Crises are exploding throughout the world. And the leader of the free world is making things worse.
On the Korean peninsula, North Korea just upended eight years of State Department obfuscation by showing a team of US nuclear scientists its collection of thousands of state-of-the-art centrifuges installed in its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
And just to top off the show, as Stephen Bosworth, US President Barack Obama’s point man on North Korea, was busily arguing that this revelation is not a crisis, the North fired an unprovoked artillery barrage at South Korea, demonstrating that actually, it is a crisis.
But the Obama administration remains unmoved. On Tuesday Defense Secretary Robert Gates thanked his South Korean counterpart, Kim Tae-young, for showing “restraint.”
On Thursday, Kim resigned in disgrace for that restraint.
The US has spoken strongly of not allowing North Korea’s aggression to go unanswered. But in practice, its only answer is to try to tempt North Korea back to feckless multilateral disarmament talks that will go nowhere because China supports North Korean armament. Contrary to what Obama and his advisers claim, China does not share the US’s interest in denuclearizing North Korea. Consequently, Beijing will not lift a finger to achieve that goal.
Then there is Iran. The now inarguable fact that Pyongyang is developing nuclear weapons with enriched uranium makes it all but certain that the hyperactive proliferators in Pyongyang are involved in Iran’s uranium-based nuclear weapons program. Obviously the North Koreans don’t care that the UN Security Council placed sanctions on Iran. And their presumptive role in Iran’s nuclear weapons program exposes the idiocy of the concept that these sanctions can block Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.
Every day as the regimes in Pyongyang and Teheran escalate their aggression and confrontational stances, it becomes more and more clear that the only way to neutralize the threats they pose to international security is to overthrow them. At least in the case of Iran, it is also clear that the prospects for regime change have never been better.
IRAN’S REGIME is in trouble. Since the fraudulent presidential elections 17 months ago the regime has moved ferociously against its domestic foes.
But dissent has only grown. And as popular resentment towards the regime has grown, the likes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, supreme dictator Ali Khamenei and their Revolutionary Guards have become terrified of their own people. They have imprisoned rappers and outlawed Western music. They have purged their schoolbooks of Persian history. Everything that smacks of anything non-Islamic is viewed as a threat.
Members of the regime are so frightened by the public that this week several members of parliament tried to begin impeachment proceedings against Ahmadinejad. Apparently they hope that ousting him will be sufficient to end the public’s call for revolutionary change.
But Khamenei is standing by his man. And the impeachment proceedings have ended as quickly as they began.
The policy implications of all of this are clear.
The US should destroy Iran’s nuclear installations and help the Iranian people overthrow the regime. But the Obama administration will have none of it.
Earlier this month, Gates said, “If it’s a military solution, as far as I’m concerned, it will bring together a divided nation.”
So in his view, the Iranian people who risk death to defy the regime every day, the Iranian people who revile Ahmadinejad as “the chimpanzee,” and call for Khamenei’s death from their rooftops every evening, will rally around the chimp and the dictator if the US or Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear installations.
Due to this thinking, as far as the Obama administration is concerned the US should stick to its failed sanctions policy and continue its failed attempts to cut a nuclear deal with the mullahs.
As Michael Ledeen noted last week at Pajamas Media, this boilerplate assertion, backed by no evidence whatsoever, is what passes for strategic wisdom in Washington as Iran completes its nuclear project. And this US refusal to understand the policy implications of popular rejection of the regime is what brings State Department wise men and women to the conclusion that the US has no dog in this fight. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Wall Street Journal this week, the parliament’s bid to impeach Ahmadinejad was nothing more than the product of “rivalries within the Iranian government.”
Then there is Lebanon. Since Ahmadinejad’s visit last month, it is obvious that Iran is now the ruler of Lebanon and that it exerts its authority over the country through its Hizbullah proxy.
Hizbullah’s open threats to overthrow Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government if Hizbullah’s role in assassinating his father in 2005 is officially acknowledged just make this tragic reality more undeniable. And yet, the Obama administration continues to deny that Iran controls Lebanon.
A month after Ahmadinejad’s visit, Obama convinced the lame duck Congress to lift its hold on $100 million in US military assistance to the Hizbullah-dominated Lebanese military. And the US convinced Israel to relinquish the northern half of the border town of Ghajar to UN forces despite the fact that the UN forces are at Hizbullah’s mercy.
In the midst of all these crises, Obama has maintained faith with his two central foreign policy goals: forcing Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and scaling back the US nuclear arsenal with an eye towards unilateral disarmament. That is, as the forces of mayhem and war escalate their threats and aggression, Obama’s central goals remain weakening the US’s most powerful regional ally in the Middle East and rendering the US incompetent to deter or defeat rapidly proliferating rogue states that are at war with the US and its allies.
HAVING SAID THAT, the truth is that in advancing these goals, Obama is not out of step with his predecessors. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton both enacted drastic cuts in the US conventional and nonconventional arsenals. Clinton and George W. Bush adopted appeasement policies towards North Korea. Indeed, Pyongyang owes its nuclear arsenal to both presidents’ desire to be deceived and do nothing.
Moreover, North Korea’s ability to proliferate nuclear weapons to the likes of Iran, Syria and Venezuela owes in large part to then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s insistence that Israel say nothing about North Korea’s nuclear ties to Iran and Syria in the wake of Israel’s destruction of the North Korean-built and Iranian-financed nuclear reactor in Syria in September 2007.
As for Iran, Obama’s attempt to appease the regime is little different from his predecessors’ policies. The Bush administration refused to confront the fact that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are to a large degree Iranian proxy wars.
The Bush administration refused to acknowledge that Syria and Hizbullah are run by Teheran and that the 2006 war against Israel was nothing more than an expansion of the proxy wars Iran is running in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s failed “reset” policy towards Russia is also little different from his predecessors’ policies.
Bush did nothing but squawk after Russia invaded US ally Georgia. The Clinton administration set the stage for Vladimir Putin’s KGB state by squandering the US’s massive influence over post-Soviet Russia and allowing Boris Yeltsin and his cronies to transform the country into an impoverished kleptocracy.
Finally, Obama’s obsession with Israeli land giveaways to the PLO was shared by Clinton and by the younger Bush, particularly after 2006. Rice – who compared Israel to the Jim Crow South – was arguably as hostile towards Israel as Obama.
SO IS OBAMA really worse than everyone else or is he just the latest in a line of US presidents who have no idea how to run an effective foreign policy? The short answer is that he is far worse than his predecessors.
A US president’s maneuver room in foreign affairs is always very small. The foreign policy establishment in the Washington is entrenched and uniformly opposed to bending to the will of elected leaders. The elites in the State Department and the CIA and their cronies in academia and policy circles in Washington are also consistently unmoved by reality, which as a rule exposes their policies as ruinous.
The president has two ways to shift the ship of state. First, he can use his bully pulpit. Second, he can appoint people to key positions in the foreign policy bureaucracy.
Since entering office, Obama has used both these powers to ill effect. He has traveled across the world condemning and apologizing for US world leadership. In so doing he has convinced ally and adversary alike that he is not a credible leader; that no one can depend on US security guarantees during his watch; and that it is possible to attack the US, its allies and interests with impunity.
Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world combined with his aggressive stance towards Israel’s purported nuclear arsenal, his bid to disarm the US nuclear arsenal, and his ineffective response to North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and Iran’s nuclear project have served to convince nations from the Persian Gulf to South America to the Pacific Rim that they should begin developing nuclear weapons. By calling for nuclear disarmament, he has provoked the greatest wave of nuclear armament in history.
GIVEN HIS own convictions, it is no surprise that all his key foreign policy appointments share his dangerous views. The State Department’s Legal Adviser Harold Koh believes the US should subordinate its laws to an abstract and largely unfounded notion of international law. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy believes terrorists become radicalized because they are poor. She is advised by leftist extremist Rosa Brooks. Attorney-General Eric Holder has decided to open criminal investigations against CIA operatives who interrogated terrorists and to try illegal enemy combatants in civilian courts.
In all these cases and countless others, Obama’s senior appointees are implementing policies that are even more radical and dangerous than the radical and dangerous policies of the Washington policy establishment. Not only are they weakening the US and its allies, they are demoralizing public servants who are dedicated to defending their country by signaling clearly that the Obama administration will leave them high and dry in a crisis.
When a Republican occupies the White House, his foreign policies are routinely criticized and constrained by the liberal media. Radical Democratic presidents like Woodrow Wilson have seen their foreign policies reined in by Republican Congresses.
Given the threats Obama’s radical policies are provoking, it can only be hoped that through hearings and other means, the Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives will take an active role in curbing his policies. If they are successful, the American people and the international community will owe them a debt of gratitude.
Originally published in the The Jerusalem Post.