September 23, 2012

Obama’s Foreign Policy: Reset and Reach Out

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

The killing of our Ambassador to Libya, a decent and honorable man, and the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi was a despicable act, and under all international law recognized by the civilized world as an act of aggression against the United States.

A bit of background: Word of the crude, thoroughly amateurish 12-minute YouTube trailer produced by a Coptic Christian in the United States which maligns the prophet Mohammed reaches Cairo, Egypt.  The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, then condemns the so-called film, stating, “The attack on religious sanctities does not fall under this freedom (of speech).

Things then take a terrible turn when Wesam Abdel-Wareth, a Salafist (fundamentalist) leader and president of Egypt’s Hekma television channel, calls on Salafists to protest, and 2000 of them storm the American Embassy in Cairo. As soon as scenes are broadcast showing the mobs at the embassy in Cairo, mobs appear in Libya and throughout much of the Middle East.

Our embassy in Cairo, which was forewarned by the Egyptian government that protests were coming, began tweeting messages essentially condemning the YouTube trailer. At this point the United States is now clearly on notice that something very ugly and dangerous is about to erupt throughout the Middle East. Ominously, the date is Septembr 11th. The White House is silent, announcing only that the President is flying off to yet another celebrity fundraiser in Las Vegas.  Mitt Romney, arguably prematurely, criticizes the only statements to have come from the government, i.e., “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States; Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton follows up with a statement also condemning the trailer. The press and the White House, largely ignoring the rioting in Cairo, Benghazi and the rest of the Middle East jumps on Romney’s criticism of the U.S. response, making it the primary news of the day. By the end of the day the Administration then announces that the statements released by our Embassy in Cairo were unauthorized and do not represent the position of the United States after all.

Our foreign policy for 3½ years seems to be dominated by serial attempts at resets, reaching out to hostile regimes that have demonstrated no interest in an extended hand, and mea culpa suggesting we seek forgiveness for of all our evil deeds.

During that time, this Administration has kowtowed to all the major thugs in the world.  The much ballyhooed reset of relations with Russia, and the President’s whispered reassurance (caught on video) to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that once our election was over he would be more flexible in dealing with Russian concerns has yielded a finger in the eye.  The extension of an open hand to Iran rather than a clinched fist, has yielded a clinched fist in return, while Iran has gotten closer and closer to possessing nuclear weapons.  The policy of fighting the war in Afghanistan but at the same time announcing a withdrawal date has shown no signs of a favorable and honorable result.  Quite the contrary, hostility and violence toward the United States in Afghanistan has grown so great that US troops no longer go on joint patrols with the ally we are there to protect.

Following the blatantly obvious and despicable act of terrorists killing our Ambassador in Libya, the new Libyan government which, in fact, is friendly to the United States, determined that the attack was an act of terrorism led by outsiders and promptly arrested 50 apparent conspirators. This conflicted with the narrative the Administration was selling to the American people that the carnage was solely the result of a spontaneous reaction to a stupid 12-minute video which was produced last June. Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, compared the video to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the fatwa that was put out by the Ayatollah Khomeini on Rushdie.  White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the protests were not about terrorism or hatred of the United States, and obviously not hatred of the Administration, nor to the American people, but were in a response to a largely unseen video, a film that many Americans have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting since as a people we don’t look to insult that which others consider holy

We have viewed the video.  It is, indeed, highly offensive to the Prophet Mohammad and his companions who are held in high esteem by around 1.6 million Muslims, accounting for over 20% of the earth’s population.  One scene, for example, shows Mohammed authorizing the looting of cities, the raping of women, the taking of slaves, and the sexual assault of children.  Another shows his wife, Hafsa Bint Omar (daughter of the second Muslim Caliph), beating him with a shoe because she found him in bed with another woman.  He runs around the room in circles, and says that if she stops hitting him, “I will make your father Caliph.” The video is the amateurish, work of a buffoon and one can only question why anyone would resort to rhetoric and riot over this farce while remaining silent during the destruction of Lebanon in 2006, Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2012. The life of 28,000 Syrians should have been more of a “red-line” for Muslims, than the absurd, video.  Syrian Muslims have been killed before the very eyes of the entire Muslim world and nobody has lifted a finger in any meaningful way to protect them.”

Additionally, given the heavy weaponry that was instantly rolled out in the well- coordinated attack in Benghazi, the ambush by the terrorists of Libyan troops who were dispatched to protect our personnel, and the coincidence of the date, isn’t it obvious that the assault on our people and our consulate was planned months in advance to coincide with 9/11?

Although it was clumsily handled, at least Governor Romney said what had to be said when he commented upon the killing of our Ambassador.  He donned a coat and tie, came out and pronounced the rioting in the Arab world as reprehensible.  What did the press do?  They focused nearly all of their questions on the timing of Mr. Romney’s announcement. Unbeknownst to them they were recorded coordinating and plotting their questions before Mr. Romney’s press conference began.  That’s the way a compliant press operates. It is called “gottcha journalism”.  Stay away from the substance, and find a way to criticize.

What did President Obama do?  He flew to Vegas to attend a fundraiser.  Could he not have forgone one night of fundraising and hobnobbing with left coast stars given the solemnity of the occasion and the escalating violence?  What message does that send to the world?  We see the message to be that the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, had a higher priority than dealing with the pre-meditated murder of its ambassador and those who were there to protect him in what was a well-coordinated, pre-planned attack on the United States.

And while we are at it, let’s talk about the Administration’s policies a little more broadly.

President Obama has refused to set “redlines” beyond which Iran must not go in the development of enriched uranium capable of being turned into a bomb.  What is he waiting for; the bomb to be produced and Iran to announce it?  Does he still believe his 2008 statement that his Muslim heritage would make us safer, that it would be, as he said in a national interview, a powerful tool in our rapprochement with the Muslim world?  Has he considered the sea change that would be wrought in the world should there be an Islamic bomb in the hands of a lunatic who claims that the Holocaust did not happen and who threatens to wipe Israel from the map?  This Administration had planned, (but later backed off) to have former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and now President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi come to the White House to meet with the President.  More outreach?  At the same time the President cannot find time on his schedule to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu on his forthcoming trip to the United States to visit the United Nations.  Is it not clear that this President has given our ally, Israel, a very cold shoulder diplomatically when its survival is openly threatened by Iran?

Egyptian President and former Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, preceding his departure for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, made it very clear during an interview with the New York Times that his policy was to have “a strong relationship with Iran.”

Morsi also blamed the United States for the deadly hatred of America, which has been on display throughout the Middle East for the past two weeks. President Morsi, whose government (along with Israel) is the primary beneficiary of American foreign aid blamed the United States for the deep anti-American sentiment across the Arab World. In a New York Times interview as we were completing this essay, and a short time after the four Americans were killed and others injured in the mob attacks in Libya, Yemen and Egypt, Mr. Morsi  lectured that “successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region.”  He is, of course, referring to the military assistance we have given Israel as it deals with the existential threats it faces from hostile regimes and from the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. He ignores the fact that nearly all of the peace conferences that have taken place between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been brokered by the United States, and that the Palestinians walked from the 2000 Camp David peace talks after having been offered nearly everything they were demanding.

If its policy is appease and apologize, then we guess it makes no difference that the Budget Control Act’s sequestration would hit defense spending hardest.  That Act causes an automatic $1.2 trillion sequestration of defense spending out of $46.3 trillion in total spending over the next decade, and this draconian cut in defense is on top of an already-planned estimated $470 billion in cuts from defense spending and would slash the defense budget and jeopardize the United States military’s ability to defend the nation.  Meanwhile, we continue to send massive foreign aid to Egypt and Libya.  Runaway entitlement spending, the biggest part of the budget, would scarcely be touched by comparison.

No longer will the United States have the ability to fight a two‑front war should it become necessary to do so.  Seem far fetched? What will we do when we are tied up in Afghanistan if something breaks loose in the Middle East that requires us to defend our interests, or if Taiwan needs help because China decides it is time to cross the straits and incorporate it into China?  What happens if we have another crisis on the Korean peninsula? The long and short of it is, our defense capabilities are being, and have been, seriously eroded and the United States is retreating into an isolationist policy that it has not seen in more than half a century.

Where have the national defense Democrats gone now that we really need them?

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7 responses to “Obama’s Foreign Policy: Reset and Reach Out”

  1. irwin yablans says:

    I get it.The solution is… elect Romney.. and attack Iran….
    Why didn’t I think of that?

    • Actually, it seems Mr. Yablans doesn’t get it. Drawing a line in the sand (the proverbial red line) is not the same as attacking Iran. Winston Churchill, 75 years ago, understood what would be the consequences of Chamberlain’s refusal to draw a line in the sand. We don’t know of a war that was prevented by appeasement.

  2. Mark J Levick says:

    I don’t think Mr. Yablans gets it. The solution is to be respected because we have a big stick. We are not going to be loved by the Muslim street because we do not believe in subjugating women and religious intolerance. Those folks should feel free to kill each other and take over Europe by procreation but should understand that screwing with us has adverse consequences. Thus we need a strong military and the maximization of our own energy resources. Our fundraiser in chief is not for either but the mirror on his wall still proclaims him the fairest of them all.

  3. irwin yablans says:

    Ok.Educate me.Where should the red line be drawn and exactly what should the action be if the iranians cross over?

    • Ah, Mr Yablans suggests that we provide the tactical and strategic leadership that we should expect of our Commander-in-Chief. We presume Iran has (or soon will) reached the zone of immunity after which their nuclear capability will be a fait accompli. We do not presume to know at what point that will happen, but the United States and the rest of the sane free world would be derelict to stand by and watch that occur. That, we suspect, would be a pretty good place to draw the line.

  4. irwin yablans says:

    Since you do not presume to know where the now” iconic”red line is, I will presume that our present leadership does..and when it is breached will act.
    They do have access to a bit more intelligence than we do.

  5. Janice Marcus says:

    I just finished reading Thomas Friedman’s
    column in the Sunday New York Times
    “The World We Actually Live In.”
    I consider his opinion to be both well researched
    and nonpartisan. I encourage everyone to
    read it. It could change the way you view
    how any administration handles our international challenges.

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