April 24, 2014

First brush at the foreign policy debate winners

First off, I don’t think many people watched the debate. The Bears were playing the Lions, and the Cards were playing the Giants. If Twitter, Facebook, and my Better Half were any indication, foreign policy is just too boring for most Americans.

But…I like foreign policy.  A lot.  Here’s my take:

The commentators and spin-doctors are going to come up with some way for Obama to win this debate like “on points” or something like that, but let’s be honest: he had to make headway for this debate to matter, and he made no headway. He looked miffed, angry, and irritated most of the time, and he spent the duration making excuses, debating himself, and attacking Mitt Romney, not laying out a plan for the future.  It’s clear, if nothing else, that he dislikes Mitt Romney.

That won’t get you reelected, though.

On the other hand, while Mitt Romney did nothing to set off the kind of fireworks that he did in the first debate, he did what he needed to do, and that was to prove that he has a sufficient grasp of the issues that undecided voters–who ARE voting on the economy–can trust him on foreign policy, too. He reiterated that he has a plan for the future, that he has experience in the real economy creating jobs, and that a strong economy will create a strong America.

Advantage Romney…but just.

 

Questions on Benghazi remain

As President Obama goes on the Daily Show to explain what happened in Libya, it’s clear that a lot of questions remain, the least of which is: why doesn’t he go on a real news show to explain?

Is it possible that he’s afraid that real journalists might actually hold him accountable?

(And all the credit for the following questions go to my friend John English who laid them all out on his blog, which you should follow):

“it’s staggering to me how the Obama Administration is re-writing history on this in real-time,” English says. “It’s such a sloppy cover-up and yet why?”

  • Why did they blame it on the video?
  • Why did they insist it was spontaneous?
  • Why did they throw the intelligence community under the bus?
  • Why did Obama not call it a terrorist attack at the U.N.?
  • Why did Ambassador Rice go on all the Sunday talk shows and blame the video?
  • Why did Hillary “take responsibility” for it last night, and why did Obama wait until today to do the same?

If clarity and responsibility is what we are looking for, I doubt we’ll hear it before the election, or from the President. If his oblique answer during the debate and subsequent off-camera  follow-up answer directly to the questioner and after the debate  isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is.

 “After the debate, the president came over to me and spent about two minutes with me privately,” says the 61-year-old Ladka, who works at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola, N.Y. According to Ladka, Obama gave him ”more information about why he delayed calling the attack a terrorist attack.”

Obama’s retail politics left an impression on Ladka:”I appreciate his private answer more than his public answer,” he says.

Newsflash to Ladka: America didn’t really like his answer, either, and the cascade is coming.

Hope is not a strategy, says Romney on Obama foreign policy

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington, Va., Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 (Associated Press)

With Politico reporting that there has been a strategy shakeup in the Romney campaign led by Ann and Tagg Romney, we saw the first step in this change as Mitt gave a major policy speech yesterday on foreign policy.

It’s not a top ten issue with voters, but it is an area where Romney must show strong leadership. Obama has often been criticized  for apologizing for America abroad, as well as for turning back decades of American foreign policy. Even the political left has been unhappy with Obama’s inability to keep campaign promises, including the failure to close Guantanamo Bay, the continued war in Afghanistan, and the failure to try terrorists in civilian courts, to say nothing of the debacle in Libya this month. American Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in a terrorist attack–an attack that the Administration initially tried to pin to a YouTube video instead of Al Qaeda affiliate terrorists and the Administration’s failure to protect the Ambassador.

Charles Hill, a retired diplomat whose service included time at the side of Henry Kissinger and U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, is among the critics who see Obama’s policies, and failures, as a reversal of American leadership:

What amazes Mr. Hill is how much of a break the Obama foreign policy represents compared with the bipartisan consensus stretching back to Truman. That culminated in President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, which he likens to an “emancipation proclamation for the world.” But, he says, “The democracy wave that began 20 years ago [at the end of the Cold War] is now turning backward.” Why? “The conduct of the Obama administration.”

With the future at stake, then, Romney went to the Virginia Military Institute on Monday to take advantage of rising poll numbers on the wake of last week’s Presidential debate and delivered a speech laying out a vision for restoring American leadership in the world. Because of the tone in the Obama Administration’s rhetoric, he argues, American foreign policy has put our allies in a place of questioning whether they can rely on America in time of need, especially in the Middile East and in Israel. Among other things, he states in the speech that he will

  • Support those being repressed in the Syrian civil war.
  • Prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon (currently estimated to be within the next two to four months)
  • Restore a permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region.
  • Reaffirm historic ties to Israel.
  • Roll back Obama’s “arbitrary” budget cuts to national defense.
  • Restore ship building program to put the Navy on track to build 15 ships a year.
  • Implement effective missile defense.
  • Call on NATO allies to meet treaty obligations not currently being met.
  • Condition foreign aid support on good governance–respect for women and minorities, free press, independent judiciary, etc.
  • Champion free trade and the signing of trade agreements (Obama Administration has not signed one, yet).
  • Transition of Afghanistan to Afghan forces by 2014.
  • Commitment to a democratic Palestine along side and at peace with Israel.

Rather than spin it, I have inserted it in its entirety for your own analysis, especially for this question: does it take America in the direction you want it to go?

I particularly appreciate the introduction from my good friend and tireless campaign companion, Gov. Bob McDonnell.  He is showing what conservative leadership can do to build a stronger economy.  Thank you also Congressman Goodlatte for joining us today. And particular thanks to Gen. Peay. I appreciate your invitation to be with you today at the Virginia Military Institute.  It is a great privilege to be here at an Institution that has done so much for our nation, both in war and in peace.

For more than 170 years, VMI has done more than educate students.  It has guided their transformation into citizens, and warriors, and leaders.  VMI graduates have served with honor in our nation’s defense, just as many are doing today in Afghanistan and other lands.  Since the September 11th attacks, many of VMI’s sons and daughters have defended America, and I mourn with you the 15 brave souls who have been lost. I join you in praying for the many VMI graduates and all Americans who are now serving in harm’s way.  May God bless all who serve, and all who have served.

Of all the VMI graduates, none is more distinguished than George Marshall—the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war.

General Marshall once said, “The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.”  Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.

Last month, our nation was attacked again.  A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead—murdered in Benghazi, Libya.  Among the dead were three veterans.  All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both.  President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America.  And he is right.  We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident.  They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia.  Our embassies have been attacked.  Our flag has been burned.  Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, and what this calls on America to do.  These are the right questions.  And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events—and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world.

The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts.  They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East—a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century.  And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.

The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long.  No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West.

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful.  After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people.  They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.”  They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound.  Then they burned it to the ground.  As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation.  It is the struggle of millions and millions of people—men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers—all of whom have had enough of the darkness.  It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making.  It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran, in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria.  In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair.

We have seen this struggle before.  It would be familiar to George Marshall.  In his time, in the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism.  Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values, and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world.  We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets.  We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies.  We led.  And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional:  It is not just the character of our country—it is the record of our accomplishments.  America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties.  That is America at its best.  And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership.  And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East.

I want to be very clear:  The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else.  But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.  Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel.  And he has succeeded.  This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability.  It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us.  And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in our nation’s capital.  And yet, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”—the American President was silent.

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence. The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains.

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. Violent extremists are flowing into the fight.  Our ally Turkey has been attacked.  And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden.  These are real achievements won at a high cost.  But Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. And other extremists have gained ground across the region.  Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.

The President is fond of saying that “The tide of war is receding.”  And I want to believe him as much as anyone.  But when we look at the Middle East today—with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American Ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates— it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope.  But hope is not a strategy.  We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity.

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us.  Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.”

It is time to change course in the Middle East.  That course should be organized around these bedrock principles:  America must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose and resolve in our might. No friend of America will question our commitment to support them… no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them… and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words.

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.  For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.

I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf.

And I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure.  The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow.  The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines.  I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin. And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.

I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results.  I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs.  And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property.

I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world.  The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.  I will reverse that failure.  I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones.

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies.

In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.

In Egypt, I will use our influence—including clear conditions on our aid—to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid.

In Syria, I will work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them.  We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran—rather than sitting on the sidelines.  It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East.

And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.  President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11.  I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.

Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.  On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.

There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region.  It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security.  But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked:  “Where does America stand?”

I know many Americans are asking a different question: “Why us?”  I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading.

I believe that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us.  America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years.  I am running for President because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence—wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively—to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better—not perfect, but better.

Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership.  They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies.  So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind.  So many people still have faith in America.  We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves—that we have the will and the wisdom to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall:  “He … always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion.”  That is the role our friends want America to play again.  And it is the role we must play.

The 21st century can and must be an American century. It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Will the real America stand up and lead?

In this edition of  “News you missed if you’ve been under a rock,” we’re talking about the deaths of a US Ambassador and three diplomats in Libya.

According to the Washington Post, the attacks following rioting Cairo, Egypt, and may have been planned and resulted in the deaths of the   U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans during an assault on the consulate in the city of Benghazi in Libya.

Ostensibly, the cause was a low-budget film by a Jewish filmmaker in California that was purported to show poorly make-uped Caucasian with bad accents playing Islamic rioters attacking Christians, among other “things”:

It depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a bumbling idiot, born out-of-wedlock and making up verses to the Islamic holy book to suit his purposes and desires. The film also shows him as having intimate relations with women and suggests that he was gay.

Any flesh-and-blood depiction of Muhammad is offensive to Muslims.

According to the Post, the filmmaker has gone into hiding.

Meanwhile, the tragedy took less than a New York minute to become a political hot-button. After the American embassy in Cairo appeared to apologize for the filmmaker’s attack on Islam instead of stand up for American freedom of speech, the Mitt Romney said the statement amounted to “an apology for American principles.”

The embassy’s original statement on Tuesday condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims–as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”

Later, once the situation began to escalate, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said on Twitter: “This morning’s condemnation (issued before the protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy.”

By Wednesday morning, Obama was responding.

Mr. Obama, speaking shortly after his Republican challenger, said there was “no justification” for the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American diplomats but that the incident “will not break the bonds” between the two nations.

“Make no mistake, justice will be done,” the president added. He didn’t elaborate.

The economy may be the issue this election, and foreign policy may be a weak place for Barack Obama (see my comments on that topic here), but Mitt Romney’s response–both in timing and in tone–left the Washington Post and the New York Times leveling critiques just short of calling Romney unpatriotic.

The New York Times thought he should hold his fire and “stand by the US government.”

Mr. Romney could easily have held his fire during this crisis, if he could not summon the decency to support the United States government. Instead, he misrepresented the administration as showing “sympathy” to the mob in Benghazi. There was no truth in what he said. In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the first official comment on the killings, a strong condemnation, just after Mr. Romney released his statement. Even after having a night to reconsider his response, Mr. Romney merely doubled down on his false charges, as he is prone to do.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Post:

 At a news conference, Mr. Romney claimed that the administration had delivered “an apology for America’s values.” In fact, it had done no such thing: Religious tolerance, as much as freedom of speech, is a core American value. The movie that provoked the protests, which mocks the prophet Mohammed and portrays Muslims as immoral and violent, is a despicable piece of bigotry; it was striking that Mr. Romney had nothing to say about such hatred directed at a major religious faith.

Me thinks that the Post confuses tolerance with freedom, and misses that tolerance should never be enforced with violence, nor should it be violence be appeased.

But back to the political: much ado about nothing or is there a real bone for contention here?

In many ways, the Romney response was undiplomatic. It was hurried, it was before sufficient intelligence about what was going on had emerged, and it was broad and ham handed. On the other hand, it was not necessarily wrong.  Perhaps it is only the tact that is missing, but not the message.

Ben Stein might have put it better…and indeed, he thinks so, as he writes the speech Romney could have, or could still, give:

Let me be clear about this: Mr. Obama is wrong. We have complete freedom of speech in this country. We do not apologize to mobs of thugs and bullies for our residents having free speech. When I take office, the era of apologizing to foreign thugs and bandits for the United  States of America and our freedoms is over. We are not ashamed of being a free country. We are proud of it.

“We expect the governments of Egypt and Libya and all other nations to do their duty under law to protect our embassies. If they can’t, we will take appropriate action. We are not going to be pushed around and we are not going to be bullied by gangsters and we are not going to apologize for the Constitution.

This, then, is the crux of the divide between the cultures on the left and the right, a view of the world is just plain different.  On the first are those who want a unified and international feeling of peace and amity, brought about on terms of mutual kindness and respect. In that world, the international community rules by consensus. In the latter, we see a world view that puts nation first, and all others second. The rights and powers granted by the rule of law and by the constitution are prime. It is, perhaps, more pessimistic, but it is the realist view. The international stage is dangerous, and it is state against state, and only mutual interests bring alignment.

In that world, apologies demonstrate weakness, not mutual approbation.

As Bart Marcois, a career diplomat with years of experience in the Middle East puts it, Obama’s response when the embassy in Cairo was occupied was “pusillanimous” and only sowed the seeds of the deaths in Libya.

When extremists in Libya saw their brethren in Cairo successfully humiliate America, and pay no price for it, they knew it was open season on Americans. They followed suit, but were more violent, and did not stop at replacing and desecrating the flag. Obama’s reaction to the killing echoed the statement from Embassy Cairo: he condemned the killing, but was more specific in his condemnation of the people who made the film. His soft answer will jeopardize the lives and safety of our other diplomats everywhere in the world.

And what was our president doing yesterday afternoon while this was unfolding? A radio interview with a Miami DJ known as “The Pimp with the Limp.” When asked how he was doing, our commander-in-chief answered, “Blessed and highly favored.” He said how honored he was to be on the show: “You’ve got Pitbull and Flo Rida and all these guys just beating a path to your door.” That is how he chose to spend September 11, and what he did while our Embassy was occupied.

People who govern most countries in the world understand that leadership requires respect. We should have earned the love and gratitude of most nations, but no wise leader expects to receive it, or bases foreign policy upon it. A wise leader knows that the world stage includes actors who understand only respect, or fear. Obama is not that leader.

Not long ago, the same thugs that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens were blessed with American missiles and bombs in their drive to eliminate Muammar Gaddafi. The Obama Administration may have counted that one as a victory for a “lead from behind” foreign policy, but like the snake brought down from the mountain that bites in its time, we knew what they were when we picked them up. Should we be so surprised now?

Could Romney have better delivered his message? No doubt about it. Romney’s response may not have been well-timed or well said, but it demonstrates Americans’ disenchantment at what is missing from the Obama Administration’s foreign policy: a willingness to stand up for American values and let America  lead again.

[Washington Post][WSJ][NYT][American Spectator][Daily Caller]

When every country is a “close and strong ally,” are any of them? [video]

Words have meaning. And as one journalist notes (in the video below), words not said have meaning, too.

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, Obama ribbed Mitt Romney for, among other things, insulting the  United States’ closest ally, Great Britain in a what is best described as a gaffe more than an insult.  On the other hand, Obama’s foreign policy criticized alternately as, on one hand, unchanged from that of George W. Bush and on the other as a dramatic change from America diplomatic strategy stretching back to the Truman.  Some have even labeled it a politically motivated “disaster for the world at large and, ultimately, for the United States itself.”

Charles Hill, Harvard scholar and retired diplomat, is among the second group:

What amazes Mr. Hill is how much of a break the Obama foreign policy represents compared with the bipartisan consensus stretching back to Truman. That culminated in President George W. Bush’s second inaugural address, which he likens to an “emancipation proclamation for the world.” But, he says, “The democracy wave that began 20 years ago [at the end of the Cold War] is now turning backward.” Why? “The conduct of the Obama administration.”

Often, Obama politics have failed and required reversion to Bush-era policies. Examples include

  • Guantanamo Bay, which Obama promised to close but left open when trial in civilian courts proved unworkable (and Obama is still using Bush legal framework in lieu of any alternative),
  • Israel, where Obama Administration preconditions paralyzed peace talks and forced Obama retreat,
  • Iran, where an initially soft approach has turned back to the hard sanctions favored under Bush, and
  • Russia, where a “reset” of relations and cancellation of American missile defense systems to Poland and the Czech Republic but netted no closer relations with American’s one time Cold War rival. In fact, Russia vetoed an American resolution on Syria at the UN and Obama’s investment in Medvedev has begun to seem pointless with Putin back in the driver’s seat in the Kremlin (if he was ever really out of it). Russia is more authoritarian and oppressive to its people than ever since the end of the Cold War.

Libya may Obama’s only success story, and the ramifications of “leading from behind” there are still unclear.

Indeed, it may be that Obama’s diplomatic ear is tone-deaf, lacking the sophistication required in international diplomacy.

There’s a poignant line in the Disney/Pixar animated film when young Dashiell “Dash” Parr is reprimanded by his protective mother Helen “Elastigirl” Parr for nearly revealing his secret powers.

“But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special,” Dashiell says.

“Everyone’s special, Dash,” says Helen.

And then the line: “Which is another way of saying no one is,” says Dashiell.

With that, I give you Obaman diplomacy:

When every country is a “close and strong ally,” are any of them really that close or that strong?

With his eyes turned more towards reelection than America’s future and standing in the world, Obama (and his foreign policy speech writers) may have had his keyboard stuck on copy/paste.  By seeing through eyes that neglect America’s unique “exceptionalism” in the world, Obama Administration foreign policy have threatened our stature on the world stage. In hitting the “reset” button, Obama has failed to consider the ultimate result in that reset on America and the world.

Perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button, again, but this time in the White House.

[WSJ][e-International Relations][The American]

A false dilemma: Support a Dictator, or Support Oppressed People…How about instead support the “Constitution, limited government, limited executive power to kill people, [and] limited executive power to put our armed forces at risk…”

"Duh. It's for the children. Now don't ask any more questions."

When in doubt of winning a debate, re-frame it as a false dilemma.

In other words, make it impossible for people to choose anything but your side. Never mind if it means ignoring the Constitution or killing people, just to start.

It takes a lot of restraint to put things in their fair perspective. Evidently, Secretary Clinton does not have that restraint. [Read more...]

Libya: Members of Congress Challenging Constitutionality of Military Action

(en) Libya Location (he) מיקום לוב

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It’s the American way. Got a problem? Take it to court.

Even if that problem is military action in Libya.

While Rep. Boehner is taking a more diplomatic tact by sending a letter to President Obama seeking clarification on Libya, others have had enough and are challenging him in federal court.

Is our continued military action in Libya legal? That is the question Professor Jonathon Turley, representing ten Members of Congress, is asking the court to decide.

This is an action for injunctive and declaratory relief. In addition to challenging the circumvention of express constitutional language, it will also challenge arguments that no one (including members of Congress) has “standing” to submit this question to judicial review. These members will ask the federal district court for review of the constitutional question and for recognition that the Constitution must allow for judicial review of claims of undeclared wars under Article I.

via Members of Congress Challenge Libyan War in Federal Court « JONATHAN TURLEY.

The Congressional members in the suit are from both parties and include Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md); Dan Burton (R., Ind.); Mike Capuano (D., Mass.); Howard Coble (R., N.C.); John Conyers (D., Mich.); John J. Duncan (R., Tenn.); Tim Johnson (R., Ill.); Walter Jones (R., N.C.); Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio); and Ron Paul (R., Tx).

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