Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Since 2009, the world has been trying to make sense of America’s foreign and national security policies under Barack Obama. Allies and enemies, historians and scholars, the president’s critics and his supporters—all have struggled to define, or even discern, an Obama Doctrine. So last week, the man optimally positioned to elucidate the president’s vision sought to provide some clarity.
In a rambling, defensive, and disjointed commencement speech at West Point, the president attempted retroactively to impose a framework on his ad hoc and often incoherent foreign policy. He sought to convince his audience—and the world—that he has a vision for America’s role and that it’s working. What we’re seeing today, he argued, is all part of the plan.
That’s a tough sell. Our allies are confused and dispirited, our enemies are unquestionably emboldened. The Russian reset failed. The Asia pivot never happened. The Middle East peace process collapsed. The Syrian leader once embraced as a “reformer” has slaughtered more than 150,000 of his own people. Libya is a mess. Iraq is regressing. Obama’s own top intelligence officials acknowledge that al Qaeda is amassing territory and gaining strength.
Rather than defend or explain these policy failures, the president chose instead to attack critics, real and imaginary. He challenged “critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak,” though no one actually thinks this. He rejected as “naïve and unsustainable” any “strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks” despite the fact that there are no advocates for such a strategy.
When the president wasn’t inventing fantasy arguments of nonexistent critics, he was recasting setbacks and failures as geopolitical triumphs. Obama argued that his willingness to work with international institutions was a sign of American strength and offered two examples to demonstrate the “effectiveness of multilateralism.”
One example was premature and optimistic, the other delusional. Because of his leadership on Iran, Obama argued, “we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement.” Even if Obama’s optimism is justified, and he had to admit that success is far from certain, what will such an agreement mean to a regime that routinely flouts international obligations and violates multilateral agreements? Beyond that, Iran remains the foremost state sponsor of terror. According to Obama’s State Department, the Iranian regime continues to harbor senior al Qaeda leaders and, “since 2012, the United States has also seen a resurgence of activity by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and Tehran’s ally Hizballah.”
And his other example, Ukraine? The Obama administration’s “mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks,” he argued, leaving Russia “isolated.” Moreover, “standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot.”
In the real world, a not-so-isolated Russia has signed a landmark energy deal with China worth some $400 billion, and Russia’s European trade partners are balking at serious sanctions on the Russian economy. In Ukraine, with the possibility of a Russia-provoked civil war increasing every day, all of Obama’s “standing” and “mobilizing” has meant little to the pro-Russian militias roaming the streets of Donetsk or the Ukrainian Army soldiers who have been killed trying to repel Russian invaders. And Ukrainians in Crimea might challenge Obama’s claim that they’re free to choose their own future.
If this is foreign policy effectiveness, the world would be better off with less of it.
Perhaps nothing made the confusion of Obama’s foreign policy more obvious than the president’s brief discussion of Syria. Before the speech, White House aides told reporters that the president would make news by announcing increased lethal aid to the good guys in the Syrian opposition. Obama didn’t do that. Instead, he promised aid to Syria’s neighbors and announced only that he would “work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.”
Hosted by Michael Graham.2:49 PM, May 6, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on President Obama's performance and the Democrats' chances in 2014.
Israel’s security establishment steps up.May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
The world’s attention was largely turned to Ukraine last week. To the extent that the Middle East was on the front pages, the focus was the new agreement between the PLO and Hamas, its implications for the “peace process,” and John Kerry’s comment about Israel as an “apartheid state.”
But in Israel a different subject was getting a lot of attention: Iran’s nuclear program. April 28 was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and that was the context in which Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about Iran at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
Has Obama given up on Putin? Let’s hope so.May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By TOD LINDBERG
It's hard to look on the bright side of the dismemberment of a sovereign state by force of arms. But because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing threat Vladimir Putin intends to pose to eastern Ukraine, the Obama administration must now face international reality free of one of its more cherished illusions: that Russia is a partner in the pursuit of commonly desired outcomes.
Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On February 22, popular protests led to the fall of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev. On February 27, in response to this setback, President Vladimir Putin sent forces into Crimea to seize it from Ukraine. On March 19, President Barack Obama delivered his response. He reassured Putin, “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine.” Obama added, “What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message.”
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
The fallout continues from the New York Times’s failed attempt to change the narrative on the Ben-ghazi attacks. The latest hit comes from an unexpected source—the Washington Post:
Sep 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 04 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Syria has receded from the front pages. A long and winding road of failed diplomacy lies ahead, and who wants to bother covering that? Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad is more firmly in power than before, al Qaeda is stronger among the Syrian rebels, the United States has lost credibility, and Iran and Russia have gained in stature and influence. This is the product of an irresolute president—and of shortsighted behavior by representatives of both parties in Congress.
How not to be a war president.Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By FRED BARNES
When President Obama abruptly called off the bombing strike on Syria and decided to seek the approval of Congress, he surprised no one more than French president François Hollande. France, the only country set to join the United States in the raid, was left in the lurch. Hollande was humiliated and isolated. Now, if an assault on Syria occurs, France is unlikely to participate.
The burgeoning friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel. Sep 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 01 • By ALEXANDROS PETERSEN
A number of Israel’s former foes share its concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, but this is mostly on the principle that an enemy of one’s enemy is a friend. Israel can claim to have a genuinely close partnership with only one majority-Muslim country. It is said that Azerbaijani-Israeli relations are like an iceberg: nine-tenths below the surface. But more and more of this iceberg is becoming visible; the Azerbaijani foreign minister’s recent trips to Israel and Washington are the most overt demonstration of the connection to date.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:38 PM, Aug 23, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama's foreign policy is viewed in the Middle East.
Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook enjoyed what might charitably be called a warmhearted chuckle at the news that President Obama had abruptly canceled his planned “summit” meeting in Moscow with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Even the reliably turgid language of White House press secretary Jay Carney was unusually blunt in explaining the reasons why: “We have reached
the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia summit in early September.”
Go ahead and vote, but be sure to have the protection of Western airpower. Aug 5, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 44 • By ROGER KAPLAN
The town of Kidal, about 200 miles north of Gao, the big hub on the Niger River in eastern Mali, is hot and dry, and its police and electricity function erratically. The town, whose population is about 25,000, fell under the control of forces hostile to Mali’s central government in Bamako, which is 950 miles to the south and east, in April 2012.
Why did the Obama administration allow a Russian resurgence in the Middle East?Jul 1, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 40 • By TOD LINDBERG
For decades during the Cold War, U.S. policy sought to minimize the role of Moscow in the Middle East. As the Soviet Union weakened dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so too did its capacity to influence events there (and many other places besides). So matters have stood since. A pretty good question, then, is why on earth the Obama administration seems to be inviting a Russian resurgence in the Middle East.