As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Tag Archives: foreign policy

The Trump Doctrine: Pick up the Cans Clinton, Bush, and Obama Kicked Down the Road

I have an op-ed about President Trump’s foreign policy running on the NBC News website today. Here’s a taste of the piece:

That clattering noise you’ve been hearing for years is the sound of previous U.S. presidents, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama, kicking cans down the road for someone else to pick up. Now, a heavyset older man with orange hair has set about collecting them — not to recycle for another president, but to ensure no future U.S. leader will trip over them.

Critics describe President Donald Trump’s foreign policy as a muddledunpredictable collection of impulses, with the one organizing principle being the coddling of like-minded, ruthless dictators. But there is, in fact, a defining diplomatic strategy: He is cleaning up the messes left by his predecessors.

Trump, regularly derided as the most irresponsible of presidents, is actually taking ownership of the most terrifying problems the country faces and trying to solve them in a direct way that his recent predecessors avoided.

Trump is actually taking ownership of the most terrifying problems the country faces and trying to solve them in a direct way that his recent predecessors avoided.

With respect to Iran, China, North Korea and even Russia, Trump is taking tough stances. He is getting cozy with dictators because the man who considers himself an artist of the deal understands that those are the people he must strike bargains with.

I hope you get a chance to check it out.

How Trump is Strengthening NATO

President Trump is taking NATO seriously and making NATO members take the alliance seriously.

As any child knows, if you can get mommy or daddy to do something for you, then great, let them do it. Who cares? I’ll go play video games while my parents set the table and do the dishes.

Trump is telling Europeans that they have to grow up. For them, the video games are things like socialism and paying for a million immigrants to land in their nations. Trump has told NATO that the United States is finished subsidizing their nonsense.

And what could be more nonsensical than having an alliance THAT IS DEPENDENT ON YOUR ENEMY for energy needs? Why on earth is Trump portrayed as the jerk when Germany is making profitable deals for a pipeline with the country, Russia, we’re protecting Germany from? Angela Merkel is the jerk, and Trump called her out.

Trump is making NATO a better alliance by forcing the allies to have skin in the game. If they are permitted to be lazy about their commitment during peacetime, they will be ineffective if there’s a war.

There are two ways to treat a child: Positive incentives and negative reinforcement. That is, threats and anger. When positive incentives don’t work, you move to negative reinforcement, which probably works better anyway since fear is a stronger motivator than hope. If I think I’m might live better, that’s an incentive for action. If I think I might die, that’s a VERY STRONG incentive for action.

The Europeans got bullied and look like weaklings. They deserve it, but also it will help them. There’s no reason why it should take Germany ten years or whatever to get to two percent of GDP for defense. Historically, uh, Germany has shown quite clearly it can ramp military spending rather quickly.

And so Trump upped the ante to four percent, which he knows, as a negotiator, will at least get them to two percent.

The press, of course, have focused on the numbers and Trump’s unkindness. But they miss the subtlety of what he is doing.

A functioning alliance needs functioning allies. Previous presidents have weakened the alliance by allowing a bunch of slackards to sit in their room and play video games – that is, spend money on socialist paradise projects. And we’re subsidizing it. No more.

The Dissing of America: Our enemies and rivals show no respect

As President Obama was traversing Alaska last week sounding the alarm about the theoretical consequences of global warming, a more concrete threat loomed just off the coast, in the Bering Sea.

Five Chinese naval ships suddenly materialized and were cruising about, symbols of China’s growing military might and its challenge to America’s naval hegemony in the Pacific.

That Chinese warships had appeared on U.S. radar in the Bering for the first time ever during a rare Obama visit to Alaska could be no coincidence. It was an obvious challenge to the president, and to be sure, an unmistakable sign of disrespect.

Meantime, halfway around the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin was toying with sending troops into Syria. Iran, which had just signed a nuclear deal with the United States, was continuing its rhetoric of open contempt for its new “partner.”

America’s enemies and rivals seem to have little fear with Obama at the helm. Would such derision, particularly by the Chinese, be offered up were Ronald Reagan president? Or even George W. Bush?

Obama boats

Obama’s naive policy of “outreach,” his grave affliction with indecision, and his ardent commitment to tentative half-measures have earned him the disrespect of the rest of the world.

Overseas, jackals reign in a Darwinian struggle for power and survival. They have a finely tuned nose for weakness, and with Obama, they sense it in abundance.

The problem is not so much that Obama refuses to launch the kind of military engagements Bush did. It is that he fails to understand the symbols of power and dithers instead of acting.

Obama didn’t do the wrong thing in Syria. He did nothing, refusing to decide whether to arm the Syrian rebels.

At the same time, he withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq and crowed about it on the campaign trail in 2012. The result of his Syria and Iraq policies was opportunity knocking for extremists in the absence of U.S. policy, and the rise of ISIS.

In Libya, Obama “led from behind” and then abandoned the scene once Qaddafi had been removed, resulting in anarchy exploited by Islamists. He drew a red line in Syria and then backed away. He set a deadline for ending the war in Afghanistan, win or lose. He demanded that Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure, only to reach an agreement that permits Iran to develop nuclear weapons in 15 years.

He abandoned a stalwart ally, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and expressed optimism as the radical Islamist Egyptian Brotherhood seized power. Soon, he quietly acquiesced as the Egyptian generals took power back and slaughtered and imprisoned their opponents.

These are only a few of the exhibits in the Obama gallery of indecisiveness and timidity. Pair all this with the incessant golf, the long, luxurious vacations, and the indulgent White House parties, and America’s enemies know they are not dealing with a serious opponent.

Ronald Reagan understood that he had to be perceived as unrelenting, and it was this that allowed him to win the Cold War without firing a shot.

One of the most significant foreign policy decisions of his presidency was made on the domestic front, when Reagan opted in 1981 to fire most of the illegally striking air traffic controllers. The Soviet politburo took notice and understood that they were dealing with a resolute force.

It was Reagan’s same stubborn conviction not to abandon his anti-missile defense program, even as the initiative was ridiculed as “Star Wars” by the left and in the press, that made the Soviets realize they could not compete with American power on an equal footing, hastening the dissolution of their empire.

Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 is still debated today. But his resolve is not, and the flexing of American might caused the Libyans to abandon their nuclear aspirations and may have helped keep a temporary lid on the Iranian nuclear arms program. After all, why invite trouble?

Nobody fears trouble from Obama, least of all the Iranians, who will have their nuclear arsenal, obtain billions of dollars that had been frozen overseas, and keep the American hostages they have taken.

And not the Chinese either, who will send their warships close to American shores and grow their power in the Pacific, knowing the worst they have to fear is a lecture from the president.

This piece was first published in Polizette.

Earnest Gives Cuban “Journalists” a Proper Lecture

Well, good on Josh Earnest.

I wasn’t writing last week, though I attended this White House briefing, so I’m just getting this to you now.

The White House press Secretary seemed prepared to deal with the presence of a few Cuban “journalists” who were in the briefing room. It kind of set the place abuzz – that real live Cuban journalists were in the house. He had a nice little lecture about freedom for them to take home. I’m sure it will be confiscated at the airport in Havana.

Now, as you and I know, there is no such thing as a Cuban “journalist,” at least not one that would be trusted to come to Washington. These are propagandists for a brutal dictatorship, and they may well be marched to the guillotine with the rest of them should the revolution ever occur which – as President Obama’s opening to Cuba guarantees – it won’t.

The Cuba opening is one on which reasonable people can disagree, of course. I get Obama’s point that 50 years of sticking it to Cuba hasn’t really worked, though it at least drained plenty of billions from the Soviet treasury.

On the other hand, Cuba is just now losing the benefactor that replaced the Soviet Union – Venezuela – and the regime did in fact seem to be facing big financial trouble. But now U.S. money will flow into the coffers of the Cuban oligarchy, ensuring its perpetuation for many more years to come.

And I’d like someone to show me the example of where “engagement” has removed a Communist regime. China, anyone? As opposed to confrontation. Soviet Union, par exemple.

Anyway, here’s the Cuban’s question, followed by excerpts of Earnest’s remarks.

Cuban “Journalist:” Thank you very much. Two small questions. First, do you think that it’s possible to see the scenario in which we will open embassies in Havana and Washington? Is that future a scenario? Is the administration committed to being more respectful of the Vienna Convention towards the behavior of the American diplomats in Havana? For example, do you think the programs for regime change will go on or not? Do you have any remarks on that?

And on the other way, do you think that President Obama will also use — continue using his executive prerogative to expand the links, the bonds with Cuba?

Earnest: The President believes that greater engagement between the United States and Cuba would bring about the kind of change that we would like to see in terms of the Cuban government’s treatment of the Cuban people. We continue to have significant concerns about the way that the Cuban government all too often fails to respect the basic universal human rights that we hold so dear in this country; that there are too many Cuban political activists, Cuban journalists who see their freedom of speech, their freedom of assembly, their freedom of expression trampled by the Cuban government. That continues to be a source of significant concern not just on the part of the President of the United States, but by a lot of Americans . . .

As it relates to the way in which this change in Cuba will be brought about, I think that’s something that the Cuban people will determine. I think we would hope — and our aspirations for the Cuban people is that they would be able to express their views and even express their dissent in public without fear of retribution.

That’s a freedom that most Cubans do not enjoy at this point. But we’re hopeful that by making a change in this policy, by facilitating deeper engagement between the U.S. and Cuban people, that that kind of freedom of expression will become more common and, most importantly, will finally be protected by the Cuban government in a way that it isn’t now.

Obama Must Honor Armenia’s Suffering by Calling it a “Genocide”

President Obama claims to be guided by morality and what he thinks are “American values” in his conduct of foreign policy.

Unlike many conservatives, particularly conservative commentators, I actually believe that Obama is doing what he thinks is right. Even if Obama would not extend that particular article of faith to his conservative opponents.

Now, I do believe that some of what he does amounts to rationalizing weakness – inaction, concessions, and reversals of promises – parading it instead as a morally superior and “practical” approach. And I think much of what he decides is good policy is, to the contrary, bad policy – inconsistent with our values and gravely injurious to the nation.

But I believe he is doing what he thinks is right.

However, Obama cannot even claim to seek the “moral path” in foreign policy if he fails to do what he promised during the 2008 campaign, and that is call the genocide committed by the Turks against the Armenians what it is: a genocide.

Friday marks the 100th anniversary of beginning of the slaughter, which killed more than a million people. The massacre was directed by top government officials, one of whom, according to historian Dominic Green, “installed a personal telegraph office in his home so that he could direct” those committing the murders “and keep count of the killings.”

Green described the genocide and its roots in an article published this week in the Weekly Standard:

In 1914, some two million Armenians lived in Ottoman Turkey, three-quarters of them in six provinces of eastern Anatolia, on the borders of Russia and Persia. By 1918, 90 percent of them were gone. More than one million were either murdered in their towns and villages or killed by disease, starvation, or death marches into camps in the Syrian desert, where the survivors were massacred. Hundreds of thousands of women and children were forced to convert to Islam; tens of thousands fled to the Russian Caucasus as refugees. Yet to this day, the Turkish government claims that there was no genocide and that it was the Armenians’ fault.

Obama’s moral failing here is consistent with that of previous presidents, all of whom have been frightened to anger Turkey, which is a member of NATO and supposedly a key ally in the Middle East, where we have few allies.

Here is the supreme, awful irony: The United States does not recognize a “genocide” because the nation that committed the genocide objects.

child-victims-of-armenian-genocide

It is time for the cravenness to stop. It is time to remember that the United States is the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and to start acting like it. Third-rate powers like Turkey actually do need us more than we need them. The United States, through NATO, is committed to defending Turkey should Russia or anyone else try to mess with it. So let the ass-kissing come to an end.

It’s worth remembering at this point that despite pleas from the Bush administration in 2003, Turkey refused to grant the U.S. access to its territory and ports, critically needed staging areas for the war with Iraq. And Turkey has become increasingly Islamacized in the years since, despite blankets of flattery and cajoling heaped on its leader by Obama.

Turkey will throw a fit if Obama says Armenia suffered a genocide. But Turkey will get over it. And Turkey doesn’t give us much help, and can do us little harm.

Unfortunately for the Armenians, they lack the kind of strong political muscle that could balance the scales for a politician like Obama and get him to do what is morally right.

So he’ll have to just come to the conclusion himself.

The White House has put out word that there will be no use of the word genocide Friday when Obama marks the anniversary. Obama can still change his mind and say what must be said. I think he is capable of doing it.

Below is a video of UN Ambassador Samantha Power in 2008, seeking votes for Obama from Armenians by assuring then that with respect to the genocide, she is certain of Obama’s “willingness as president to commemorate it, and certainly to call a spade and spade and speak truth about it.” She added, “I know him very well and he’s a person of incredible integrity . . . he’s a person who can actually be trusted.”

Obama Puts an End to the Monroe Doctrine

President Obama officially closed a chapter in U.S. history that has guided presidents since nearly beginning, indicating the United States will no longer act to resist overseas influence in the Hemisphere.

Obama, who spoke Friday during a “civil society” forum in Panama City, Panama, disparaged past efforts by the United States to forestall the spread of Communism in Latin America and suggested similar missions would no longer be undertaken.

“The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,” Obama said.

Let’s think about what Obama means here. Obama’s world view was whelped in the 1980s within Leftist universities where political science professors groaned ceaselessly about Ronald Reagan and dismissed his anti-Communism as primitive warmongering that failed to recognize the basic decency of our enemies.

When it came to Latin America, they spouted something called “Dependency Theory,” which posited that U.S. policy in the region was predicated on sucking the wealth out of smaller, less powerful nations, not preventing Soviet expansion.

This, of course, is the theory Obama embraced, viewing our “meddling” as ignoble capitalist exploitation, not a defensive parry against the Soviets.

Obama phone Castro
Obama on the phone with Raul Castro; December 16, 2014

Obama, as the Iranians have recently recognized, does not understand the evil designs of our enemies and believes in campfire singalongs rather than fighting fire with fire. Meanwhile, he suspects the motives of the United States. And so opposing Communism in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala, and anywhere else was “meddling,” notwithstanding the foreign influence behind “indigenous” Communist movements.

This foreign influence is exactly what James Monroe was trying to deflect. Monroe said:

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety . . .

With the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.

The Soviet Union was just such a power. But for Obama, Cuba, which was sustained by the Soviets, is really not much different than any other place. Obama said:

As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people -– not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity.

Today, Iran is seeking to spread its influence into Latin America, and Russia is hoping to stage a comeback.

But now, the area is off limits. To the United States, that is. Not to its enemies.

King Abdullah “Could not Stand President Obama”

Uh oh. Somebody got the wrong idea about a friendship they were having.

That would be President Obama, who said, as part of an obsequious statement lamenting the passing of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, “As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.”

According to Richard Engel of NBC News, Abdullah’s feelings were not warm, and if they seemed that way to Obama, they were not genuine.

You see, unlike Obama, who thinks other world leaders like him because they dig Obama, Abdullah understood that friendships between leaders are based on what they can do for each other’s countries. And for Abdullah, where Obama was concerned, that wasn’t much.

Said Engel:

The king could not stand President Obama because the president was supportive of the Arab spring, because the president did not support Hosni Mubarak in Egypt – in fact turned his back on Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Obama has made an utter mess of the Middle East. He focused on withdrawing the United States from the region, supporting “protestors” – no matter who the protestors actually were – and focused on helping John Kerry get a Nobel Peace Prize by making peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Meanwhile, the whole place fell to pieces.

And that had much more of an effect on Abdullah than the aura of Obama.

Five Reasons Obama’s Cuba Deal Stinks

President Obama is intent on making nice with one of the most oppressive regimes in modern history. It’s what he wanted to do since he no doubt learned from his professors in college about Dependency Theory and the evils of Yankee imperialism. Here’s why his move to normalize relations with Cuba is such a mistake.… Continue Reading

Psaki: Two Hypocrisies in One!

Nice. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki came armed to a briefing this week with a most pathetic dodge to a question that must have been expected about Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak having his charges dropped. More opacity from the openness administration. Meanwhile, as one reporter notes, the democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, rots in jail. Now, I’m… Continue Reading

Obama Dines with Foreign Policy Brain Trust

Okay, at least he’s thinking about things. Looks like a rather like-minded group – centrist to left of center. But the minds involved are mostly pretty good. From the White House: Tonight the President and Vice President are having a private dinner with a group of foreign policy experts, including former Administration officials from Republican… Continue Reading