In response to “Human Rights Foundation Chair Explains Why Allies Don’t Trust Obama“:
Kasparov is right, of course. The message blasting out of the Obama White House, louder than almost any message ever sent by a President, is: This man cannot be trusted.
Obama has a long history of turning against America’s allies, sometimes because he personally dislikes them, but often because pushing allies around is the path of least resistance. He doesn’t want to expend his political capital on foreign policy. He seriously thought the whole world would embrace him personally as the face of a new, transformed nation after he spent 2009 and 2010 apologizing for the deeds of wretched Pre-Obama America. He thinks foreign policy is over once he collects his applause for giving a speech. He most certainly does not want his influence expended on foreign affairs with zero perceived domestic political benefit for his agenda.
The easiest expense of political capital in foreign policy involves lecturing allies, who are more or less obliged to treat the President of the United States with respect. When Israel fights the bloodthirsty monsters of Hamas, someone like Obama calculates very little advantage in taking a bold stand against Hamas. They’re not going to applaud his speeches, or stop using human shields because Obama yelled at them. But if he leans on Israel, they’ve got to smile for the cameras and take him seriously. The same pattern is repeated in every foreign crisis – when ISIS rolled into Iraq, remember that Obama stammered his way through some crap about how it’s all George Bush’s fault, then started browbeating the Iraqi government for not being “inclusive” enough.
This stuff with ISIS and Russia is a distraction for Obama. He wanted to ignore it until it went away, like the hideous disaster he made out of Libya – the foreign-policy crisis U.S. media absolutely hates to report on, no matter how bad it gets. The problem is that our prospective allies in the region can’t treat ISIS as media problem. They’re taking real risks by making themselves targets, and they’re being asked to do it by an Administration that literally says it can’t define “victory” without a dictionary… an Administration that is still holding public arguments with itself about whether it’s at war, even as talk about the need for even more American “boots on the ground” is beginning to rumble out of the Pentagon.
Who wants to throw themselves behind “leadership” like that? Why get drawn into an endless quagmire the Administration is discussing as though it will become a permanent feature of Middle East life, a “sustainable” bombing campaign that will still be running when the successor to Barack Obama’s successor is sworn into office? Especially since it won’t be hard for ISIS to hit back with terrorist attacks, and it will have every reason in the world to do so.
I’d modify Kasparov’s assessment by noting that it’s not just Obama’s “red line” idiocy in Syria – or that final, unforgettable, craven retreat, as Obama bleated that the whole world drew the red line, and he just happened to notice it lying there. It’s the cumulative history of American military action in the post-war era, most pertinently the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if Obama was an inspiring leader with a solid plan, his successor might not be; that’s just the way it goes in a republic, and there’s always going to be a strong tide of political opportunism involved in the opposition party attacking any military action the current President initiates. If an operation is going to last for years, the shrewd American ally looks for leadership so powerful that the current President’s party is likely to retain the White House, and install an equally committed successor – or better yet, leadership so powerful that even if the opposition party wins the next election, they’re not likely to bail on the effort. We should have learned by now that American military action needs to be swift and decisive. Those are the last two words anyone would use to describe whatever this White House is cooking up for ISIS.
The idea of Barack Obama providing such leadership is so funny that it’s hard to avoid falling out of your chair laughing as you try to envision it. In everything from ISIS to ebola, he’s entirely reactive, blowing with the winds of poll numbers and media coverage. He doesn’t come off the golf course to do anything until his advisers put a full spread of newspapers on the table in front of him and say, “Sir, this is getting to be a real problem for us, just look at these headlines.” Throwing resources and prestige behind a “leader” like that is a huge roll of the dice. I’m not surprised that even Middle Eastern leaders who are very well aware of the threat ISIS poses are a bit reluctant to take it.