Obama’s mercurial foreign policy

This morning I posted a comment using “mhere” on a piece, “Reckless Abandonment”, by Mario Loyola at National Review Online.   The gist of his argument is that Obama’s missteps, like failing to arm the moderate Syrian resistance, led to the formation of IS and he also writes a stinging indictment of the lack of a coherent Obama foreign policy.  I disagreed with  a good bit of his assessment.  Loyola explains the Bush approach:

“The Bush administration recognized the danger of failed and failing states, and put in place a preventive doctrine of “partnership capacity building” to shore up the governance capability of threatened states. The idea was to prevent the sort of lawless safe haven from which al-Qaeda organized the 9/11 attacks on America. The first task was to make sure that sovereign states could control the whole of their territory.”

JK and I jabbered back and forth a bit via email about this situation and he, of course, provided some very good links to expand on this subject of “moderate” Syrian resistance fighters.  Hillary tried latching onto those “moderates” too and insisting she, the queen of soft power and smart diplomacy, would have armed these  “moderates” while Obama waffled. Loyola explains the Obama approach:

“Obama, by contrast, seems utterly unconcerned with failing states and terrorist safe havens. “I’ve been careful to resist calls to turn time and again to our military,” explained Obama, “because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military. We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy, and our ideals.” How that soft power is supposed to protect us from terror networks operating with impunity in safe havens across the Middle East has yet to be explained.”

My inexpert take in the comment section goes:

“Certainly Obama’s whimsical strategic vacuum provided the conditions for power vacuums across the ME to develop, but the Bush foreign policy had huge gaping flaws that boded poorly for long-term success. So, partisan politics aside, we went from bad foreign policy under Bush to no foreign policy under Obama (or at least no coherent foreign policy).

To say, “if Obama had armed the moderate Syrians things would be different”, might have altered the fate of Assad, but there was no stomach among those calling for throwing more arms into the mix to stay the course and ensure a “better” Syria emerged at the end. The arming the rebels rests as a simplistic tactical move, without a fully thought out long-term strategy. We hadn’t considered all the various scenarios that could ensue from arming “moderate” rebels and how we would respond to various outcomes. We didn’t have any clue as to who possible “moderate” political factions are in Syria, whom we hoped would emerge and build this better-than-Assad-Syria.

We so often throw ourselves into well-meaning foreign policy initiatives that blindly ignore the political/cultural realities of the people we are trying to “help” and as long as we refuse to acknowledge the pall Islam and more ominously Islamism casts over any reforms directed at dragging these cultures into modernity, our efforts will meet with failure and defeat.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan we spent billions of dollars with shaky accountability and little to show for the amount we squandered. Standing up a credible Afghan Army or Iraqi Army proved futile – these people want our money, not our democratic values. Obama’s mercurial foreign policy bodes much worse than Bush’s, but as Americans we should demand and expect a grand strategy that rests on reality, not wishful thinking and delusions, like “Islam means peace”.”

JK provided a link to an August 14, 2014 Fareed Zakaria piece in the Washington Post, “The fantasy of Middle Eastern moderates”, that offers a lot of academic research on the “moderates” designation for resistance fighters in the wake of the Arab Spring.  Zakaria cites an opinion piece, “Would arming Syria’s rebels have stopped the Islamic State”,  by Marc Lynch, from George Washington University, where he is the director of Middle Eastern Studies and the Project on Middle East Political Science.  Lynch debunks this Clinton revisionist history on “moderates”, stating:

“The idea that these rebel groups could be vetted for moderation and entrusted with advanced weaponry made absolutely no sense given the realities of the conflict in Syria. These local groups frequently shifted sides and formed alliances of convenience as needed. As MIT’s Fotini Christia has documented in cases from Afghanistan to Bosnia, and the University of Virginia’s Jonah Shulhofer-Wohl has detailed in Syria, rebel groups that lack a legitimate and effective over-arching institutional structure almost always display these kinds of rapidly shifting alliances and “blue on blue” violence. A “moderate, vetted opposition” means little when alliances are this fluid and organizational structures so weak.”

This very informative piece by Professor Lynch provides many additional links worth checking out.  He does go to pains to validate Hillary’s understanding of the situation, even as he demolishes her “moderates” assertion, which seems to happen frequently when academics write about Dem political figures’ statements.

JK stated this morphing of  Syrian “moderates” well before these experts, naturally, but he seemed happy to finally have the mainstream media figure out as JK puts it: “AQI > ISIL > ISIS > IS”.  Just follow your arrow, wherever it points (that’s actually a line in a country song by Kacey Musgraves, lol).  Doubt IS would approve of her song….


Filed under Culture Wars, Foreign Policy, General Interest, Islam, Military, Politics

6 responses to “Obama’s mercurial foreign policy

  1. Kinnison

    Washington hasn’t a clue about the Middle East. They try to impose rationality upon a chaotic situation and it simply doesn’t work. We would be best served to stop meddling there and simply stop and watch for awhile, to see whose body is on the ground and who is still standing. Written history started in this region, and it has always been involved in some sort of warfare since the beginning of it. Look at a map to see why. A good friend once opined that we should build a high wall around the entire Middle East and then install large catipults outside it. We should then catipult pallets of small arms ammunition over the wall until the shooting finally stips, take a peek and see who “won”.

  2. You’ve nailed it Kinnison! We think we can manage other people’s future, but in this ME mess it’s like a kettle of popcorn without a lid – the kernels explode and you can’t predict which direction they’ll go. We can’t be the lid until all the kernels have popped.

    Some of the big name diplomats now want us to work with Iran to stop IS, when months ago they were urging us to arm the “moderate” Syrians who morphed into IS, because Iran was keeping Assad in the fight and Iran was our largest threat in the region. I read the recent Iran alliance idea came with the historical justification, “we worked with Stalin to defeat Hitler”, yep and then we turned around and ceded all of Eastern Europe to Stalin and endured a half century “Cold War” fighting trying to check Soviet aggression. Selective memory among these “experts” and cherry-picking history to back their latest brainstorms reaches epidemic proportions and then the media regurgitates these lame historical justifications for more military misadventures. The only country in the ME, whom I unequivocally support arming, is Israel and I stand by that assessment.

  3. JK

    We “just might” Kinnison, have a mutual friend.

    (of course you might be mad at me for including your name when I reach my intended concluding remarks.)

    Obama’s “ostensible” primary motivation for providing top cover for the Peshmerga, as we hear ad nauseum was/is to protect “religious minorities” ie, Christians, Yazidis, the Kurds of course (the latter demographic’s religious affiliation hardly ever – if ever – getting mentioned. To borrow from that yucky Mister Gore, an “Inconvenient Truth” possibly, but the Kurds are Sunni).


    If “protecting religious minorities” is/was the true casus belli – which country in the entirety of the Middle East would one travel to, identify the greatest number of such “religious diversity”?

    Qatar? Bahrain? The UAE? Egypt? Oman? Yemen?

    Heck our “top tier ally” Saudi Arabia? The sole country in the whole of the region where not a single church or synagogue is to be found?

    Nope. None of the above.

    The one country (even had I included Israel just above) where are to be found nearly every sect under the sun – possible exception, Hindu maybe Sikh – would be the same place Saint Paul established the oldest Christian churches in. And that would be



    ” Religions:

    Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian) 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo).”


  4. Pingback: Obama’s ISIS Strategy – “FUBAR” | libertybelle diaries

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