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Thomas Sowell says weak and vacillating foreign policies lead to wars.
Many people are lamenting the bad consequences of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, and some are questioning his competence.
There is much to lament, and much to fear. Multiple setbacks to American interests have been brought on by Obama’s policies in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Crimea and — above all — in what seems almost certain to become a nuclear Iran in the very near future.
The president’s public warning to Syria of dire consequences if the Assad regime there crossed a “red line” he had drawn seemed to epitomize an amateurish bluff that was exposed as a bluff when Syria crossed that red line without suffering any consequences. Drawing red lines in disappearing ink makes an international mockery of not only this president’s credibility, but also the credibility of future American presidents’ commitments.
When some future President of the United States issues a solemn warning internationally, and means it, there may be less likelihood that the warning will be taken seriously. That invites the kind of miscalculation that has led to wars. …
Mr. Sowell has Part II in his look at foreign policies.
Japan recently turned over to the United States enough weapons-grade nuclear material to make dozens of nuclear bombs. This was one of President Barack Obama’s few foreign policy “successes,” as part of his nuclear disarmament initiative. But his foreign policy successes may be more dangerous than his “failures.” Back in 2005, Senator Barack Obama urged the Ukrainians to drastically reduce their conventional weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles and tons of ammunition. Ukraine had already rid itself of nuclear missiles, left over from the days when it had been part of the Soviet Union.
Would Vladimir Putin have sent Russian troops so boldly into Ukraine if the Ukrainians still had nuclear missiles? The nuclear disarming of Japan and Ukraine shows how easy it is to disarm peaceful nations — making them more vulnerable to those who are not peaceful.
Ukraine’s recent appeal to the United States for military supplies, with which to defend itself as more Russian troops mass on its borders, was denied by President Obama. He is sending food supplies instead. He might as well send them white flags, to facilitate surrender.
According to Bret Stephens, dissing the president is in vogue.
I’ve never liked the word diss—not as a verb, much less as a noun. But watching the Obama administration get the diss treatment the world over, week-in, week-out, I’m beginning to see its uses. …
… Diss: On Friday, Vladimir Putin called President Obama to discuss a resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. The Russian president “drew Barack Obama’s attention to continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents,” according to the Kremlin, which, as in Soviet days, no longer bothers distinguishing diplomatic communiqués from crass propaganda.
Mr. Kerry was immediately dispatched to Paris to meet with Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. Mr. Lavrov—who knows a one-for-me, one-for-you, one-for-me deal when he sees it—is hinting that Russia will graciously not invade Ukraine provided Washington and Moscow shove “constitutional reforms” favorable to the Kremlin down Kiev’s throat. And regarding the invasion that brought the crisis about: “Mr. Kerry on Sunday didn’t mention Crimea during his remarks,” reports The Wall Street Journal, “giving the impression that the U.S. has largely given up reversing the region’s absorption into Russia.” …
… Diss: “Rather than challenging the Syrian and Iranian governments, some of our Western partners have refused to take much-needed action against them,” warned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.K. late last year. “The foreign policy choices being made in some Western capitals risk the stability of the region and, potentially, the security of the whole Arab world. This means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no choice but to become more assertive in international affairs.”
This would have been a diss were it whispered in the corridor of a foreign chancellery. The ambassador published it as an op-ed in the New York Times. All this in just the past four months. And all so reminiscent of the contempt the world showed for Jimmy Carter in the waning days of his failed presidency. The trouble for us is that the current presidency has more than 1,000 days to go.
I was wrong about diss. It’s a fine word. It means diss-respect. And connotes diss-may. And diss-honor. And diss-aster. (Kinda like ”clueless, hapless, feckless, and hopeless.”)
Roger Simon calls it the “silence of the liberals.”
Am I the only one or have you noticed your liberal friends and family have been strangely silent lately?
I tweeted as much Friday and, given the number of retweets in a matter of minutes, I gather I am not alone.
So why are these normally voluble people suddenly doing a disappearing act? (I’m not talking about the politicians and pundits. They’re being paid to move their mouths.) It’s pretty obvious.
They are bewildered and embarrassed. Some are even ashamed of themselves, not that they will readily admit it. The man who was their hero has now been unmasked in every direction as the worst president since the Civil War and possibly earlier. Not only is he a cheesy liar, everything he has done, domestic and foreign, has failed, sometimes to extraordinary degrees. The domestic part is bad enough, but at least that might be reparable. The foreign is another matter. The world is spinning out of control. Who knows where that will end?
Hence, the silence. …
Worse still, Craig Pirrong wonders why the new Ukrainian constitution was drafted by Kerry and Lavrov in Paris. Craig wants to know if Munich was unavailable.
Following up on Putin’s phone call to Obama, Kerry is making a detour to Paris to negotiate with Lavrov over the fate of Ukraine.
Lavrov has laid out Russia’s terms, and intimates that Obama and Kerry have accepted the principles underlying these terms.
First, Russia demands that Ukraine adopt a new constitution that establishes a federal structure that gives each region considerable autonomy. Translate this to mean that these regions would be able to pull a Crimea. Or, more accurately, that Russia would be able to pull a Crimea, slicing off pieces of Ukraine and splicing them onto Russia.
Crucially, Lavrov said: “I can say that ‘federation’ is no longer a taboo word in our negotiations.” Meaning that if he is telling the truth (always a big if) Obama has conceded that Ukraine’s constitutional order is up for negotiation, on Moscow’s terms.
Second, Russia demands that Ukraine’s new constitution incorporate guarantees that Ukraine will not join Nato or any other alliance. …
Leaving foreign policy and heading for the president’s domestic mess, Andy Malcolm thinks Sebelius is gonna get thrown under the bus.
… Then, Obama thanked two — and only two — people by name — ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said we’d have to pass the bill to learn what was in it. And he thanked Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. Strangely, Obama did not thank the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, who runs that place for the moment.
Even more striking, however, Obama did not even mention Sebelius, the face of this long, painful implementation struggle. Not one word, though she was sitting right in front of him. …
… Sure, she made some gaffes, as all public officials do. With TV cameras rolling at a Florida photo op, Sebelius cheerily asked one ObamaCare navigator what she was doing. The worker’s reply: She couldn’t anything because the healthcare.gov website had crashed again.
Asked if she was going to resign in those anguishing days early last October, Sebelius told reporters the people she worked for were quite satisfied with her job performance. Later, she apologetically explained that she knew she really works for the American people.
If Washington was the Kremlin, Pyongyang or Chicago, such a glaring public omission of praise for a senior aide by the supreme leader would be a sure sign she was on the way out the door of the office or airplane. We’ll soon see.
Meanwhile, Obama unintentionally added a moment of humor to his self-celebration of how easily ObamaCare allegedly reached 7.1 million enrollment: “We didn’t make a hard sell.”
Nate Silver yesterday, and now Al Jazeera! What’s happened to Pickerhead? Shikha Dalmia moved her byline as she exposes the fraud in the healthcare numbers.
… First off, the exchanges: The 7 million enrollment figure that the administration is bandying about is misleading. The actual number of uninsured covered by the marketplace will be much smaller. For starters, if the current trend continues, 20 percent of the 7 million will drop out without paying. Out of the remaining 5.6 million, only about half were likely previously uninsured. Why? Because reliable early surveys found that a whopping 65 to 90 percent of those flocking to the exchange already had insurance. Even assuming that uninsured people were waiting until the end to sign up, it is hard to see how that figure would exceed 50 percent, given that 6 out of 10 uninsured people surveyed by the Kaiser Family Foundation recently didn’t know about the March 31 deadline and after being told about it, half of them still planned to remain uninsured.
Second, Medicaid. The administration claims that the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid has allowed 4 million to 4.5 million uninsured people to gain coverage. But a substantial portion of that stems from regular Medicaid growth (unrelated to “Obamacare”). In January, Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende estimated the number to be closer to 400,000, although he expected that number to improve. And last month, Avalere, a health advisory company, put the new enrollees due to Obamacare at 2.4 million to 3.5 million. (Some states are reporting higher rates of uninsured Medicaid enrollment, but it is unclear how representative or reliable they are or how many of these uninsured might have been covered even under the old eligibility criteria.)
Things are not likely to get better next year. The new ‘Obamacare’ sign-ups are so skewed toward the old and the sick that some experts expect premiums to double. …
Econ prof from Cornell, Robert Frank, has interesting thoughts about the sale of Detroit’s art.
… Fortunately, costs are easier to estimate, and those for displaying a painting derive largely from its market value. Consider “The Wedding Dance,” a 16th-century work by the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Detroit museum visitors have enjoyed this painting since 1930. How much would it cost to preserve that privilege for future generations?
A tidy sum, as it turns out. According to Christie’s, this canvas alone could fetch up to $200 million. Once interest rates return to normal levels — say, 6 percent — the forgone interest on that amount would be approximately $12 million a year.
If we assume that the museum would be open 2,000 hours a year, and ignore the cost of gallery space and other indirect expenses, the cost of keeping the painting on display would be more than $6,000 an hour. Assuming that an average of five people would view it per hour, all year long, it would still cost more than $1,200 an hour to provide the experience for each visitor.
Notwithstanding the crudeness of these approximations, we can say that even a very wealthy taxpayer would be reluctant to pay anything close to $1,200 an hour for the privilege of viewing this painting. And that suggests that most taxpayers think the same money could deliver much greater value if spent in other ways. Of course, the painting might still justify its cost if other indirect benefits were large enough.
Yet the point remains that prices affect the options we face. …