September 13, 2015

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Even the media’s bien pensants can make the connection between the dead on Turkey’s shore and President Feckless. Here’s Edward Luce of the Financial Times.

When historians weigh President Barack Obama’s record, the word Syria looks set to be a negative. It is four years since Mr Obama called for Bashar al-Assad’s ejection from power. The US president did almost nothing to follow through on it — and the little he tried arguably tightened Mr Assad’s grip.

More than 200,000 deaths and 4m refugees later, it is hard to distinguish America’s response from that of other western democracies. With the notable exceptions of Germany and Sweden, the west has denied succour to Syria’s fleeing masses.

Mr Obama should be wary. Syria is not some footnote to a respectable diplomatic legacy. It is an indictment. …

… Second, America’s brand in the Middle East is as tarnished under Mr Obama as it was under George W Bush. It may be unfair to compare them. Mr Bush’s were errors of commission — chiefly in his Iraq invasion. Mr Obama’s are errors of omission in how he has handled Mr Bush’s legacy. But their costs are real.

From imprisoned democrats in Egypt, to Libyans fleeing their country’s disintegration, the US is no beacon under Mr Obama. The feeling — once articulated by the president himself — that the US could disentangle itself is mocked every day by the hordes escaping Syria and elsewhere. The spillover does not stop at Europe. In today’s world no region is an island, let alone the Middle East. …



And a Foreign Policy Magazine op-ed destroys the latest administration excuses.

“Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see the pictures.”

Change “can’t” to “don’t” or “rarely,” and the plaintive words of the corrupt William Magear “Boss” Tweed in reaction to the scathing cartoons of Thomas Nast in 1870s New York City might just as easily be placed on the lips of President Barack Obama, as images of dead Syrian children washing up on Turkish beaches awaken a dormant American public to a humanitarian abomination and policy catastrophe. For an administration relying on public indifference to sustain a policy rich in rhetoric and devoid of action, the pictures are a damnable inconvenience. 

Faced by reporters suddenly jolted out of Syria fatigue, White House spokesman Josh Earnest recently followed his boss’s formula in defending the indefensible. Yes, Earnest admitted, there may have been alternatives to doing nothing as Iran and Russia helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad do his worst to 23 million Syrians. But, according to Earnest, they “would have subjected the United States to a whole host of more significant risks, including more significant outlays of funds to fund essentially a war in Syria. It certainly would have put tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of American troops in harm’s way on the ground in [Syria].”

Is it possible that anyone in this administration really believes that invasion would have been the inevitable consequence of accepting the 2012 recommendation of Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, and Martin Dempsey — then the defense secretary, secretary of state, CIA director, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively — that the United States take the lead in training and equipping Syrian nationalists capable of fighting both Bashar al-Assad and a growing al Qaeda presence in Syria? 

Does any administration official — including the president — think that if the United States had destroyed the Assad regime’s instruments of mass murder two years ago, after the Syrian regime had crossed Obama’s chemical red line for the 14th time, that U.S. ground forces would have been obliged to occupy Syria? …




Garry Kasparov, Russian Grandmaster, is in the WSJ with an essay on the “Rewards of the Obama Doctrine.” Since he is a chess player, Kasparov can entertain many thoughts at once. Our president can only handle two; spend more and borrow more. 

A quick glance at the latest headlines suggests a jarring disconnect from the stream of foreign-policy successes touted by the Obama White House and its allies. President Obama has been hailed by many as a peacemaker for eschewing the use of military force and for signing accords with several of America’s worst enemies. The idea that things will work out better if the U.S. declines to act in the world also obeys Mr. Obama’s keen political instincts. A perpetual campaigner in office, he realizes that it is much harder to criticize an act not taken.

But what is good for Mr. Obama’s media coverage is not necessarily good for America or the world. From the unceasing violence in eastern Ukraine to the thousands of Syrian refugees streaming into Europe, it is clear that inaction can also have terrible consequences. The nuclear agreement with Iran is also likely to have disastrous and far-reaching effects. But in every case of Mr. Obama’s timidity and procrastination, the response to criticism amounts to this: It could have been worse.

Looking at the wreckage of the Middle East, including the flourishing of Islamic State, it takes great imagination to see how things would be worse today if the U.S. had acted on Mr. Obama’s “red line” threat in 2013 and moved against Syria’s Bashar Assad after he defied the U.S. president and used chemical weapons. …

… Power abhors a vacuum, and as the U.S. retreats the space is being filled. After years of the White House leading from behind, Secretary of State John Kerry’s timid warning to the Kremlin this week to stay out of Syria will be as effective as Mr. Obama’s “red line.” Soon Iran—flush with billions of dollars liberated by the nuclear deal—will add even more heft to its support for Mr. Assad.

Dead refugee children are on the shores of Europe, bringing home the Syrian crisis that has been in full bloom for years. There could be no more tragic symbol that it is time to stop being paralyzed by the Obama-era mantra that things could be worse—and to start acting instead to make things better.




A blog called The Wilderness has a long Jeremiad on the subject. We’ll have the normal pull quotes and then an abridgement. Follow the link if you want to read it all.

Flash back to 2011, and far as presidencies are concerned, it feels like a millennium ago. Barack Obama was basking in the fullness of the Arab Spring, posing as the personal midwife to a New Birth of Freedom as he polished his Peace Prize in front of the world. Truly this was a man who could not lose: it seemed like all he had to do was demand some former ally steeped in domestic conflict bow to his diplomatic omnipotence and boom: Instant Democracy. The media tactfully aided Obama by moving on from covering these international hotspots almost immediately after President Santa had finished gifting them with new regimes, so we wouldn’t have to trouble ourselves with any messy details about their aftermaths (until Ambassador Stevens found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time a year later, that is). The afterglow was unfaded. Barack Obama was still the fresh-faced President Hope and Change. Oprah was still crying.  But as it all fell to pieces, Obama received a brutal education in the truth that community organizing on the South Side of Chicago is light years away from an attempt to community organize the Middle East.

Which brings us to Bashar al-Assad, of course.

When Barack Obama demanded Assad step down in 2011, he took immediate ownership of any consequences to follow. Assad — not being much more than a photo-op for Nancy Pelosi or a dinner date for John Kerry, and owing us utterly nothing (unlike Mubarak or Khaddafi) — told Obama to get bent around a tree, …

… A foreign policy based on hoping that no one will call your bluff is dangerous and disastrous. As it turns out, not only was Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians not a true “red line,” ISIS’s use of them now multiple times doesn’t seem to be either . ISIS’s use of chemical weapons has been barely reported or acknowledged for the same reasons that much of ISIS’s activity overall never makes it to our own media shores — because it’s ugly, it’s inconvenient, and thanks to Obama’s “flexibility” it’s now an unsolvable Problem from Hell.

That’s always been this President’s problem: his complete inability to deal with the world at hand, as it exists right in front of his face. When the world forces Barack Obama off his script, he simply retreats to a golf course, ESPN, or most recently the remote wilds of Alaska.

Nowhere was this more evident than when his habit of diplomatic detachment inconveniently washed up on the shores of the Greek island of Kos last week when a boat carrying Syrian refugees capsized. While President Jor-El embarked on a magical mystery end-of-summer climate cruise to call attention to Alaskan glacier-melt in summer, the world was suddenly captivated by the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi lying face down in front of rescue workers. …

… Once again world events inconsiderately  interrupted Obama’s semi-retirement and he was left holding a fish and taking selfies for an audience of himself and a business-as-usual press corps just happy to be along for the sights.

It’s fitting in a way: it is the photograph of a young boy washed up on a Turkish beach that encapsulates the consequences of what happens when a coddled President, content to do as little as possible before turning over a world spinning off its axis to his successor, is allowed to distract himself with selfies in Alaska.  Barack Obama’s successor will almost certainly bear most of the brunt and the blame of his inaction. In Hillary Clinton’s case it would be most deservedly so. …

… It wasn’t “the United States” that let Obama get away with declaring “I didn’t set that red line, the world did” only to have him to walk out the door like a dejected child needing an afternoon snack and media-induced nap. No, that was our media: rather than hold him accountable for his own declarations of removing Assad and setting a “red line,” they simply shrugged, muttered a word or two about how war Totally Sucks Anyway, and went back to writing think pieces on the cultural impact of the President’s NCAA tournament bracket.

Because of DC media’s nerd-prom infatuation at the thought of being a part, any part, of this socially cool West Wing Presidency, we have to turn to other sources in calling out this ridiculous clipboard hashtag foreign policy. …



Max Boot posts on the charge the white house has been cooking the books on ISIS intelligence.

Is the U.S. winning the war against ISIS? To listen to administration spokesmen, you would think so. Never mind that the terror group controls an area the size of the United Kingdom or that its hold on Mosul, Fallujah, and Ramadi remains unshaken. Never mind that ISIS continues to draw large  numbers of foreign recruits, that it continues to destroy antiquities, enslave women, and commit numerous other atrocities. “ISIS is losing,” John Allen, the retired marine general who coordinates the anti-ISIS campaign, proclaimed in July.

So strong is the spin coming from the White House that now some 50 intelligence analysts who work for U.S. Central Command are alleging that their superiors have twisted their findings to put lipstick on the pig that is Operation Inherent Resolve. As Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef report at The Daily Beast, the Pentagon’s inspector general has opened an investigation into complaints of “alleged manipulation of intelligence.” The complaint describes a “Stalinist” climate within CENTCOM in which bad news is no news.

Of course, a full investigation will be required to assess the validity of these charges, but I find the complaint eminently reasonable for two reasons. …



Investor’s Business Daily editors get a laugh from the Dem presidential campaigners’ digs on obama’s economy.

… Every single one of those scathing attacks came from Labor Day remarks by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden.

Their prognosis is dead-on. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, the recovery that started a few months after Obama took office has been the worst since the Great Depression, with GDP and employment growth far below the average post-World War II recoveries.

Median family incomes have declined, millions are working part-time jobs because there isn’t full-time work, 13 million have dropped out of the labor force entirely. Millions more are poor and on food stamps. And the latest IBD/TIPP poll shows 46% think we’re still in a recession and 52% say it’s not improving.

Naturally, neither Biden, Clinton nor Sanders mentioned Obama, much less blamed him for the current state of affairs. But lest they forget, it was Obama who presided over the largest Keynesian stimulus in history and signed the job-killing ObamaCare law.

And it was Obama who succeeded in getting multiple tax hikes on the “rich.” And it was his administration that has imposed massive regulations on banking, health care, energy suppliers, employers and just about every other corner of the private economy. …



Turning our attention to other elected left wing fools, Noah Rothman says liberals do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

… Amid a refugee crisis, the American left will give no credit to European conservatives like Angela Merkel and David Cameron, who have committed to taking in the displaced from North Africa and the Middle East. Those same liberals will point to a handful of Republican presidential candidates who have opted to burnish their anti-illegal immigrant credibility by opposing calls to absorb some of these refugees into the United States. Their self-indulgent back patting is undeserved. Truly mitigating this crisis means making hard choices about war and peace. Truly saving the future means stemming the flow of migrants into a continent that can scarcely employ or provide services for its own citizens. The left congratulates itself for evincing an abundance of empathy. It’s a poor substitute for embracing policies that end crises. In power, the left presides over triage, mitigates the harshest effects of their shortsighted policies, and is congratulated by fellow travelers in the press for their courage.

The left scarcely deserves the benefit of the doubt they receive from the public. Their hearts may be in the right place, but their hearts are distinctly poor governors. It is time for liberals to take stock of their disastrous records, and that can only happen when the public and the press stops excusing the left’s abject failures because they believe their intentions are noble.