaining.

THAT’S OKAY, WE’VE GOT SMART DIPLOMACYTM ON THE JOB TO DEAL WITH IT! Will Yemen Hostilities Spill into Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province has been unstable ever since protests erupted in 2011. More than 20 people have been killed since then, and Saudi forces killed four militants in a shootout as recently as last December.

A Shi’a revolt in Saudi Arabia could have major consequences. The Shi’a-majority Eastern province also happens to be where much of Saudi Arabia’s oil is found.

Beyond that fact, a fight in Saudi Arabia could pull more countries into the war in Yemen—most notably Pakistan. Pakistan’s Defense Minister admitted today that Saudi Arabia had asked for warships, planes, and troops to help in Yemen. Thus far, mindful of the sensitivities of its own Shi’a minority, and of its relationship with neighboring Iran, Pakistan has been unwilling to commit fully, saying it will only send troops to help defend Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity. If conflict spreads to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan will find it difficult to maintain its delicate balancing act.

Quick, send John Kerry and a hashtag battalion!

SMART DIPLOMACY: “There are still nearly two years left in Barack Obama’s presidency, but historians looking back on his record in foreign policy will surely identify one costly error: his refusal to follow through on the implied threat in stating that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons would be a ‘red line.'”

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Anatomy of a whole-of-government foreign policy failure: The Asian Infrastructure Development Bank is proceeding apace, despite U.S. efforts to stop it.

To recap: the AIIB is one of several new financial institutions that China has tried to midwife over the past year or so that many have viewed as direct competitors to the U.S.-created international financial institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank (ADB). The United States has articulated two concerns about the AIIB: that it was an organization designed to marginalize the ADB, and that in doing so, China would be applying rules and standards in project lending that would be far less friendly to the environment than the U.S.-led institutions.

Whether these concerns are overstated or not isn’t the point. The point is that in recent weeks the Obama administration’s year-long effort to delegitimize and marginalize the AIIB has failed and failed spectacularly. First Britain announced that it would be a founding member of the AIIB against U.S. wishes, surprising even Chinese officials. And then the other dominoes started to fall in rapid succession. Germany, France, and Itally quickly followed suit.

Now we’re seeing a cascade effect. South Korea announced that it would join. Both Australia and Japan now look set to join. Hell, even the IMF’s Christine Lagarde signaled that she was looking forward to working with the AIIB.

The Obama administration has been reduced to backbiting U.S. allies in the press — which, by the by, is a passive-aggressive habit that it really should stop.

But at least they’re not testosterone-addled brutes, amirite?

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Austin Bay: Yemen 2015: From Success to Cesspool.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Assad crosses Obama’s imaginary red line.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Diplomatic disaster: Obama humiliated by allies’ rush to join China’s new bank.

Related: Australia Ready To Join $100B China Bank.

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY,” (CONT’D): U.S. Ambassador Knifed, North Korea Calls It “Punishment.”

I’D BE TROUBLED BY THIS KIND OF TENSION, EXCEPT THAT I KNOW WE’VE GOT SMART DIPLOMACYTM ON THE JOB! U.S. military vehicles paraded 300 yards from the Russian border.

U.S. military combat vehicles paraded Wednesday through an Estonian city that juts into Russia, a symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War.

The armored personnel carriers and other U.S. Army vehicles that rolled through the streets of Narva, a border city separated by a narrow frontier from Russia, were a dramatic reminder of the new military confrontation in eastern Europe.

The soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment were taking part in a military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day. Narva is a vulnerable border city separated by a river from Russia. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto NATO territory.

Frankly, I approve — but only if this represents actual, as opposed to symbolic, determination.

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” U.S. hostage’s brother: Bowe Bergdahl swap raised IS demands. “The brother of an American woman who was killed after spending months as a hostage of Islamic State militants says Kayla Mueller’s situation worsened after the government traded five Taliban commanders for a captive U.S. soldier.”

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” Obama’s ‘Crusade’ Video Bolsters ISIS Propaganda Campaign.

NEW FRONTIERS IN “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Obama and Merkel Meet the Press, Unhappily.

TED CRUZ: Obama Not Honoring Obligation To Ukraine.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Sunday called for the U.S. to send weapons to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression, saying that President Obama is not honoring a treaty obligation with the former Soviet republic.

Cruz spoke to ABC’s “This Week” from a security conference in Munich.

“You know, I’ll tell you, this conference in Munich the last three days has really highlighted the enormous national security threat that are facing America, that are growing and getting worse,” he said. “And when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, the path we’re on doesn’t make any sense. We need to be providing defensive arms to the people of Ukraine. “

Cruz said he was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation who on Saturday met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who “made clear that the Ukrainians are fighting to defend their nation. They want to defend their nation.”

“We have a treaty obligation to stand with them,” Cruz said. “And right now, unfortunately, the Obama administration is not honoring that obligation.”

“We need to come together and provide defensive arms so that they can stand up against this Russian aggression,” Cruz added.

Speaking at that same conference, Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said the U.S. and its European allies are united in a focus on diplomacy to ease tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

As between Kerry’s smart diplomacy and weapons, I’d take the guns, myself.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” MARCHES ON: Muslim Brotherhood-Aligned Leaders Hosted at State Department; Brotherhood seeks to rally anti-Sisi support.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Fox’s Bolling Blasts Obama: You Showed the Terrorists ‘Where Your Priorities Lie.’

I DON’T KNOW WHY THEY DON’T JUST RELY ON “SMART DIPLOMACY” TO SAVE THE DAY: Lithuania is publishing a manual to advise its citizens on how to survive a war on its soil as the country’s Defense Minister warn its Russian neighbor “is not friendly.”

My colleague John Manchip White wrote something like that with Robert Conquest.

SMART DIPLOMACYTM: That time John Kerry got James Taylor to sing ‘You’ve got a friend’ to France. Who comes up with this stuff?

Ah, well, at least it wasn’t an iPod full of his speeches.

UPDATE: From the comments: “I think something is wrong with the blog. I keep clicking a link to go to an Onion article, and it sends me to the Washington Post instead.”

Plus: “Barney wasn’t available?”

THE BITTER FRUITS OF SMART DIPLOMACY: Christians Slaughtered in Post ‘Arab Spring’ Libya.

HOW’S THAT SMART DIPLOMACY WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Ralph Peters: Obama ‘Tried to Romance Putin and He Got Date-Raped.’

FALKLANDS AGAIN? Russia Offers Arms to Argentina.

There’s only one conceivable target on which Argentina would want to mount a supersonic, long-range attack, and that’s the Falkland Islands. UK military capability has been dwindling there (as well as everywhere), and London won’t be ready to field its next-generation aircraft carriers in the south Atlantic until at least 2020.

Another sign of world peace in 2015.

That’s okay, we’ve got “smart diplomacy” on the job.

UNLIKE US, Iran Is In It To Win It In Iraq.

Both America and Iran are involved in the effort to drive ISIS back and support the government in Baghdad. As such, there is a tacit alliance—but it is not one of equals. As the old saying goes, it’s like a ham and egg sandwich: the chicken is involved, but the pig is really committed. Today, unlike 10 years ago, Iran is the pig.

This is proving increasingly problematic as, as The Washington Post reports, American officials are beginning to contemplate the scale of the Iranian backed militias in Iraq, which may now equal the regular army (which also leans Shi’a) in total size. If and when ISIS is subdued, this will present another large headache for Washington. Though all other issues with Iran have currently been put on the back burner to make way for the nuclear negotiations, look for this one to fester.

That’s okay, we’ve got Smart Diplomacy on the job.

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Obama’s foreign policy plans collide with wars abroad and politics at home. This says it all: “For the White House, the focus these days is on ‘sustainability,’ not victory.”

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Anti-ISIS coalition to meet next week. “Foreign dignitaries from around 60 countries that make up the international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will meet for the first time next week, the State Department announced Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry will chair the first ministerial meeting on Dec. 3 at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The ministers plan to ‘discuss the political mechanism for our joint efforts to degrade and defeat’ ISIS, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.”

I’m not super-optimistic about this.

WELL, ACTUALLY, THIS PROBABLY IS SMART DIPLOMACY: John Kerry Advised Russian Foreign Minister ‘Just Ignore Obama.’ At least, it’s probably good advice for most everyone these days. Forget what he says, and watch what he does.

SMART DIPLOMACY: ‘Biden, get out’: Protesters heckle VP in Turkey. Hell, we don’t want him either.

SMART DIPLOMACY, THE REAL THING: Harper Uses Handshake to Tell Putin to ‘Get Out of Ukraine.’

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Since #BringBackOurGirls, Boko Haram grows stronger. Can we get Jen Psaki or somebody to lecture them about the spirit of the hashtag?

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Report: Iran Nuclear Program More Advanced than Previously Believed.

JIM TREACHER ON “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Ayatollah Khamenei Doesn’t Want To Be Pen Pals With Obama.

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” Susan Rice Mocks Israeli Ambassador: ‘He’s Too Busy Travelling to Sheldon Adelson’s Events.’ Everything’s about domestic politics to these people. Everything. Well, there’s also the anti-semitism.

THE HILL: Top Dem ‘shocked’ by ‘chickens—‘ remark.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, hit the Obama administration on Wednesday over an official calling the Israeli prime minister a “chickenshit.”

“I was shocked and disappointed on reading the comments in The Atlantic,” Engel said in a statement. “I call upon the Administration to reassert the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel, and to reaffirm that the bonds between our two countries are unbreakable.

“I realize that two allies, such as the United States and Israel, are not going to agree on everything, but I think it is counterproductive and unprofessional for Administration officials to air their dirty laundry in such a public way,” he added. “I am getting tired of hearing about the leaks and denials. This ought to be the last time we hear of such talk because it is getting to a point where nobody believes the denials anymore.”

Engel is responding to an article in The Atlantic detailing the Obama administration’s frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The article quotes a senior Obama administration official as calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit.”

The statement from Engel, known as a strong supporter of Israel, adds a Democratic voice to Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) criticism of the comments.

Just more “smart diplomacy” from our JV administration.

A “SMART DIPLOMACY” RETROSPECTIVE: Gaddafi died 3 years ago. Would Libya be better off if he hadn’t?

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKING OUT? On outskirts of Baghdad, Islamic State’s advances raise tensions.

Related: Austin Bay: The Wages of Smart Diplomacy. “After a month of presidential bravado, Obama’s anti-Islamic State coalition is little more than a loose collection of promises, occasional airstrikes and jaw-dropping political errors.”

To be fair, it’s only meant to last until November. He’ll have more flexibility after the elections.

POLITICO: Who Lost Yemen? Obama calls it a “model” for fighting terror. So why didn’t anyone notice last month’s coup? Smart diplomacy.

ANNALS OF SMART DIPLOMACY: Obama Invites Indian Leader to Dinner While He Is Observing Religious Fast; Administration under fire for perceived insensitivity to Hindu traditions. Don’t they have people in the State Department who are supposed to know about stuff like that? . . .

SMART DIPLOMACY: State Department Unsure How Many Countries Are In The UN. But it’s worse than mere incompetence.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS. We sure can pick ’em.

YEAH, THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” STUFF ISN’T LOOKING SO GOOD: Becoming secretary of state could be Hillary’s biggest political mistake. “Hillary Clinton enjoyed remarkably high approval ratings during her time as secretary of state under President Obama, but those numbers have evaporated as the Middle East burns and Moscow continues its expansion westward — leaving her legacy in tatters. This development is occurring at a terrible time for Clinton, months before she is expected to announce her 2016 presidential ambitions.”

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda.

OOPS: Less Than 3 Weeks After Declaring Syria Chemical Weapons Free, Obama Admin Says They Hid Weapons.

I thought we had “smart diplomacy” covering this.

NO WORRIES! “SMART DIPLOMACY” IS ON THE JOB! Foreign Policy: Putin’s Nuclear Option: Would Russia’s president really be willing to start World War III?

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY.” A Sunni Intervention in Libya?

Related: Xi Jinping Cancels Trip to Pakistan Due to Political Unrest.

Well, I doubt it’s Obama’s strategy, but I can’t help but be amused at the way Islamic terrorism has gone from America’s problem to everyone’s problem.

ANNALS OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” America’s confused foreign policy in the post-Soviet sphere.

Washington seems to have developed an imperative to engage when it is too late, if at all, in reaction to Moscow’s assertive actions and has excelled in sending mixed messages. Azerbaijan is arguably the most pivotal nation in Eurasia today. It is a key transit point for NATO operations in Afghanistan, the only nation bordering both Russia and Iran, and one of the very few secular and tolerant Muslim societies in the world. Yet instead of intensively reaching out to Azerbaijan, Washington constantly criticizes or alternately ignores Baku.

In contrast to Russia and Iran, which both frequently send top level delegations to convince Baku to turn away from its pro-Western course, Washington has been MIA, with Hillary Clinton being the last high-level Administration official visiting in 2012. Compare this to the Moscow: Putin personally visited Baku just before the presidential elections in 2013 to court Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. Now consider this through the prism of regional perceptions and the global outcry about the lack of American leadership.

Failing to offer a credible security commitment to their allies in the post-Soviet space, the United States and Europe are unable to address their most immediate and present threats. Offering some vague European prospects peppered by heavy criticism and diluted by the constant bickering and lack of leadership among the Europeans, the West comes across as weak in the face of Russia’s decisive, instant and brutal force. The much touted EU Association agreement doesn’t even offer clear support to Azerbaijan for its territorial integrity, unlike the other candidates. This is a sign of strategic confusion in the European ranks.

When you elect feckless leaders, you get feckless leadership.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Obama Absent For Start Of NATO Meeting.

SMART DIPLOMACY: “We Didn’t See This Coming.” Commitments on Three Fronts Test Obama’s Foreign Policy.

UPDATE: From the comments: “That is so funny. Sarah Palin saw it coming from her front porch.”

A FITTING EMBLEM OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” Libyan militia uses vacated U.S. Embassy in Libya as swim club.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Why Obama Backed Off More ISIS Strikes: His Own Team Couldn’t Agree on a Syria Strategy.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Russia invades Ukraine, Obama expresses ‘concern.’ “There is no better example of the ruinous Obama foreign policy than Ukraine. The president has issued empty threats, diminished sanctions and refused to allow Ukraine to protect itself. If you are the leader of a Baltic state, you’re probably and justifiably panicked. The president will no doubt issue more empty threats. But that doesn’t do Ukraine any good, and it surely won’t protect other potential victims. Hillary Clinton‘s reset policy, it seems, has been a complete failure. Or is she going to blame others for this one as well?” If I were the Poles, I’d be trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” Obama’s War Of Choice Yields Chaos In Libya.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Obama’s plan to stop ISIS panned by both sides of aisle. Hillary’s first to plunge in the knife:

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” said Clinton, who served as Obama’s first secretary of state.

She made the comment to The Atlantic in response to a question about one of the administration’s blunt mantras to observe caution – an approach critics say has led to disengagement as events exploded in the Middle East.

Clinton, in a new interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the magazine, blasted the administration’s failure to arm Syrian rebels in the early phase of their uprising against President Bashar al Assad – a policy she tried to change.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

Her strategy appears to be to run against Obama the way Obama ran against Bush. Maybe a bit awkward that she was in charge of his foreign policy for most of the time.

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” Inviting a continent to dinner insults African reformers.

The African leaders summit in Washington and the coverage thereof perpetuated a number of unhelpful myths about the countries that attended.

Most visibly, when Vice President Joe Biden uttered his gaffe about the “nation of Africa,” it demonstrated the compulsion to treat the continent as one undifferentiated mass. Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, executive director of the Oulmes Water Co. and president of the Moroccan Confederation of Businesses, told me, “Perception is important. These are 54 countries and each one has specific [characteristics]. You can’t address an entire continent.” But that is precisely what Biden and President Obama did, speaking as if the same prescriptions apply everywhere. . . .

We don’t treat “Asia” as one entity, nor do we invite “South America” for dinner at the White House. It is vaguely demeaning and certainly misguided to treat African countries any differently and to, in effect, send the message that these leaders are interchangeable.

Yes, Africa is huge, and very diverse. Then there’s the dictator-friendliness of the thing:

The guest list featured some of Africa’s nastiest tyrants, including autocrats such as Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who traveled to Washington for the summit, which included an official dinner at the White House.

Usually, leaders with such dismal records on democracy and human rights aren’t welcomed at White House galas. This time, however, Obama excluded only four of the continent’s leaders (Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe along with the leaders of Eritrea, Sudan and the Central African Republic).

That left some of Africa’s most admirable democratic presidents, such as Ghana’s John Dramani Mahama and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, having to compete for attention with some of its most authoritarian. Obiang, for example, who recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of the military coup that brought him to power in 1979, has jailed or killed virtually all of his political opponents.


THE PRICE OF NOT-SO-SMART DIPLOMACY: Jonah Goldberg: The World Is Still Paying For World War One.

WHAT HAPPENS TO OIL PRICES when ISIS takes Baghdad? “As of today it is at least theoretically possible to scenarize a world oil shock at least equal to the so-called ‘Arab oil embargo’ of 1973-74 in terms of oil export supply cuts from several key regions and producer states – Russia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and possibly the GCC Arab Gulf exporters.” Whether you buy this or not, it’s certainly an argument to push domestic production as quickly as possible. I suppose opening federal lands for exploration is out of the question, though . . . .

And anyway, we’ve got Smart DiplomacyTM on the job, so no worries!

UPDATE: Richard Fernandez asks: “Whose side is Obama on?”

ANOTHER UPDATE: ISIS Advances As Kurds Run Out Of Ammunition.

FROM “REPORTING FOR DUTY” TO ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE: Kerry’s disappearing act sends the wrong signal. I disagree. Given Kerry’s performance, the smartest of “smart diplomacy” is to have him vanish from the radar screen.

GIVEN THE WAY OUR “SMART DIPLOMACY” IS GOING, BOTH COUNTRIES MIGHT BE BETTER OFF IF WE DID: John Kerry Just Visited. But Should We Just Forget About India? “So low is the bar in U.S.-India relations right now that the best thing that can be said about John Kerry’s two-day hop-over to New Delhi was that he went there at all. A relationship that burst into true blossom under George W. Bush, one that held for many Americans the promise of a mold-breaking alliance for the 21st century, lies shabbily dormant. Indeed, the only memorable episode in Kerry’s visit was his scolding by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, for the NSA’s spying on her political party.”

“SMART DIPLOMACY” AGAIN, I GUESS: Hillary Clinton: Hamas Operates in Civilian Areas Because Gaza is a Small Place or Something. They had to put their HQ in a hospital! There was nowhere else!

ANN ALTHOUSE ON JOSH MARSHALL ON OBAMA AND ISRAEL: “Marshall won’t say it directly, but this feels like desperation about the 2014 elections.”

Plus, from the comments: “The other day we read that with the defeat of Eric Cantor, American Jews don’t have a Republican they can go to. Today we are told the Republicans are working for the Israelis. Anyway, it’s all absurd. After all, the Israelis have no better friend than John Kerry; what do they need Republicans for?”

And: From “Smart Diplomacy” to “Smarm Diplomacy.”


A person I trust posted the following on a local Jewish e-board in NJ. She advised that it is from an IDF solider presently serving in Gaza:

“What’s happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and begs the imagination.

Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They’re coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.

Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but be residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn’t organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.

They’re writing letters and blessings, how they’re thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they’re as perfect and comforting as possible.

Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha’Ta’Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.

The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers’ names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.
Soroka Hospital (in Be’er Sheva) today looks like a 5 star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the MasterChef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.

It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously Kosher. Shachrit, Mincha, and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. They’re giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It’s become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [Special Forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They’re gaining both a Mitzva and a high quality undershirt. We’ve started calling them “Shachpatzitzti” (a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We’re having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.

We’re making lots of jokes at Hamas’s expensive and without politics. There’s lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someone give a class on Likutei MoharaN (Breslov).

How happy is the nation that is like this.”

Well, to be fair, they have a leader who believes in the country he leads.

UPDATE: Question: Come a real confrontation with Obama — which seems possible — could the Israelis flip and ally with Putin? The Soviets backed the Israelis pre-1967, and right now Putin’s siding with Assad against the Islamists. Israel would be a game-changing ally for Russia in the Middle East, especially with all the traditional Arab powers looking shaky — not only in terms of military assets, but more significantly in terms of intelligence assets.

I’m sure the crack Smart DiplomacyTM team at the State Department has considered this.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” GETS EVEN SMARTER! The Obama administration threatens Israel over criticism of John Kerry.

THAT’S OKAY, WE’VE GOT “SMART DIPLOMACY” ON THE JOB: Scotland’s bid for independence puts White House in awkward diplomatic spot.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” BEARS ITS FRUIT: Madeleine Albright: ‘The world is a mess.’

BECOMING? Walter Russell Mead: As Libya Implodes, “Smart Diplomacy” Becoming a Punch Line.

Throw in the resulting civil war in Mali and the scattering of insurgents and weapons to the four winds, and you have a classic exhibition of reckless incompetence—of American arrogance, ignorance, carelessness and moralism combining in a toxic stew to sink a fragile country we never understood.

Luckily for America’s self-esteem, it was liberal Democrats that produced this particular shambles. If Republicans had done this, the media would be on the administration non-stop, perhaps comparing Samantha Power to Paul Wolfowitz—a well-meaning humanitarian way over her head who wrecked a country out of misguided ideology. There might also be some pointed questions for future presidential candidates who supported this fiasco. But since both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their fingerprints all over Libya, there isn’t a lot of press hunger for a detailed, unsparing autopsy into this stinking corpse of policy flub.

If Obama were a Republican, the press and the weekly news shows would be ringing with hyperbolic, apocalyptic denunciations of the clueless incumbent who had failed to learn the most basic lessons of Iraq. Indeed, the MSM right now would be howling that Obama was stupider than Bush. Bush, our Journolist friends would now be saying ad nauseam, at least had the excuse that he didn’t know what happens when you overthrow a paranoid, genocidal, economically incompetent Arab tyrant in an artificial post-colonial state. But Obama did—or, the press would nastily say, he would have done if he’d been doing his job instead of hitting the golf course or yakking it up with his glitzy pals at late night bull sessions. The ad hominem attacks would never stop, and all the tangled threads of incompetence and failure would be endlessly and expertly picked at in long New Yorker articles, NYT thumbsuckers, and chin-strokings on all the Sabbath gasbag shows.

Why, the ever-admirable tribunes of a free and unbiased press would be asking non-stop, didn’t this poor excuse for a President learn from what happened in Iraq? When you upend an insane and murderous dictator who has crushed his people for decades under an incompetent and quirky regime, you’d better realize that there is no effective state or civil society under the hard shell of dictatorial rule. Remove the dictator and you get chaos and anarchy. Wasn’t this President paying attention during the last ten years?

Some of the criticism would be exaggerated and unfair; the Monday morning quarterbacks never really understand just how complicated and tragic this poor world really is, not to mention how hard it is to make life and death decisions in real time in the center of the non-stop political firestorm that is Washington today. And the MSM attracts more than its share of deeply inexperienced but entitled, self-regarding blowhards who love to pontificate about how stupid all those poor fools who have actual jobs and responsibilities actually are.

But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP.

This is why, if you want accountable government, you should always vote Republican.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” BEARS ITS USUAL FRUIT: U.S. evacuates Libya embassy after ‘free-wheeling militia violence.’

Meanwhile, Obama went golfing today.

ED KLEIN ON THE WAGES OF “SMART DIPLOMACY:” How Our World Fell Apart. These people are constantly telling us how smart they are, but from diplomatic disasters to “speak-o” incidents, the evidence suggests otherwise.

“SMART DIPLOMACY:” Hillary: This Plane Thing Is Really Europe’s Problem.

Related: More Mush From The Wimp.

SMART DIPLOMACY: WaPo: Kerry flunks the laugh test on Iran.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” AND BITTER FRUIT: Russia, the Middle East and American deaths. “Before the U.S. body count goes up, maybe we should change policies.”

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Have We Gone From a Post-War to a Pre-War World?

In 1914, Germany was the rising power, the U.K. the weary hegemon and the Balkans was the powder keg. In 2014, China is rising, the United States is staggering under the burden of world leadership and the Middle East is the powder keg.

Only a few years ago, most western observers believed that the age of geopolitical rivalry and great power war was over. Today, with Russian forces in Ukraine, religious wars exploding across the Middle East, and territorial disputes leading to one crisis after another in the East and South China seas, the outlook is darker. Serious people now ask whether we have moved from a post-war into a pre-war world. Could some incident somewhere in the world spark another global war? . . .

Despite worries about the rise of China, the place of the United States at the pinnacle of world power is more secure today than Britain’s was 100 years ago. The U.S. economy is a larger share of GDP, the U.S. military advantage is qualitatively greater than anything Britain ever enjoyed, and none of its political problems are as polarizing as the Irish question or the rise of a socialist working class party were for the U.K. in 1914.

Even so, it is possible that other powers may not be sure how committed the United States is to defending its allies or its interests around the world, and that can make bold or even rash moves look attractive.

It’s possible, for example, that some people in the Chinese leadership look at President Obama’s mixed messages about his “red lines” in Syria and wonder how seriously to take American red lines in the Pacific. Would the U.S. really go to war over a handful of uninhabited rocks scattered through the East and South China seas? Would we take stronger steps against an invasion of Taiwan than we have against Russia’s conquest of the Crimea? Russia and Iran may be asking themselves similar questions and looking for places where they can push against what they see as weak spots in the U.S. alliance system. At the same time, countries that depend on U.S. guarantees (like Israel and Japan) may become more aggressive to deter potential adversaries.

I’m sure “smart diplomacy” will take care of everything.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKING OUT? “It’s going to be a long, long confrontational struggle with Russia that will last at least until Putin is no longer the leader.”

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Poland’s Top Diplomat ‘Calls US Alliance Worthless.’

Related: Obama Administration Foreign Policy: We’d Laugh if Lives Weren’t at Stake.

MICHAEL TOTTEN: The Consequences Of Syria. “The Syrian civil war is no longer the Syrian civil war. It’s a regional war that started in Syria, has expanded into Lebanon and Iraq, and has drawn in the Iranians and to a lesser extent the Kurds and the Israelis. Wars in North Africa tend to stay local, but wars in the Levant spill over and suck in the neighbors. There’s no reason to believe this war has finished expanding or that an end is in sight.”

Fortunately, we have Smart Diplomacy, implemented by Top Men and Top Women.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” STUFF WORKING OUT? World Has Largest Number of Refugees Since World War II.

NOTHING GETS BY OUR “SMART DIPLOMACY” CREW: White House beginning to consider conflicts in Syria and Iraq as single challenge.

SMART DIPLOMACY: Obama’s Partner: The Iranians.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Former Obama Ambassador Blasts Syria Policy Failures.

President Obama’s former Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, publicly lambasted the Administration yesterday, stating that its Syria policy was a failure, and that he resigned because he could no longer support it. He further argued that timely intervention could have empowered moderates and prevented violent jihadists from gaining the upper hand in the Syrian resistance. Instead, new terrorist threats are now emerging, not just in Syria but in the U.S. and Europe. . . .

Obama personally selected Ford as his Ambassador to Syria, going so far as to give him a recess appointment in the teeth of Republican resistance. Ford now joins the ranks of former Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in criticizing their old boss’s Syria strategy. Ford made it crystal clear that “it’s on record now that the State Department, for a long time, has advocated doing much more to help the moderates in the Syrian opposition.” Such blunt comments from an ex-official make it clear that America’s inaction was a personal decision of the President, made against the counsel of his advisers.

As an example of his security concerns, Ford cited Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American citizen and Florida native who drove a truck full of explosives into a Syrian Army outpost in a suicide attack on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Abu-Salha’s case exemplifies a much wider failure. Not only have we renounced control of the Syria situation; the U.S. can’t even gather enough intelligence to keep track of what’s going on there.

Deploy the hashtags!

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKING OUT FOR YOU? (CONT’D): Chinese General Says U.S. Foreign Policy Has ‘Erectile Dysfunction’ Problems.

SMART DIPLOMACY: “Offshore Balancing” A Recipe For More Conflict.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? Taliban Joyous Over Bergdahl Swap, Vow to Get All Mujahideen Released ASAP.

UPDATE: “What does that remind you of? Iran-Contra.”

HER APPEAL IS BECOMING MORE SELECTIVE: Tickets to Hillary Speech On Sale, 66% Off. “Hillary Clinton will be speaking at the 1STBANK Center next week in Broomfield, Colorado. But it appears event organizers are having a hard time selling out: tickets to the event have been put on sale, and are now selling for 66 percent cheaper than the original sale price.”

Or maybe the problem is with the sales pitch:

Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the 67th US Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013, after nearly four decades in public service. Her “smart power” approach to foreign policy repositioned American diplomacy and development for the 21st century.

Yeah, how’s that workin’ out for us?

SMART DIPLOMACY UPDATE: Are U.S. Sanctions Isolating NASA Instead of Russia? “At an economic forum in Russia, European, Russian and Indian space industry leaders plead to keep international tensions from scuttling joint programs and business arrangements. Missing? NASA and U.S. space companies.”

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): In Syria, Tehran Declares Victory. Enough is enough: Hashtag ’em!

UPDATE: Eliot Cohen: A Selfie-Taking, Hashtagging Teenage Administration: The Obama crowd too often responds to critics and to world affairs like self-absorbed adolescents.

As American foreign policy continues its long string of failures—not a series of singles and doubles, as President Obama asserted in a recent news conference, but rather season upon season of fouls and strikes—the question becomes: Why?

Why does the Economist magazine put a tethered eagle on its cover, with the plaintive question, “What would America fight for?” Why do Washington Post columnists sympathetic to the administration write pieces like one last week headlined, “Obama tends to create his own foreign policy headaches”? . . .

Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea with the line that this is “19th-century behavior,” the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being “so 1980s.” When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering “hope and change” to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a “stinkburger” or a “meanwich”) and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.

In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.

If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults.

Indeed. Related:

Obama doesn’t act presidential. Presidents act presidential not because they’re stuffy or out-of-touch, but because experience shows that when you don’t act presidential, it often winds up handing opponents a club to beat you with. Obama might know this if he had had significant experience in national politics before running for President, but he didn’t. His staff, alas, is taking its cues from him, instead of remedying his deficiencies.

Which are becoming increasingly apparent.

JAMES TARANTO: Schindler’s List, And Hillary’s.

Obama’s “remarkable title” is itself an example of the power of story telling. It is a commonplace that he rose to prominence almost entirely on the strength of his biography (which Bill Clinton once disparaged as a “fairy tale”). In 2011, when he was at one of his political low points, critics on the left insisted his failure was one not of leadership or of policy but of story telling.

Now here he is telling a story–a story about telling stories. The moral of this story is that leadership is a matter of telling stories. That is partly true–we do not mean to gainsay the hortatory and informative elements of political leadership–but Obama seems to be citing the power of stories as an excuse for inaction.

Also, Hillary’s inaction:

What Clinton didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen. . . .

In May 2012, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco (now at the White House) wrote to the State Department to urge Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The following month, Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, said that Boko Haram “are likely sharing funds, training, and explosive materials” with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. And yet, Hillary Clinton’s State Department still declined to place Boko Haram on its official terrorist roster.

Smart diplomacy!


One bitter American official told [Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist from Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Aharonoth] “I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress.”

The country’s in the very best of hands, to coin an Insta-phrase.


“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: John F. Kerry’s Israeli gaffe a diplomatic nightmare. I think they gave him this job so Hillary’s tenure would look good by comparison, but for the first time in his life he’s over-performing.

UPDATE: Kerry Echoes His Boss. “John Kerry is attempting to walk back his smear of Israel as an “apartheid” state. That the current secretary of state is a clownish figure has been well known for decades. But what should not be lost in the latest gaffe is that it is not a gaffe. In what he foolishly thought was a safe place to let his hair down, Kerry merely gave voice to what the Obama administration thinks. . . . Forget Kerry. This was made explicit in Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—for anyone who didn’t infer it already from Obama’s friendships with notorious Israel bashers like Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers (see P. David Hornik’s FPM report on Ayers joining his fellow tenured radicals in a 2010 petition accusing Israel of — all together now — apartheid policies).”

Related: John Kerry’s Jewish Best Friends.

HOW’S THAT SMART DIPLOMACYTM WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): David Brooks: “All around, the fabric of peace and order is fraying.” This a direct consequence of who we elected in 2008. You, David, were a part of that.

“SMART DIPLOMACY” UPDATE: Hill Republicans call on Kerry to apologize, resign for reported Israel ‘apartheid’ remarks. Plus, from Barbara Boxer: “Late Monday Sen. Barbara Boxer added a bipartisan note to the Kerry criticism, tweeting, ‘Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.'”

Mark Begich (D-AK) also criticized him.

JAMES TARANTO: Mutually Assured Derision: The State Department makes a hash of diplomacy.

Wait, it gets worse. Some of Foggy Bottom’s tweeters are deadly earnest, making them totally defenseless against post-Soviet sarcasm. On March 26 Jen Psaki, State’s top spokesman, tweeted this: “To echo @BarackObama today-proud to stand #UnitedForUkraine World should stand together with one voice.” In an accompanying photo, a smiling Psaki gave a left-handed thumbs-up while holding up in her right hand a sign with the #UnitedForUkraine hashtag and her Twitter handle, @statedeptspox.

Yesterday, National Review Online’s Patrick Brennan reports, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account started including the hashtag in its tweets on the subject. Example: “[Foreign Minister Sergey] #Lavrov: Our US counterparts must compel the acting officials in Kiev to bear responsibility for the current situation #UnitedForUkraine.”

Barack Obama’s political operation frequently sees its Twitter hashtags “hijacked” by conservative antagonists. Remember #WHYouth? But in domestic politics, mutually assured derision is just good clean fun. Partisan politics thrives on antagonism. If the purpose of the domestic hashtags is to motivate Democratic base voters, conservative mockery is a help rather than a hindrance.

At Foggy Bottom, however, they seem utterly clueless as to what the Russians are up to.

And to think we were promised Smart DiplomacyTM back when Obama was new!

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): New York Times: Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast.

HOW’S THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY” WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Ukraine threatens to undermine Obama’s delayed Asia ‘pivot.’ I’m pretty sure this isn’t an accident, either. At least, you know the Chinese are happy about the way Vladimir is keeping attention pinned on Eastern Europe.

THE NATIONAL INTEREST: The Tragic Decline of American Foreign Policy. I think it’s called “smart diplomacy.”

Related: John McCain: Obama lets ‘bad people’ fill U.S. void, says Jimmy Carter was better.

MORE OF THAT “SMART DIPLOMACY,” I GUESS: Top U.S. Diplomats Planted Anti-Israel Stories In Lead-Up To Peace Talk Collapse. Gee, I wonder why Israel doesn’t trust the Obama Administration’s guarantees?

SMART DIPLOMACYTM‘S FRUIT: The World’s Post-Crimea Power Blocs, Mapped.