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Goodwill Squandered, U.S. Foreign Policy Is Adrift: Paul Chapin, Ottawa Citizen, July 15, 2013— The foreign policy of the United States is beginning to accumulate a record of diplomatic failure among the worst in U.S. history. Not since Woodrow Wilson raised the hopes of the world after the First World War and then failed to deliver U.S. leadership has an American president been such a disappointment.
A New Anti-American Axis?: Leslie H. Gelb and Dimitri K. Simes, New York Times , July 6, 2013—The flight of the leaker Edward J. Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow last month would not have been possible without the cooperation of Russia and China. The two countries’ behavior in the Snowden affair demonstrates their growing assertiveness and their willingness to take action at America’s expense.
The Obama Age of Proliferation: Editorial, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2013— 'We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation," President Obama declared on Wednesday, "but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." He's right about the last point, because even as the President offers new dreams of U.S. nuclear disarmament, the world is entering a new proliferation age.
The US State Department’s Islamist Plan: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Jewish Press, July 19th, 2013
U.S. Supremacy Can Outlive Obama's Foreign Policy: Fabio Rafael Fiallo, Real Clear World, July 20, 2013
America Can Take a Breather. And It Should:Richard N. Haass, New York Times, June 23, 2013
Is Obama Trying to Start Israel-Syria War?: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, July 15, 2013
Kerry’s Mad Mission, Misreading the Middle East: Amir Taheri, The New York Post, July 22, 2013
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt: "Muslim Brotherhood's Lackey": Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, July 17, 2013
Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Aid to Egypt: Marian Wang & Theodoric Meyer, Real Clear World, July 10, 2013
Ottawa Citizen July 15, 2013
The foreign policy of the United States is beginning to accumulate a record of diplomatic failure among the worst in U.S. history. Not since Woodrow Wilson raised the hopes of the world after the First World War and then failed to deliver U.S. leadership has an American president been such a disappointment. Barack Obama’s international standing today is in free fall, and that is bad news whatever one’s political affiliations. The United States is on the road to losing the war against Islamism, and among the futures we must now contemplate are mullah oligarchies ruling from North Africa to West Asia, nuclear brinkmanship between regimes in the Gulf, more asymmetric warfare in the streets of the great cities of the world, and perhaps another war for Israel’s survival.
President Obama took office in 2009 amid some of the highest expectations ever for an incoming president of the United States. It was a classic case of irrational exuberance. By any objective measure, he had one of the weakest resumés of any new president, and his closest advisers had even less grounding in foreign affairs than he did. Moreover, the president appointed no foreign policy veteran of stature as secretary of state or national security adviser to compensate for his own limitations, and he marginalized the best people he had such as Hillary Clinton, Jim Jones and Richard Holbrooke. Robert Gates was retained from the Bush administration as secretary of defence, but largely to see through the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq and then Afghanistan. He was gone in two years.
Nor did the president apparently seek advice. According to the former foreign editor of Newsweek, Edward Klein, in 2011 when Bill Clinton was urging Hillary to run again against Obama, he told a group of insiders: “I’ve had two successors since I left the White House — Bush and Obama — and I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama … Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent … Barack Obama is an amateur.”
The stakes are high, and the tragedy is that such a great opportunity has been lost. The Obama record provides an object lesson in squandering good will. In July 2008, while he was still just a candidate for president, Obama visited Berlin and was greeted by a crowd of 200,000. When he returned as president in June of this year, the crowd was not much more than 5,000, most of whom were invited guests. Reuters reported “He’s ‘demystified’ and ‘no longer a superstar’ in German eyes. Now he’s just another world leader on a state visit, and whatever problems people have with U.S. policy are on his shoulders.”
According to an annual Gallup tracking poll, European approval of U.S. leadership dropped from 47 per cent in 2009 to 36 per cent in 2012. Worldwide, the median approval of U.S. leadership across 130 countries declined from 49 per cent in Obama’s first year to 41 per cent last year. In Canada — innocent and blinkered as ever — 59 per cent approved and 32 per cent disapproved in 2012.
Only in Africa is Obama’s popularity still quite high. But it has fallen from the days when virtually the entire population of the continent erupted in joy that an American of Kenyan descent had become president. The president’s approval numbers today appear to be in the 70 per cent range, down some 20 points from four years ago.
When he visited South Africa two weeks ago, he was met by demonstrations. According to the London Telegraph, presidents Bush and Clinton are more fondly remembered in Africa for their multi-billion-dollar programs to treat AIDS and ease trade. “It would not be wrong,” in the view of a senior academic at the University of Johannesburg, “to say that George W. Bush probably did more for this continent.”…
In his study of the world Obama faced on coming to office, The Inheritance, David Sanger of The New York Times wrote that: “The symbolism of electing a biracial president with the middle name Hussein is a powerful antidote to the caricature of America as an intolerant, hegemonic power.” But he warned that it would only take the U.S. so far “in restoring our leverage and deploying our portfolio of influence around the world.” Three years later, in Confront and Conceal, Sanger would write that Obama “promised to restore traditional American ‘engagement’ by talking and listening to America’s most troubling adversaries and reluctant partners … But it quickly became evident that engagement is just a tactic, not a real strategy.”
As it turned out, the essence of Obama’s foreign policy strategy was to act unilaterally when confronted with a direct threat to American security — and to decline to act on a threat to the global order unless others with more immediate interests at stake were prepared to commit greater resources and take greater risks. This is not a strategy any U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt would have recognized, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter. And it is not one other democratic states should leave unattended. If the U.S. is not going to take the lead in dealing with global problems, others must do so. To date, however, only France and Britain have demonstrated any international leadership.
In June 2009, President Barack Obama spoke at Cairo University addressing a broad range of Mideast problems and leaving the impression he would get to work on fixing them. It was not to be. In the view of Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution, “nowhere in Obama’s foreign policy has the gap been greater between promise and delivery than in the (peace process).”
The polls tell the story of how Arabs and Muslims reacted once their hopes for U.S. support of the Arab Spring were dashed. In the Arab world, Washington today has an approval rating of only about 20 per cent. In Egypt, Gallup reports approval dropped from 78 per cent in 2009 to 17 per cent in 2012. It has probably fallen still further with Egyptians accusing Washington of embracing the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, removed by the military on July 3.
In fact, the “Obama doctrine” never contemplated active U.S. involvement in the Arab world, or any other region. On the contrary, Washington fears involvement and is determined to avoid the U.S. becoming embroiled in conflicts which might require sending troops abroad. The last thing the Obamians want is “another war.” The Obama doctrine has no interest in looking beyond current crises, let alone in leading change. It is more interested in “stability” than in advancing the cause of reform and democratic development. “Stability” is code for supporting the status quo whatever it is, for caution in accepting change, and for “getting on the right side of history” once change seems inevitable. As Vali Nasr, a leading expert on Muslim affairs, has written, “The administration’s enthusiasm for democracy remained largely a matter of rhetoric.”
This has had tragic consequences. In 2011, the Middle East was on the cusp of one of the great historical transformations of our times, one as profound and hopeful for the future as the collapse of communism in 1989. There had been two previous Arab “awakenings” — in the 1920s and in the 1950s. But unlike these earlier nationalist uprisings, the Arab Spring was the product of spontaneous street-level protests against authoritarian regimes. It is impossible to tell what might have happened had the U.S., and its allies, engaged quickly and forcefully to help the countries of the region with their public institutions, security sectors, and integration into the global economy. Instead, the U.S. withheld or threatened to withhold existing aid “until the situation is clearer.”
U.S. hesitancy to involve itself was again in full view when Obama had to be publicly goaded by the leaders of France and Britain to support an intervention in Libya. Trying to spin the situation to U.S. advantage, an unnamed U.S. official called the U.S. involvement “leading from behind.”. When an even tougher situation arose in Syria when the Assad regime deployed its military to quell an “Arab Spring” uprising, Washington refused to consider any measure which would stop the slaughter of civilians. The death toll is now about 100,000…..
What this all amounts to is that adversaries across the globe have taken the measure of Obama. They have concluded that Washington has no stomach for diplomacy which might have to be backed up with military might and they have lost their fear of paying a price if they oppose the United States. This calculus affects the entire international agenda and presents an enormous obstacle to international peace and security. U.S. failures of diplomacy have left us all worse off.
Paul Chapin is the former director general for international security at the Department of Foreign Affairs and is currently a director at the Atlantic Council of Canada.
Leslie H. Gelb & Dimitri K. Simes
New York Times, July 6, 2013
The flight of the leaker Edward J. Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow last month would not have been possible without the cooperation of Russia and China. The two countries’ behaviour in the Snowden affair demonstrates their growing assertiveness and their willingness to take action at America’s expense.
Beyond their protection of Mr. Snowden, Chinese-Russian policies toward Syria have paralyzed the United Nations Security Council for two years, preventing joint international action. Chinese hacking of American companies and Russia’s cyber attacks against its neighbours have also caused concern in Washington. While Moscow and Beijing have generally supported international efforts to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program, they clearly were not prepared to go as far as Washington was, and any coordinated shift in their approach could instantly gut America’s policy on the issue and endanger its security and energy interests. To punctuate the new potential for cooperation, China is now carrying out its largest ever joint naval exercises — with Russia.
Russia and China appear to have decided that, to better advance their own interests, they need to knock Washington down a peg or two. Neither probably wants to kick off a new cold war, let alone hot conflicts, and their actions in the case of Mr. Snowden show it. China allowed him into Hong Kong, but gently nudged his departure, while Russia, after some provocative rhetoric, seems to have now softened its tone. Still, both countries are seeking greater diplomatic clout that they apparently reckon they can acquire only by constraining the United States. And in world affairs, there’s no better way to flex one’s muscles than to visibly diminish the strongest power.
This new approach appears based in part on a sense of their growing strength relative to America and their increasing emphasis on differences over issues like Syria. Both Moscow and Beijing oppose the principle of international action to interfere in a country’s sovereign affairs, much less overthrow a government, as happened in Libya in 2011. After all, that principle could always backfire on them. They also don’t like watching the West take action against leaders friendly to them, like President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As this sense of common interests becomes entrenched, increasing Russian-Chinese cooperation could pose grave risks for America and the world.
Their conduct suggests that they see less cost in challenging the United States and fewer rewards for acting as a partner. These calculations stem from two dangerous perceptions. First, they see American decline and decadence. In their view, the United States is on the wrong side of history, holding on to ties with Europe and parts of Asia, while losing economic leverage and moral authority in the rest of the world. American disengagement from Iraq and Afghanistan without victory contributes to a related impression that America’s unquestioned military superiority isn’t worth much in terms of achieving policy objectives on the ground.
Second, many Russian and Chinese elites consider American foreign policy objectives fundamentally hostile to their vital interests. Neither group views American democracy promotion as reflecting any genuine commitment to freedom; instead, both perceive it as a selective crusade to undermine governments that are hostile to the United States or too powerful for its comfort.
Meanwhile, Russian and Chinese leaders make clear that Washington’s support for their neighbors in practically every dispute involving Beijing or Moscow is less a matter of respect for international law than a form of dual containment that seeks to curtail the regional and global influence of these two major powers.
American backing for Georgia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia bothers Russia. Likewise, China views American support for Vietnam and the Philippines in their maritime disputes with Beijing as a menace.
No wonder Xi Jinping of China made his first international trip as China’s president to Moscow, where he told his counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, that Beijing and Moscow should “resolutely support each other in efforts to protect national sovereignty, security and development interests” and promised to “closely coordinate” on regional and international issues. Mr. Putin reciprocated by saying that “the strategic partnership between us is of great importance on both a bilateral and global scale.” While the two leaders’ words may have generated more of an impression of collusion than was necessary, it’s safe to assume they knew exactly the message they were sending.
Policy makers in Washington must carefully assess the growing chumminess between China and Russia and what it means for America. To ignore it would be foolish. Yes, China and Russia continue to be divided by a history of mutual distrust as well as by conflicting economic interests and Chinese territorial ambitions. China’s concerns about North Korea exceed Russia’s, and Moscow’s stake in Syria is greater than Beijing’s. And in Central Asia, the two nations are outright competitors. Moreover, China is a rising superpower and Russia is fighting to stay in the big leagues, which gives them different perspectives on world affairs.
That said, both countries share a strong interest in maintaining partnerships with the United States and the European Union, their main trading partners and the custodians of the international financial system, in which each has a major stake. These are powerful reasons for staying on good working terms with Washington, but the United States should not assume that they will halt the new anti-American tack in Beijing and Moscow. That would be a dangerous misreading of history….
To gain the respect of Russia and China, the White House must first demonstrate that American leadership is essential to solving key world problems, including those vital to China and Russia. America can’t be seen as passive. Relations with Russia and China deserve to be given priority, but the United States mustn’t be afraid to stand firm in some cases or, in others, to partner with these two authoritarian but ultimately pragmatic powers. To do otherwise would be a folly of historic proportions.
Leslie H. Gelb, a former columnist, editor and correspondent for The New York Times, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dimitri K. Simes is president of the Center for the National Interest and publisher of its magazine, The National Interest.
Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2013
'We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation," President Obama declared on Wednesday, "but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." He's right about the last point, because even as the President offers new dreams of U.S. nuclear disarmament, the world is entering a new proliferation age.
Mr. Obama returned this week to Berlin to give his long-promised speech laying out his plans to rid the world of nuclear weapons. His idea is to remove those weapons initially and primarily from American hands. North Korea and Iran each got a single line in his speech, which is at least more than he gave to China, which is investing heavily in the world's third largest nuclear arsenal. Nukes in the hands of terrorists? Mr. Obama said he'll hold a summit on that one in 2016.
Give Mr. Obama points for consistency. Since his college days at Columbia in the 1980s, he has argued for American disarmament and arms-control treaties. When he last issued a call for a nuclear-free world on European soil four years ago in Prague, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rewarded him with a peace prize.
This week he announced that the U.S. could "maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent" with a third fewer strategic nuclear weapons, or about 1,000 in all. He also called for "bold" cuts in tactical nukes in Europe without offering specifics, which suggests that was mostly for show. He said he'll work on reducing U.S. stockpiles through "negotiated cuts" with Russia. Whenever this Administration negotiates with Russia, beware. But there's another danger. President Obama left the door open to unilateral U.S. reductions, possibly without Congressional approval.
The Berlin initiative is the long-promised follow-up to the 2010 New Start accord with Russia, which brought down stockpiles of warheads, missiles and bombers. In his speech this week, President Obama urged everyone to "move beyond Cold War nuclear postures." But is there anything that evokes the Cold War more than arms control with Moscow? Even the Kremlin isn't likely to embrace this new offer. "We cannot endlessly negotiate with the United States the reduction and limitation of nuclear arms while some other countries are strengthening their nuclear and missile capabilities," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian radio last month. By "some others," he means China.
Good point. Bilateral negotiations are an anachronism. Before the Cold War powers cut any deeper, how about some clarity about the size of the Chinese arsenal and its intentions? Beijing hides its warheads and missiles in tunnels and has the industrial wherewithal to build many more quickly. The Pentagon thinks the Chinese have up to 400 nuclear warheads, which sounds low. The Pakistanis possess more than 100.
The Russians are terrified of a rising Chinese military on their long southern border. Beijing likely has 1,800 bombs and warheads, the former commander of Russia's Strategic Forces told the military journalist Bill Gertz last year. Whether this number is accurate or not, the Russians think it is. They're reluctant to give away any more of their rusting strategic long-range arsenal. Forget about any progress on thinning Russia's formidable stockpile (size unknown) of shorter-range tactical weapons.
Yet engaging in arms talks could give the Kremlin fresh leverage over America's missiles defenses. The Russians have wanted to kill the program since Ronald Reagan made it a priority, and they have found a weakness in President Obama's dreams of disarmament. To get New Start, the White House in 2009 cancelled plans for a missile defense site in Poland that would protect the U.S. against an Iranian ICBM.
Mr. Obama is literally pleading with Moscow to strike another arms deal, which underscores the surreal nature of his vision. He handed the Kremlin reams of classified data about American missile defense, supposedly to allay fears that U.S. defenses will weaken Russia's nuclear deterrent. Invoking executive powers, the Pentagon and State Department rebuffed requests by Congress to specify the information shared with Russia to see if it might have jeopardized U.S. security.
Even if Russia won't go along, Mr. Obama's new nuclear strategy says the U.S. has more warheads, missiles and submarines than it needs. The White House can invoke this conclusion to prune the arsenal through budget cuts or executive orders. This way he can also impose changes to America's missile defenses sought by the Russians without direct Congressional approval.
Meanwhile in the real world, North Korea adds to its nuclear arsenal and tests weapons with impunity. Iran marches ahead toward its atomic capability despite U.N. sanctions. Their neighbours in Asia and the Middle East watch and get ready to build or buy their own weapons in response. The legacy of the President who dreams of nuclear disarmament is likely to be a world with far more weapons and more nuclear powers.
The US State Department’s Islamist Plan: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Jewish Press, July 19th, 2013—Kerry and Obama believe that Muslim Brotherhood rule over most of the Muslim states is the most suitable solution to American interests, even at the price of abandoning long-standing friends and allies.
U.S. Supremacy Can Outlive Obama's Foreign Policy: Fabio Rafael Fiallo, Real Clear World, July 20, 2013—Foreign policy achievements have thus far stood out for their absence during President Obama's tenure. The engagement with Iran, the "reset" of relations with Russia, the intermediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the protestations against cyber-attacks coming from China against U.S. firms, the pressures on North Korea and the "red line" warnings to the Syrian regime over chemical weapons, have all failed to advance peace or democracy in the world or to strengthen the American hand in international relations.
Is Obama Trying to Start Israel-Syria War?: Evelyn Gordon, Commentary, July 15, 2013—Is the Obama administration trying to start a war between Israel and Syria? Because intentionally or not, it’s certainly doing its darnedest to provoke one. This weekend, three anonymous American officials told CNN that Israel was behind an explosion in the Syrian port of Latakia on July 5. The explosion, they said, resulted from an airstrike targeting Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles.
Kerry’s Mad Mission, Misreading the Middle East: Amir Taheri, The New York Post, July 22, 2013—Egypt is in turmoil while Syria is fragmenting into ungoverned “territories” and Lebanon is inching toward civil war. Iran is setting the stage for another diplomatic rope trick to speed up its nuclear project and jihadists are reappearing in Iraq’s Arab Sunni provinces. Washington’s closest regional allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are falling out over Egypt and Syria.
U.S. Ambassador to Egypt: "Muslim Brotherhood's Lackey": Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, July 17, 2013— Why do millions of Egyptians, including politicians and activists, consider Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, a "stooge" for the Muslim Brotherhood — as she is so commonly referred to by many in Egypt, from the media down to the street?
Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Aid to Egypt: Marian Wang & Theodoric Meyer, Real Clear World, July 10, 2013
The recent military coup in Egypt has prompted a renewed debate about American aid to the country. Sens. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, have both called for cutting off aid, while the White House has said it's in no hurry to end the aid.
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