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Tags: Foreign Policy

National Journal: ‘The Once-Soaring Avatar of Change Crashing Earthward’



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From the last Morning Jolt until June 30 . . . 

300 More U.S. Troops in Iraq. So . . . Are We At War With ISIS?

I’m not saying this move from President Obama is the wrong one

Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have moved ever nearer to Baghdad, and to determine “how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”

But what do we do if some of those 300 guys get attacked? If ISIS ambushes some of our guys in a Black Hawk Down Mogadishu-style scenario . . . doesn’t that drag us into this war even further? I’m all for killing ISIS, but are we sure we want to pursue this path? Is the president sure?

We all know that our Special Operations guys are the best of the best, but they can’t win the war for the Iraqi government.

I suppose if there’s a chance you’ll run across Persians, 300 guys is a good number to have.

James Oliphant of National Journal acknowledges what so many in Washington have tried to deny for about six years now: the world doesn’t work the way Barack Obama thought it did.

[Sending 250 troops to Iraq to help secure the embassy] is a tacit acknowledgment that many of the assumptions that Obama and his foreign policy team made about the world have proven to be incorrect:   

• That without the leverage of U.S. military power in the country, Iraqi leaders would pursue political change that wouldn’t leave Sunnis alienated and antagonized and that its security forces could counter internal threats

• That Afghanistan would be stable enough for the U.S. to end that war and depart with confidence the government can keep the nation on a stable path;

• That the U.S. could pursue a “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia — but then watched his troops take Crimea and threaten the rest of Ukraine;

• That the civil war in Syria could somehow be contained within its borders — and could reach a resolution without American intervention.

More than anything, these events and others have served as a rebuke to Team Obama’s worldview that a new generation of leadership could move on from both the Clinton-era and Bush-era policies. Both of those administrations were more hawkish and aggressive about the exercise of American power, whether it was to intercede in regional conflicts in the Balkans or take down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Disdainful of much of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, Obama and his close-knit circle of advisers, on the other hand, talked about engaging Iran diplomatically, using sanctions to punish bad actors, “pivoting” to Asia, and neutralizing the threat of terrorism more bloodlessly through the use of drones. They viewed American power in terms of limits. This was a president, after all, who opposed the U.S. “surge” that arguably stabilized Iraq to the point where Obama could pull the troops out.

Yet here was Obama on Thursday using the language of presidents past such as John Kennedy and George W. Bush, talking of sending “advisers” into a global hot spot and warning of the need to deny “safe haven” to terrorist groups. “Right now, this is the moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said — something that sounded So 10 Years Ago.
That’s why Obama’s remarks had to have left such a bitter taste. Iraq was a box that his administration had checked. And already, the unrest there is casting fresh doubt on his decision to leave Afghanistan just a few years removed from calling for his own “surge” there. Americans are giving his handling of foreign policy the lowest marks of his presidency. With Syria on fire, Egypt and Libya in turmoil, and Russia meddling in Ukraine, the world has reached up and pulled the once-soaring avatar of change crashing earthward.
Icarus, we told you so.

The odds of President Obama’s drastically changing his foreign-policy worldview are slim . . . but even if he did change his approach to the likes of Russia, Iran, Assad in Syria and the rest . . . would the Democratic party’s base revolt against those changes?

Tags: Barack Obama , Iraq , ISIS , Foreign Policy

Ukraine, Syria, Iran . . . America Is Out of the Consequence Business



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt:/p>

Chicken Kiev, Much Worse When Reheated and Served again*

So . . . Kiev is burning. Again.

It’s a bloody mess, and by the time you read this, the numbers are likely to be worse:

Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square early on Wednesday after the bloodiest day since the former Soviet republic, caught in a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, won its independence more than 22 years ago. At least 18 people, including seven policemen, died on Tuesday during hours of violence between security forces and civilians who have staged protests against President Viktor Yanukovich since last November.

The administration’s stance remains “Hey, stop it, you guys!

The Obama administration is “appalled” by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Washington announced no specific new action and did not immediately lay blame for violence that left at least 13 dead, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt threatened both sides with sanctions.

The crackdown is awful, but we’re not going to do a darn thing about it. We don’t do much in the world of foreign policy these days. You may or may not have noticed that the deal with Assad’s regime in Syria collapsed. As S. E. Cupp summarizes:

Peace talks have collapsed, Bashar Assad’s murderous regime continues, the rebels have splintered, a mere 11% of Assad’s chemical weapons have been collected and radical operatives aligned with Al Qaeda are settling in nicely.

In response to these events, the Obama administration is quickly and energetically pursuing a new strategy of not dealing with it.

We’re not letting the failure of the Syria deal slow down efforts for a similar deal with the Iranians, even though the Obama administration’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction just told Jeffrey Goldberg that he sees almost no chance of successful negotiations. The text of our deal with Iran remains secret, and the Iranian ground forces commander says the U.S. is facing its “final collapse.” Full speed ahead, guys!

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* For those of you who don’t understand the headline, President George H. W. Bush was accused of delivering a “Chicken Kiev speech” in the early days of the end of the Cold War, throwing cold water on Ukrainian independence:

He flew to Kiev after last summer’s Moscow superpower summit and delivered a speech that, to many, seemed like a tepid U.S. dismissal of Ukrainian aspirations to statehood.

“Freedom is not the same as independence,” Bush told Zayets and the rest of Ukraine’s legislature on Aug. 1. “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

Shorn of rhetorical niceties, the American position seemed to be: Moscow and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev know best. Although the legislature here was dominated by Communists still opposed at that time to secession, Bush’s speech “went down about as well as cod-liver oil,” one Kiev-based diplomat remarked.

This time around, it’s not clear the Ukranians will get their own speech from the U.S. president.

Tags: Foreign Policy , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Syria , Iran , Ukraine

Davos Elites Suddenly Realize U.S. Elected an Isolationist



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The global elites who relentlessly cheered and applauded Barack Obama from the moment he appeared on the national stage suddenly realize the leader of the free world and arsenal of democracy is now managed by a quasi-isolationist:

As President Barack Obama starts his second term, the world’s business and political elite pines for greater American engagement to tackle a thicket of security challenges.

From Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea, the United States’ reluctance to be drawn into conflicts far from its shores was a leitmotiv of geopolitical debate at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

The absence of top Obama administration officials from the annual brainstorming and networking event in the Swiss mountains symbolized to some a perceived pullback from global leadership, even though it was Inauguration Week in Washington.

In the Washington Post this morning, Bob Woodward writes about the philosophy that defense-secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and President Obama share:

So, this thinking goes, the U.S. role in the world must be carefully scaled back — this is not a matter of choice but of facing reality; the military needs to be treated with deep skepticism; lots of strategic military and foreign policy thinking is out of date; and quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided.

So those who are expecting the U.S. to take a leadership role from Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea . . . well, it appears that thinking is “out of date.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel , Davos , Foreign Policy

Globe-Trotting Mitt



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According to Politico, Mitt Romney will be traveling overseas later this month: to London for the Olympics, to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and then to Germany and Poland.

This is probably a good move, and the timing is pretty normal for this campaign; in late July of 2008, then-Sen. Obama made his big globe-spanning trip: “Shortly after meeting with Karzai, Obama left Afghanistan to continue a trip that will take him to the Middle East and Europe. Obama will travel to Jordan, then visit Israel, Germany, France and England.”

While foreign affairs and national security are less salient issues than they were in 2008, there are some big issues that undoubtedly weigh heavily on the minds of some portions of the electorate: the so-called “Arab Spring” and its effects on the Middle East, the Iranian nuclear program, the sense that Russia and China now ignore the United States and do as they please against our interests, the sense that Europe is teetering on the brink of economic disaster, the continuing instability in Pakistan . . .

Tags: Foreign Policy , Mitt Romney

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