Ukraine: Another Foreign Policy Failure by Obama

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

It is difficult to determine which is more tragic: Justin Bieber trying to act like a “hardass” to prove he is grown up, or President Barack Obama trying to act resolute to prove he is a world leader on the international stage.  Both are transparently fatuous.  One can understand, but not forgive, the outrageous conduct of Mr. Bieber who is trying to make the transition from child to adult with a “posse” instead of a parent advising him.

But for Mr. Obama there can be neither understanding nor forgiveness because of the cost in human lives and suffering that his incompetence and refusal to learn has caused and is continuing to cause.

I hate to repeat myself, but in January of 2013 I wrote a column on precisely the same thing.  Fourteen months later, every word remains true – as true as it will for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s term:

“The so-called Arab Spring began in the middle of December, 2010.  Its inauspicious beginning arose from a Muslim fanatic in Tunisia that was so offended by being slapped by a woman police officer that he set himself on fire in protest.  In all probability the term was a media-generated fanciful wish that sought to compare the accompanying and prolonged violence we are witnessing in the Middle East to a legitimate movement toward democracy known as the Prague Spring.  Other than the common usage of the term “Spring” there is not a single, legitimate element of commonality.

“In February of 2011, less than a month after Marc Lynch writing in the political journal

Foreign Policy coined the phrase, I wrote an article that noted at the outset:

“Enough Already.  The naïve euphoria over the “popular uprising” in Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations has caused America’s mainstream media to enter a mental state reminiscent of a thirteen year old’s crush on Justin Bieber – unreasonable, unfathomable and unsustainable.  The euphoria is fueled by like-minded simpletons in the State Department who, despite consistent failure, still believe that diplomacy will conquer the violent will of ruthless men.

“Is the Middle East on a historical march to freedom and democracy?  What, are you crazy?  The most likely outcome of these “popular uprisings” is the replacement of brutal, autocratic despots with brutal, theocratic despots.  It is possible that Egypt, solely because of its armed forces, might temporarily resist the wave of Islamic fundamentalism but even that will be of relatively short duration.”

“Time wounds all heels.  The passage of two years has proved me right and President Obama, his barely able cabal in the State Department, and the mainstream media wrong –dead wrong.  As I noted in October of 2011:

“The naivete of politicians when it comes to dealing with tyrants, madmen and genuine evil in the world continues to astound me.  I recently finished reading Wilson Miscamble’s The Most Controversial Decision – the detailed and well documented decision by President Harry Truman to drop the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The most startling thing about the book was not the difficulty that Truman had with his decision to drop the bombs – he made that decision before the bombs were fully developed or tested and never wavered – rather it was the extraordinary naivete of his belief that he could deal personally with Joseph Stalin and that Stalin was the “moderating” force in the Soviet Union. 

“Mr. Truman’s mistaken belief was a holdover from his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the “diplomats” running the State Department.  It was only after repeated aggressions by Mr. Stalin and the emergence and conversion of Secretary of State Dean Acheson that Truman adopted a more aggressive policy of containment reinforced by military action.

“President John Kennedy succeeded President Dwight Eisenhower and re-established the politics of naivete.  Mr. Kennedy was so regularly irresolute over the continuous advance and aggression of the Soviet Union that he was finally forced into a showdown with Soviet Union over the Cuban Missile Crises – a confrontation that should never have happened except for pusillanimous pussyfooting of the “diplomats” at his State Department.  One only has to remember the disaster at the Bay of Pigs to understand how cowardice in the face of aggression breeds further aggressive actions.

“President Jimmy Carter smiled his way into the presidency after the disaster of President Richard Nixon.  Mr. Carter presided over the rise of the Iranian theocracy – Ayatollah Khomeini – highlighted by the invasion and capture of the United States Embassy and the holding of 52 Americans hostage for nearly 450 days.  His “turn the other check” form of diplomacy was engineered by Cyrus Vance – a patrician Wall Street lawyer – so adverse to confrontation that he resigned when Mr. Carter authorized Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrously failed attempt to recover the hostages.”

“It’s not that I am prescient; rather it is that the same conduct by Mr. Obama and his liberal predecessors guarantees the same result.  For all of his supposed intelligence, Mr. Obama continues to refuse to undertake the single act that marks the truly intelligent and the truly successful – critical self-analysis and acknowledgement of when something goes wrong.  Worse yet it is becoming more apparent that Mr. Obama is incapable of even recognizing the mistakes.  In a previous column criticizing the politics of appeasement I noted:

“And yet, here are the Druids of Foggy Bottom – pulling on their Meerschaums, and twirling their Courvoisier – in perfect nasal unison, urging another round of pointless negotiations with international criminals.  How many years, how many generations, how many failures must the diplomatic corps accept before they come to the conclusion that diplomacy only works among civilized nations both seeking a solution to a common problem?  It has never worked in dealing with tyrants, despots or religious fanatics.  Every guy confronting a bully knows that.  Someone once opined that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

“But Mr. Obama was re-elected.  I am certain that a large proportion of America – as am I – are tired of years of war with Muslim nations controlled by Islamic extremists.  The fact that Mr. Obama is hailing an end to these wars and a withdrawal of combat troops gladdens the hearts of most Americans – particularly those with friends and family in harm’s way. 

“But Mr. Obama’s retreat is simply a part of an overall demonstration of weakness and irresoluteness.  It is just a part of his apology tour, his failure to deal with the continuing advances of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, the failures in Libya that resulted in the assassination of our ambassador, and so on and so on seemingly indefinitely.  Which brings us to the next major international crises.

“Iran will have an assembled nuclear weapon before the middle of summer.  And what will we do?  Nothing – well we’ll express our “condemnation,” no our “strong condemnation”, maybe our “strongest condemnation” – but beyond that nothing.  For awhile Mr. Obama will argue – as did Vice President Biden – that Iran does not possess a delivery vehicle for a nuclear weapon and therefore they are still not a nuclear threat.  Mr. Obama knows that, in fact, Iran does possess a delivery vehicle and that they will use it at their first opportunity. Mr. Obama’s fervent belief in “diplomacy” in face of naked aggression guarantees another timid response.

“History has consistently demonstrated that diplomacy is futile when dealing with tyrants and despots.  Those who espouse diplomatic responses to continuously dangerous provocations have so consistently backed down that those tyrants and despots have learned they will prevail through delay and persistence.  Diplomacy only works to resolve conflicts among nations of goodwill.  It is force and the threat of force that is necessary to hold tyrants and despots in check.”

Demonstrably – maybe – I was wrong about the timeline of Iran obtaining nuclear capability, but Mr. Obama dallies once again with negotiations that are simply designed to loosen the economic sanctions on Iran while allowing them to continue unabated in their quest for a nuclear weapon.

And now we have a new crisis in the Ukraine.  Mr. Obama once again threatens consequences but the only thing of substance that will happen is that Mr. Obama will call off his scheduled summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin – something that Mr. Obama has been trying to avoid since their last meeting when Mr. Putin played him for a naïve fool.  In the end, nothing will happen.  Russia will reclaim the Crimea area and use the armed resistance of the remainder of the Ukraine as a pretext for further military involvement.  All the while Mr. Obama will express his “condemnation”, no his “strong condemnation”, maybe even his “strongest condemnation” and more people will die and become subject to tyranny.  Mr. Obama has become an embarrassment to a nation that for over two centuries has stood as a friend to be trusted by all.

Frankly, there is nothing we can do.  Five years of irresoluteness,  incompetence, and empty threats have left us with no legitimate choices.  When history is written, Mr. Obama will join President Woodrow Wilson as one of America’s most feckless appeasers.

But my greatest fear is not that Mr. Obama will do nothing as usual, but that he will do something and given, his serial incompetence in international affairs, it will make an already tragic situation materially worse.  A call for Mr. Obama’s resignation would be understandable but he, unfortunately, has chosen one of the few people in public life that is less competent than he as his successor – Vice-president Joe Biden.  What a mess.