Belmont Club

A Lying in Winter

There’s really only one political game president Obama knows how to play.  That is to buy off both enemies and friends with the taxpayer’s money.   He’s a man with a hammer who only sees nails. When State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf suggested to Chris Matthews that “jobs” were the answer to ISIS, she was not mis-speaking but anticipating a policy whose outlines will emerge over the coming days.  A kind of Marshall Plan for the Islamic world seems in the offing.  Harf told Matthews how the administration was going to handle ISIS.

“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. … But we cannot win this war by killing them,” department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “We need … to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether –”

At that point, Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims.”

Harf continued to argue that the U.S. should work with other countries to “help improve their governance” and “help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.”

Once is happenstance. Twice might be coincidence, because president Obama himself has said the same thing as Harf. He thinks the present trouble in the Middle East is the result of people being driven by lack of opportunity, bigotry and racism, to the desperate sorts of behavior exhibited by ISIS.  “Speaking Wednesday at his White House summit on ‘combating violent extremism’,” the president said:

“We do have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit,” he said. While poverty alone doesn’t turn people into terrorists, “resentments fester” when young people in corrupt countries have no education or opportunity.

The U.S. is at war with “people who have perverted Islam,” not the religion itself, he said. Dismissing the critics who have blasted him in recent weeks for his reluctance to explicitly link the terror threat to Muslim extremists — “Say it, Obama: ‘Islamic,’ ” read one New York Post headline— he said he refuses to “grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek.”

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God represents Christianity, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or Hinduism,” Obama said.

He called for an end to the stigmatization and profiling of Muslims. Before he mentioned the Islamic State, he expressed support for Muslim-Americans “worried and afraid” in the aftermath of the slaying last week of three young people in Chapel Hill, N.C.

It’s another teaching moment where we’re told it’s really our fault we have enemies and he’s getting ready to buy them off. That’s not how he’ll put it, but that’s what it will amount to.  He will reason that since Harry Truman got such excellent results by handing out money to white and sort of white people at the end of World War 2, it only makes sense to repeat the winning move in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Saudi Arabia? Did I say Saudi Arabia, a country awash with trillions of dollars? Well maybe they’re a few billion dollars and a little self-esteem short of making into the the “rule based” world.

And there’s no time to lose. CNN reports that Libya, once a pipeline so useful in moving weapons from the outside world to the armies of the Arab Spring is threatening to backflow into Europe. “Libya could become a terror pipeline to Europe,” is how CNN puts it. To be perfectly fair there was a time when president Obama tried kinetic military action, under the rubric of “responsibility to protect”.  But he only succeeded in having Libya wrested from his grasp and the barrels curved back on him so that it blew back on his face.

So he’s learned his lesson and resorted to dollar diplomacy. One of the agencies at the center of this new and enlightened approach is State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. “The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was established at the direction of the President and the Secretary of State to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism, particularly al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents. Executive Order 13584, signed by President Obama on September 9, 2011, provides policy background and assigns interagency responsibilities to CSCC.” Just to show he means business, State was:

pleased to announce the appointment of Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. Special Envoy Hussain will lead a staff drawn from a number of U.S. departments and agencies to expand international engagement and partnerships to counter violent extremism and to develop strategic counterterrorism communications around the world. As part of this role, Special Envoy Hussain will also serve as Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which was established at the direction of the President and former Secretary of State Clinton in 2010 and codified by President Obama’s Executive Order 13584 to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide strategic communications focused on violent extremists and terrorist organizations.

Can you see it now? It’s all there in bureaucratese. Harf wasn’t speaking out of turn; no loose cannon. Harf came on the Chris Matthews show to deliver a message. They’re going to uplift those poor misguided people if they have to spend your last dollar to do it.  If the public misunderstood Harf it was only because it sounded so ridiculous most thought she had lost her mind.

Twice is coincidence.  Three times is deliberate policy. What goes for ISIS apparently goes for Putin. Asked what the US was going to do about the Ukrainian ceasefire that never was, in particular about the loss of Debaltseve to Russian proxies, the State Department has apparently affirmed the right of Ukraine to surrender territory if it wants. And by gum, it looks like that is what Kiev is going to do. They may call it something else, but that’s what it will amount to.

(Reuters) – Ukraine pulled thousands of troops out of an encircled town on Wednesday after a massive assault by pro-Russian rebels, who ignored a new ceasefire to seize the strategic railway junction.

The fall of the besieged town of Debaltseve was one of the worst defeats of the war for Ukraine’s troops, who proved unable to stop an advance by Moscow-backed rebels fighting for territory the Kremlin calls “New Russia”….

Putin says surrender.

Despite drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution that called on all sides to cease fighting, Russia never criticized the rebel advance on Debaltseve. Hours before the town fell, President Vladimir Putin told Ukraine it should let its men surrender to save their lives.

Grand insight that.  You can surrender if you want.  It’s one your “positive rights”, along with the right to free community college and affordable health care. The facts are that given president Obama’s limited political skillset, it may be best to let him surrender. All attempts to get him to stand and resist have ended in farce. He’s no good at it. His Red Lines washed away.  US airpower is actually operating in support of Iran.  And Assad looks like he’ll be in office long after Obama’s term ends.

Perhaps the only thing worse that an Obama trying to buy off ISIS is an Obama trying to resist them. The current Western leadership is too guilt-ridden, corrupt and incompetent to do anything but offer bribes to its enemies. That’s all they can do.  Period. And that’s how things will remain until the leadership is changed.

President Obama has been compared to the Roman emperor Nero. But perhaps he is really more akin to Emperor Valens. Valens attempted to buy off the Goths and wound up starving them. When the Goths became wroth, he set forth with an army to defeat them and, due to his incompetence, met annihilating defeat at Adrianople. The results were catastrophic.

By the end of the war, the Goths had killed a Roman emperor, destroyed a Roman army and laid waste large tracts of the Roman Balkans, much of which never recovered. The Roman Empire had for the first time negotiated a peace settlement with an autonomous barbarian tribe inside the borders of the Empire, a situation that a generation before would have been unthinkable.

The lesson was not lost on other tribes, as well as the Goths themselves, who would not remain peaceful for long. Within a hundred years the Western Empire would collapse under the pressure of continued invasions as the Empire was carved up into barbarian kingdoms.

It was the end of Rome. We have our Valens. Let us, for Pete’s sake, avoid our Adrianople. Perhaps the best course is to let president Obama play the game of bribery and vote buying that he knows best. It’s too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

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