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  • The Obama Doctrine

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...ctrine/471525/
    The Obama Doctrine

    The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.

    By Jeffrey Goldberg

    April 2016 Issue Politics

    Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

    .....

    The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who is the most dispositionally interventionist among Obama’s senior advisers, had argued early for arming Syria’s rebels. Power, who during this period served on the National Security Council staff, is the author of a celebrated book excoriating a succession of U.S. presidents for their failures to prevent genocide. The book, A Problem From Hell, published in 2002, drew Obama to Power while he was in the U.S. Senate, though the two were not an obvious ideological match. Power is a partisan of the doctrine known as “responsibility to protect,” which holds that sovereignty should not be considered inviolate when a country is slaughtering its own citizens. She lobbied him to endorse this doctrine in the speech he delivered when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but he declined. Obama generally does not believe a president should place American soldiers at great risk in order to prevent humanitarian disasters, unless those disasters pose a direct security threat to the United States.

    Power sometimes argued with Obama in front of other National Security Council officials, to the point where he could no longer conceal his frustration. “Samantha, enough, I’ve already read your book,” he once snapped.

    ....
    Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft.

    At the outset of the Syrian uprising, in early 2011, Power argued that the rebels, drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, deserved America’s enthusiastic support. Others noted that the rebels were farmers and doctors and carpenters, comparing these revolutionaries to the men who won America’s war for independence.
    Related Story

    Obama on the World

    Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.” The message Obama telegraphed in speeches and interviews was clear: He would not end up like the second President Bush—a president who became tragically overextended in the Middle East, whose decisions filled the wards of Walter Reed with grievously wounded soldiers, who was helpless to stop the obliteration of his reputation, even when he recalibrated his policies in his second term. Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.”

    Obama’s reticence frustrated Power and others on his national-security team who had a preference for action. Hillary Clinton, when she was Obama’s secretary of state, argued for an early and assertive response to Assad’s violence. In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” When The Atlantic published this statement, and also published Clinton’s assessment that “great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Obama became “rip-shit angry,” according to one of his senior advisers. The president did not understand how “Don’t do stupid shit” could be considered a controversial slogan. Ben Rhodes recalls that “the questions we were asking in the White House were ‘Who exactly is in the stupid-shit caucus? Who is pro–stupid shit?’ ” The Iraq invasion, Obama believed, should have taught Democratic interventionists like Clinton, who had voted for its authorization, the dangers of doing stupid shit. (Clinton quickly apologized to Obama for her comments, and a Clinton spokesman announced that the two would “hug it out” on Martha’s Vineyard when they crossed paths there later.)

    .....
    Obama knew his decision not to bomb Syria would likely upset America’s allies. It did. The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, told me that his government was already worried about the consequences of earlier inaction in Syria when word came of the stand-down. “By not intervening early, we have created a monster,” Valls told me. “We were absolutely certain that the U.S. administration would say yes. Working with the Americans, we had already seen the targets. It was a great surprise. If we had bombed as was planned, I think things would be different today.” The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who was already upset with Obama for “abandoning” Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, fumed to American visitors that the U.S. was led by an “untrustworthy” president. The king of Jordan, Abdullah II—already dismayed by what he saw as Obama’s illogical desire to distance the U.S. from its traditional Sunni Arab allies and create a new alliance with Iran, Assad’s Shia sponsor—complained privately, “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does.” The Saudis, too, were infuriated. They had never trusted Obama—he had, long before he became president, referred to them as a “so-called ally” of the U.S. “Iran is the new great power of the Middle East, and the U.S. is the old,” Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, told his superiors in Riyadh.

    ....

    I have come to believe that, in Obama’s mind, August 30, 2013, was his liberation day, the day he defied not only the foreign-policy establishment and its cruise-missile playbook, but also the demands of America’s frustrating, high-maintenance allies in the Middle East—countries, he complains privately to friends and advisers, that seek to exploit American “muscle” for their own narrow and sectarian ends. By 2013, Obama’s resentments were well developed. He resented military leaders who believed they could fix any problem if the commander in chief would simply give them what they wanted, and he resented the foreign-policy think-tank complex. A widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as “Arab-occupied territory.”

    .........
    For some foreign-policy experts, even within his own administration, Obama’s about-face on enforcing the red line was a dispiriting moment in which he displayed irresolution and na´vetÚ, and did lasting damage to America’s standing in the world. “Once the commander in chief draws that red line,” Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director and then as secretary of defense in Obama’s first term, told me recently, “then I think the credibility of the commander in chief and this nation is at stake if he doesn’t enforce it.” Right after Obama’s reversal, Hillary Clinton said privately, “If you say you’re going to strike, you have to strike. There’s no choice.”

    “Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than ‘punished’ as originally planned.” Shadi Hamid, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote for The Atlantic at the time. “He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return.”

    Even commentators who have been broadly sympathetic to Obama’s policies saw this episode as calamitous. Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, wrote recently that Obama’s handling of this crisis—“first casually announcing a major commitment, then dithering about living up to it, then frantically tossing the ball to Congress for a decision—was a case study in embarrassingly amateurish improvisation.”

    Obama’s defenders, however, argue that he did no damage to U.S. credibility, citing Assad’s subsequent agreement to have his chemical weapons removed. “The threat of force was credible enough for them to give up their chemical weapons,” Tim Kaine, a Democratic senator from Virginia, told me. “We threatened military action and they responded. That’s deterrent credibility.”

    ......
    If a crisis, or a humanitarian catastrophe, does not meet his stringent standard for what constitutes a direct national-security threat, Obama said, he doesn’t believe that he should be forced into silence. He is not so much the realist, he suggested, that he won’t pass judgment on other leaders. Though he has so far ruled out the use of direct American power to depose Assad, he was not wrong, he argued, to call on Assad to go. “Oftentimes when you get critics of our Syria policy, one of the things that they’ll point out is ‘You called for Assad to go, but you didn’t force him to go. You did not invade.’ And the notion is that if you weren’t going to overthrow the regime, you shouldn’t have said anything. That’s a weird argument to me, the notion that if we use our moral authority to say ‘This is a brutal regime, and this is not how a leader should treat his people,’ once you do that, you are obliged to invade the country and install a government you prefer.”

    .....
    The contradictions do not end there. Though he has a reputation for prudence, he has also been eager to question some of the long-standing assumptions undergirding traditional U.S. foreign-policy thinking. To a remarkable degree, he is willing to question why America’s enemies are its enemies, or why some of its friends are its friends. He overthrew half a century of bipartisan consensus in order to reestablish ties with Cuba. He questioned why the U.S. should avoid sending its forces into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and he privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the U.S. at all. According to Leon Panetta, he has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive; but he has also questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally. And of course he decided early on, in the face of great criticism, that he wanted to reach out to America’s most ardent Middle Eastern foe, Iran. The nuclear deal he struck with Iran proves, if nothing else, that Obama is not risk-averse. He has bet global security and his own legacy that one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism will adhere to an agreement to curtail its nuclear program.

    ....
    But over the next three years, as the Arab Spring gave up its early promise, and brutality and dysfunction overwhelmed the Middle East, the president grew disillusioned. Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category: Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so. Obama has also not had much patience for Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern leaders who question his understanding of the region. In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives, and Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations. Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: “Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” Other leaders also frustrate him immensely. Early on, Obama saw Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, as the sort of moderate Muslim leader who would bridge the divide between East and West—but Obama now considers him a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria. And on the sidelines of a nato summit in Wales in 2014, Obama pulled aside King Abdullah II of Jordan. Obama said he had heard that Abdullah had complained to friends in the U.S. Congress about his leadership, and told the king that if he had complaints, he should raise them directly. The king denied that he had spoken ill of him.

    ....
    “When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong,” Obama said, “there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” he said. He noted that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, lost his job the following year. And he said that British Prime Minister David Cameron soon stopped paying attention, becoming “distracted by a range of other things.” Of France, he said, “Sarkozy wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses and essentially set up the entire infrastructure” for the intervention. This sort of bragging was fine, Obama said, because it allowed the U.S. to “purchase France’s involvement in a way that made it less expensive for us and less risky for us.” In other words, giving France extra credit in exchange for less risk and cost to the United States was a useful trade-off—except that “from the perspective of a lot of the folks in the foreign-policy establishment, well, that was terrible. If we’re going to do something, obviously we’ve got to be up front, and nobody else is sharing in the spotlight.”

    .....
    Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

    .....
    Obama didn’t much like my line of inquiry. “Look, this theory is so easily disposed of that I’m always puzzled by how people make the argument. I don’t think anybody thought that George W. Bush was overly rational or cautious in his use of military force. And as I recall, because apparently nobody in this town does, Putin went into Georgia on Bush’s watch, right smack dab in the middle of us having over 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.” Obama was referring to Putin’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, which was undertaken for many of the same reasons Putin later invaded Ukraine—to keep an ex–Soviet republic in Russia’s sphere of influence.

    “Putin acted in Ukraine in response to a client state that was about to slip out of his grasp. And he improvised in a way to hang on to his control there,” he said. “He’s done the exact same thing in Syria, at enormous cost to the well-being of his own country. And the notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now, in Syria or in Ukraine, than they were before they invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally. Real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence. Russia was much more powerful when Ukraine looked like an independent country but was a kleptocracy that he could pull the strings on.”

    Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one, so Russia will always be able to maintain escalatory dominance there.

    “The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-nato country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said.

    .....
    Over the past year, John Kerry has visited the White House regularly to ask Obama to violate Syria’s sovereignty. On several occasions, Kerry has asked Obama to launch missiles at specific regime targets, under cover of night, to “send a message” to the regime. The goal, Kerry has said, is not to overthrow Assad but to encourage him, and Iran and Russia, to negotiate peace. When the Assad alliance has had the upper hand on the battlefield, as it has these past several months, it has shown no inclination to take seriously Kerry’s entreaties to negotiate in good faith. A few cruise missiles, Kerry has argued, might concentrate the attention of Assad and his backers. “Kerry’s looking like a chump with the Russians, because he has no leverage,” a senior administration official told me.

    The U.S. wouldn’t have to claim credit for the attacks, Kerry has told Obama—but Assad would surely know the missiles’ return address.

    Obama has steadfastly resisted Kerry’s requests, and seems to have grown impatient with his lobbying. Recently, when Kerry handed Obama a written outline of new steps to bring more pressure to bear on Assad, Obama said, “Oh, another proposal?” Administration officials have told me that Vice President Biden, too, has become frustrated with Kerry’s demands for action. He has said privately to the secretary of state, “John, remember Vietnam? Remember how that started?” At a National Security Council meeting held at the Pentagon in December, Obama announced that no one except the secretary of defense should bring him proposals for military action. Pentagon officials understood Obama’s announcement to be a brushback pitch directed at Kerry.
    Last edited by troung; 11 Mar 16,, 02:51.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    Originally posted by troung View Post
    To a remarkable degree, he is willing to question why America’s enemies are its enemies, or why some of its friends are its friends. He overthrew half a century of bipartisan consensus in order to reestablish ties with Cuba. He questioned why the U.S. should avoid sending its forces into Pakistan to kill al-Qaeda leaders, and he privately questions why Pakistan, which he believes is a disastrously dysfunctional country, should be considered an ally of the U.S. at all. According to Leon Panetta, he has questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive; but he has also questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally.
    I'm inclined to agree with a lot of this thinking. Relations with Cuba were overdue for a reset and frankly I think Iran and India would make much better long term partners than Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It's never a good sign when your "Ally" constantly uses you as the scapegoat for their internal problems, and harbors the people that attacked you. Even Israel, whom we lavishly equip and defend has a habit of selling US military secrets to the Chinese.

    Too many of our cold war relationships became ossified and are carried on by momentum when they are really overdue for reevaluation to determine if the juice is still worth the squeeze.

    Comment


    • #3
      Really interesting article.

      Hard to argue from an american perspective that major military involvement in the middle east is in your interest. The region, by and large, is not capable of making use of the opportunities provided to it in a way that clearly proves it's worth the cost. An objective, neutral perspective would favour heavy american investment and involvement in the regions due to what you can achieve with the technology and values america possesses, but from a subjective, american perspective, it's fair to say fuck em is a reasonable response.

      It seems clear that Obama did make a mistake with the red line syrian position. If America is to remain a force for good, than the threat of military action needs to remain real, that's difficult to achieve if you also know in your heart and follow in policy Obama's doctrine of soft power and his reluctance to put american blood on the line with no clear tangible benefits in the long term.

      I am at this point a bit disillusioned myself about the region, although state interests can change and a more caluculated, it's the undercurrent of religious extremism, sharia, the cultural clash of values (this is more fundamental than simply discussing the region at the level of hierarchy of it's various state actors) that would lead me to embrace Obama's perspective that western military forces should be used sparingly. Personally, I have held contrary positions in the past.
      Last edited by tantalus; 11 Mar 16,, 16:31.

      Comment


      • #4
        tantalus,

        It seems clear that Obama did make a mistake with the red line syrian position. If America is to remain a force for good, than the threat of military action needs to remain real, that's difficult to achieve if you also know in your heart and follow in policy Obama's doctrine of soft power and his reluctance to put american blood on the line with no clear tangible benefits in the long term.
        the interesting thing of the article is it ends with the statement, "Obama is a gambler, not a bluffer." but it seems to me those are not mutually exclusive positions. from my POV, Obama viewed the whole red-line situation as a successful bluff-- he got what he wanted (removal of Assad's chem warfare capabilities) without having to expend munitions...or risk actually removing Assad and turning the free-for-all even worse.

        and he made decent arguments (that I don't -wholly- agree with) that historically, arguments of US credibility usually are seen later as futile anyways (Vietnam/Nixon scenario, Reagan's withdrawal from Lebanon following Beirut, Dubya and Putin's invasion of Georgia).

        regardless, I do appreciate his obvious command over theory, opposing viewpoints, strategy, and international affairs in general, even when I don't agree with his viewpoint. one of my main criticisms of George W Bush administration-- particularly the first iteration-- was that Bush lost grasp of US grand strategy and hinged, in a very Germanic fashion, a lot of decisions on...HOPE, ironically.

        for instance, the idea that the US would remake the Middle East was predicated wholly upon the idea that Saddam Hussein would be removed and Iraq rehabilitated as a US-friendly democratic state at low cost. when that did not come to pass, the entire strategy fell apart, and huge amounts of capital (political, money, people) was spent just to ensure that the end result would not be worse than where it was in the beginning. and the jury's still out on that one. and that expenditure left the administration flailing for a grand strategy, and actually adopting the "don't do stupid sh*t" mantra long before Obama appeared on the scene.

        at the very least, Obama has been consistent in keeping to a thought-out strategy, in this case the rebalance to Asia. and he should get credit for that, even as the Middle East continues to burn. (Mostly out of Obama's control, but undoubtedly in part due to some of the decisions that he has made-- most notably in underestimating the growth of ISIS.)
        There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

        Comment


        • #5
          What total BS... Blaming Cameron and Sarkozy for Libya doesn't let Hilary off the hook for Benghazi nor frankly should he go around blaming his allies in public; guess who is laughing... it ain't your allies. He hasn't had a policy or a doctrine. The 'red line' was a mistake to draw - it was a total disaster to withdraw from and let Putin in to murder at will 'militarising refugees' as I believe Breedlove said... He has been consistently hopeless only.

          Comment


          • #6
            Snapper,

            So do you think things in Syria would be more peaceful with US/NATO forces on the ground? And who exactly would be the target of our aid--Assad? Or the dozens of rebel factions whose true motives are, at best, muddled?
            Last edited by Red Team; 11 Mar 16,, 17:39.
            "Draft beer, not people."

            Comment


            • #7
              You misunderstand me... It was wrong to draw a 'Red line' in the first place. This is school level Foreign Policy - or it is for most people in most countries. You keep/reserve you right to take any action you deem fit, "keep all options on the table" etc... You do not go around passing out spurious "Reset" buttons (which they even managed to spell wrong in Russian) which any half experienced hoodlum or spook can only regard as a sign of weakness - you will be less harsh on them and they don't have do anything, or draw 'Red lines'. You do NOT publicly announce you are going to "pivot to Asia" or that you won't put "boots on the ground" in Ukraine or anywhere else. I do not mean that you might not decide to "pivot to Asia" or not commit "boots on the ground" privately but you do NOT announce that news to the world and it's Wife. You judge each action as it deserves and reserve your right to respond in any way you deem fit or necessary.

              As for Assad when he started using chemical weapons on his on his own people he clearly put himself beyond the pale. He should have been taken out and the whole lot passed over to the Arab League or some other regional body or alliance of the willing locally. Today they are trying to organise just this but because Assad has been allowed - with Muscovite help - to barrel bomb, murder and torture his own people so long it should surprise no one that some of his people have become extremist nutcases. You allow people to be abused long enough you must expect them to retaliate in kind. Without Assad no Daesh but now you have both and they are as bad as each other. This is because of a clear lack of Western policy - not to mention doctrine.

              Finally blaming your allies publicly for the mess in Libya is total lunacy; we didn't have a policy so it's Britain and France's fault? The Italians offered to send in a peace keeping force! They were eager to go as they have oil links with Libya. I imagine it would have required use of some US assets and course Obama wanted nothing to do with it...
              Last edited by snapper; 11 Mar 16,, 18:44.

              Comment


              • #8
                snapper,

                You do NOT publicly announce you are going to "pivot to Asia" or that you won't put "boots on the ground" in Ukraine or anywhere else. I do not mean that you might not decide to "pivot to Asia" or not commit "boots on the ground" privately but you do NOT announce that news to the world and it's Wife. You judge each action as it deserves and reserve your right to respond in any way you deem fit or necessary.
                diplomacy is a balance between keeping flexibility and underscoring positions/bottom-lines. depending on the situation, one may be more appropriate than the other. IE, the pivot to Asia/rebalance is a strategy, and involves a significant level of buy-in from US partners and allies. thus, announcing to the world what it is makes complete sense.

                same thing with Ukraine-- assuring the US public that we were not going to wage WWIII, either accidentally or on purpose, for Ukraine is important.

                i do disagree with Obama having publicly announced a red-line re: Syria, even if the point was to run a bluff.

                He should have been taken out and the whole lot passed over to the Arab League or some other regional body or alliance of the willing locally.
                lol, that was never going to happen. no one wants that sh*thole. it'd be like what happened to Iraq after Saddam died, a bunch of tribal and ethnic groups were going to take over the place. which is exactly what they did in the areas outside of Assad's purview.

                Without Assad no Daesh but now you have both and they are as bad as each other
                both of this is untrue. daesh arose from AQI. moreover, ISIS is a multinational terror organization, Assad just terrorizes his own people.

                Finally blaming your allies publicly for the mess in Libya is total lunacy; we didn't have a policy so it's Britain and France's fault? The Italians offered to send in a peace keeping force! They were eager to go as they have oil links with Libya. I imagine it would have required use of some US assets and course Obama wanted nothing to do with it...
                why is it? Libya was always more important to Europe than the US, and both UK and France were positively chomping at the bit to demonstrate this.

                re: the Italians, they've said that MAYBE they will comprise PART of a UN peacekeeping force AFTER "end of hostilities", whenever that may be. yeah, they're really eager to go.

                https://www.washingtonpost.com/polit...afa_story.html

                But Renzi also said that the fault lies with the foreign powers that had helped overthrow Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi. “If you decide to move to remove a dictator — and he was a terrible dictator — you must think about, step by step, what institutional structures will remain,” he said in an interview at The Washington Post on Friday.

                Yes, he was pointing fingers. One Italian official in Washington said last week that Renzi was upset about the leading role that France, under then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Qatar played in overthrowing Gaddafi and leaving behind a humanitarian crisis.

                The U.S. role? In early 2011, the United States was still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq; there was little appetite for sending U.S. troops to North Africa. A New Yorker article published then quoted an unnamed administration official describing President Obama’s approach to foreign policy as “leading from behind,” a phrase Republicans seized upon to charge the president with abdicating international leadership and handing it to European and Middle Eastern nations that had rallied to topple Gaddafi.

                But Renzi wants Europe especially, and the United States, to share responsibility for repairing Libya. “The only problem with the rest of Europe is it doesn’t look to the south,” he said at The Post. He said he had discussed the crisis with Obama.

                Asked whether he would be willing to send Italian peacekeepers to Libya, Renzi said that was impossible. “Peacekeeping is for keeping the peace, and today it is not possible to find peace. There is not peace, so it is impossible to keep the peace,” he said.
                There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

                Comment


                • #9
                  1. Blame someone else
                  2. Repeat #1
                  "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    That he's been reluctant to get involved and reactive rather than proactive in the ME is obvious and has merit. Libya is most definitely at France and the UK's door, Obama made it plain that he wanted at most a background role. I would argue for a lot more assistance to both Egypt and Jordan but then I'm not aware of how much is happening now so it's a known unknown for me.
                    The thing is, a pivot to Asia. Apart from the Marines in Oz and now the Stennis targeting the Sth China sea, what evidence is there that he'll take any action when push comes to shove? When you play timid, your opponents see you that way.
                    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.

                    Leibniz

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      pari,

                      The thing is, a pivot to Asia. Apart from the Marines in Oz and now the Stennis targeting the Sth China sea, what evidence is there that he'll take any action when push comes to shove? When you play timid, your opponents see you that way.
                      the rebalance to Asia is not directed AT China, in fact, Obama has made it very clear through both speech and action that he wants to encourage China to actively work with the US in upholding the international order.

                      however, it's undeniable there is a hedging element, both economically and militarily. economically, there's the TPP; militarily, ensure US partners have an enhanced deterrence capability themselves (again, to avoid the free-rider issue mentioned). and in that, note the huge expansion of US arms sales (and assistance) to Asia in the last five years.

                      also note that US official talking points to the Chinese ALWAYS mention rock-solid US support to our allies, period stop. if the Chinese pick on the Philippines, for instance, there is (deliberately) no wiggle room that there is for somewhere like the Ukraine.
                      There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        snapper,
                        diplomacy is a balance between keeping flexibility and underscoring positions/bottom-lines. depending on the situation, one may be more appropriate than the other. IE, the pivot to Asia/rebalance is a strategy, and involves a significant level of buy-in from US partners and allies. thus, announcing to the world what it is makes complete sense.
                        My friend you seem to contradict yourself... You speak of diplomacy and strategy in the same breath. They are not the same. You do NOT need to announce publicly a "Pivot to Asia" which is neither but a foreign policy by public confession almost. If you wish to "Pivot to Asia" fine, that is strategy I agree. Diplomacy is discussing this or other issues behind closed doors with your allies but announcing it to the world is neither and only forewarning your potential adversaries.
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        same thing with Ukraine-- assuring the US public that we were not going to wage WWIII, either accidentally or on purpose, for Ukraine is important.
                        Again you are mistaken in believing that somehow foreign policy should be a matter of public confession. Say nothing; we keep all options open at most. It's fine to decide not to put "boots on the ground" and frankly the Ukrainian Government never asked for them but to announce it publicly is neither strategy nor diplomacy but merely playing into the enemies hands.
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        lol, that was never going to happen. no one wants that sh*thole. it'd be like what happened to Iraq after Saddam died, a bunch of tribal and ethnic groups were going to take over the place. which is exactly what they did in the areas outside of Assad's purview.
                        You clearly do not understand the gas alternatives that were on hand before the war in Syrian war started and which we have now compounded with a fankly meaningless agreement with Iran. The Qataris wanted to build a gas pipeline to Turkey and then Europe. Iran pressured Assad to refuse this - though Syria would have benefitted from transit fees. The demonstrations started and Assad started shooting his own people. If you do not take out him once he starts committing war crimes on his own people and allow the Muscovites to broker a deal after he has done so and you have drawn a 'Red Line' any bluff has failed and you have by implication let them both off the hook.
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        both of this is untrue. daesh arose from AQI. moreover, ISIS is a multinational terror organization, Assad just terrorizes his own people.
                        Don't be a fool. Assad has been Daesh's greatest recruiter. If he had been removed early on - and really it wouldn't have mattered who did and could easily have been 'outsourced' the war would have largely ended and the opposition not become so extremist.
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        why is it? Libya was always more important to Europe than the US, and both UK and France were positively chomping at the bit to demonstrate this.
                        So what was the US Mediterranean fleet doing getting involved? It is still neither diplomatic nor strategically wise to slag off your allies in public. Neither foreign policy nor strategy should be conducted in such a fashion that your potential enemies have any inkling of what might or might not do. Policy by public confession is nothing but pre advising your potential adversaries who would be better left guessing.
                        Originally posted by astralis View Post
                        re: the Italians, they've said that MAYBE they will comprise PART of a UN peacekeeping force AFTER "end of hostilities", whenever that may be. yeah, they're really eager to go.
                        And of course you do not answer the question why it was not done...
                        Obama has consistently misunderstood the role of diplomacy, strategy and foreign policy in general. It is not a public confessional routine for domestic votes but a deadly serious game. It has cost lives both in Syria and in Ukraine. You do not forewarn your potential enemies of your intentions is basic rule of thumb.

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                        • #13
                          snapper,

                          You speak of diplomacy and strategy in the same breath. They are not the same. You do NOT need to announce publicly a "Pivot to Asia" which is neither but a foreign policy by public confession almost. If you wish to "Pivot to Asia" fine, that is strategy I agree. Diplomacy is discussing this or other issues behind closed doors with your allies but announcing it to the world is neither and only forewarning your potential adversaries.
                          diplomacy is -part- of the execution of a strategy. a strategy does NOT -need- to be secret squirrelly at all times, and in fact quite often shouldn't be. there can be value in predictability. that's why there's a thing called public diplomacy and a State Department.

                          that's why for major initiatives we announce things, like the way Reagan announced the Star Wars program, or Truman announced the Marshall Plan. or how Monroe announced the Monroe Doctrine. shall i go on?

                          Again you are mistaken in believing that somehow foreign policy should be a matter of public confession.
                          it should not be that difficult to understand that there ARE aspects of foreign policy that should be loudly announced, and other aspects that should not be discussed at all with outsiders.

                          If you do not take out him once he starts committing war crimes on his own people and allow the Muscovites to broker a deal after he has done so and you have drawn a 'Red Line' any bluff has failed and you have by implication let them both off the hook
                          i'd say removing chems from Syria is a pretty successful bluff, although I do agree that the red line rhetoric shouldn't have been used publicly.

                          having said that, any decision to remove Assad by the US should be done on the basis of US interests, and not just because Assad was a monster to his people.

                          Don't be a fool. Assad has been Daesh's greatest recruiter. If he had been removed early on - and really it wouldn't have mattered who did and could easily have been 'outsourced' the war would have largely ended and the opposition not become so extremist.
                          lol, and the removal of Saddam Hussein/Gaddafi largely ended the internal divisions within Iraq/Libya and the opposition wasn't so extremist afterwards?

                          seriously, READ UP on the establishment of ISIS. it grew from AQI and it largely started due to insurgent cross-mix at Camp Bucca. Gen Odierno assessed back in 2010 that ISIS was 80% Iraqi, and the reason why it exploded was because they leveraged the considerable wealth they captured following the fall of Mosul.

                          moreover i'm still curious as to whom would the occupation of Syria be "outsourced" to, considering that no one is jumping to occupy Libya.

                          And of course you do not answer the question why it was not done...
                          if the Italians wanted to do it, they would have. they assuredly have the capability, just as the French had the capability to execute Operation Unicorn, or how both the French and the Germans intervened in Mali. blaming Italian non-intervention because the US wasn't on board is ridiculous.
                          Last edited by astralis; 11 Mar 16,, 23:33.
                          There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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                          • #14
                            Someone sounds a little bitter as though the US has not done enough or should do more. Luckily you can only have an opinion...

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                            • #15
                              But over the next three years, as the Arab Spring gave up its early promise, and brutality and dysfunction overwhelmed the Middle East, the president grew disillusioned. Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves. Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category: Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so. Obama has also not had much patience for Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern leaders who question his understanding of the region. In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives, and Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations. Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: “Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” Other leaders also frustrate him immensely.
                              This bit however is pure idiocy. To allow his personal dislike of Netanyahu to infer Bibi is the very worst of the current (Obama's term) leaders is absurd. i'm trying to think of anyone in the middle east who isn't at least totalitarian let alone megolomanical and Bibi's in a category of his own? Well yes, but not what the big O is meaning.
                              In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.

                              Leibniz

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