Speaker of the House John Boehner blasted the president today on two foreign policy fronts, or rather two aspects of a problem that afflicts every aspect of President Obama’s foreign policy.
On the Taliban trade Boehner said: “I said on Tuesday that the transfer of five hardened terrorists has made Americans less safe. And I mean that, and I’ll stand by it. When asked last week whether the freed terrorists could return to plotting attacks on Americans, President Obama said ‘absolutely.’ Well, I don’t think that’s about half of it. This exchange has encouraged our enemies and increased the risk to our military and civilian personnel serving around the globe. Those who would argue the opposite, I think, are incredibly naive.” He said bluntly, “America is willing to make deals with terrorists – that’s the new ‘Obama Doctrine.’ ”
On the near-disintegration of Iraq under the onslaught of jihadists, Boehner said:
Back in January, I urged the president to get engaged with what’s going on in Iraq. And this week we’ve seen big cities in Iraq overrun with terrorists.
“The Obama administration’s failure to reach a status of forces agreement continues to have serious consequences for Iraq and American interests in the region. And the administration’s failed policies in Syria, Libya, and Egypt – and its failure to implement a broader strategy for the Middle East – is having a direct impact on the situation in Iraq.
“The United States has, and will continue to have, vital national interests in Iraq, but the progress made there is clearly in jeopardy. The president celebrated our exit from Iraq as a hallmark of his foreign policy agenda, but our focus should be instead on completing our mission successfully. And I would urge the president, once again, to get engaged before it’s too late. . . .
“It’s not like we haven’t seen this problem coming for over a year and it’s not like we haven’t seen, over the last five or six months, these terrorists moving in, taking control of western Iraq. Now they’ve taken control of Mosul, they’re 100 miles from Baghdad, and what’s the president doing? Taking a nap.”
I’d beg to differ on the “nap” part. This is deliberate, the essence of Obama’s foreign policy: He is “ending” wars, he says, by conceding the battlefield in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and even Eastern Europe. The president might not have intended things to go as badly as they have, but any concern for the spread of jihadism throughout Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan was not sufficient to divert him from his intended path — removing the United States from critical fronts in the war against Islamic terrorism. It is likely the same impulse that will drive him to give Iran a sweetheart deal so as to justify not acting to remove its nuclear weapons program by force.
As for Iraq, the result is a devastating defeat that was preventable at several stages — a negotiated status of forces deal and later provision of requested aid and assistance. At each stage the president chose retrenchment and inaction. Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute e-mailed, “It’s worse than horrifying. Iraq, where we sacrificed so much, is being forced into the hands of al Qaeda and worse by a blindly ideological administration more interested in what it thinks is its legacy than in arming the people of Iraq to defend themselves.”
Obama remains unwilling to take steps that might improve the situation. (The New York Times reports: “James M. Dubik, a retired Army lieutenant general who oversaw the training of the Iraqi army during the surge, summed it up this way: ‘We should fly some of our manned and unmanned aircraft and put advisers into Iraq that can help the Iraqi Army plan and execute a proper defense, then help them transition to a counter offensive.’ That sure isn’t happening.) And having let things deteriorate this badly it is hard to figure out what options we have left. Former Afghanistan adviser Max Boot suggests: “Obama should tell [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and he should get on the telephone to deliver the message personally) that greater U.S. military aid will only be forthcoming if Maliki makes dramatic moves to mollify the Sunnis, depoliticize the Iraqi security forces, and limit his own almost-unlimited authority. Better still, the U.S. would be even more willing to support Iraq if Maliki were to step down as prime minister–admittedly a condition that would be hard to get Maliki to agree to but one that the U.S. could press with other political factions which are already suspicious of the prime minister.”)
In Syria the president was not serious about his red line and was willing to allow Bashar al-Assad to remain in power, the use of WMDs to go unpunished and Russian influence to rise in the region rather than enforce a core national interest, the prevention of the use of WMDs. This was a calculated decision — indeed he risked embarrassing himself and baffling our enemies by going on national TV to explain why it was very important for the U.S. to act and then why he’d not acted as he promised he would do.
Libya is following the same pattern. Benghazi was not just a shameful failure to protect our people from terrorists but evidence of one more foreign policy debacle — the infiltration of jihadists into a failing state. Once again, jihadists had the upper hand.
We can see the handwriting on the wall in Afghanistan as well. Return Taliban terrorists so Obama can claim personal vindication in closing Afghanistan. Signal we will leave no matter what the conditions and then watch as any hard-earned gains evaporate.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has watch this, pounced on opportunities (e.g. Syria), and grabbed territory himself, convinced (correctly) he could snatch Crimea with little downside.
We’ve long since passed the point where Obama can claim al-Qaeda is on the run. He’s run out of excuses for doing nothing. We are down to an unpleasant reality: There is practically no situation in which Obama would use force or assist in others’ defense. He may well think this is somehow all in America’s interest, but one would be hard-pressed to explain how entirely foreseeable results, namely the infiltration of jihadists throughout the Middle East and the repeated loss of previous military accomplishments, can be seen as anything but a diminution of U.S. power and security. It’s quite a legacy — even without the failure to prevent Iran from attaining its nuclear weapons capability. And it is a lesson in faux isolationism — ignoring problems makes them worse and eliminates options, leaving only bad and worse ones.
The notion that the United States can exit the world stage and that things will work out fine or even improve was folly from the get-go. (The Post editorial board observes, “President Obama has been claiming credit for ‘ending wars,’ when, in fact, he was pulling the United States out of wars that were far from over. Now the pretense is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain . . . . The administration needs to accept the reality of the mounting danger in the Middle East and craft a strategy that goes beyond the slogan of ‘ending war responsibly.’ “)
The only surprise is how widespread and serious the damage is.