The president handed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a gift by telling him to “bone up” on foreign policy before criticizing the Iran deal. This is an administration in which a State Department spokeswoman tries to deflect a takedown of the Iran framework by two former secretaries of state by saying that they did not offer alternatives and that she saw “a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts.” (David Brooks remarked, “That’s about the lamest rebuttal of a piece by two senior and very well-respected foreign policy people as I’ve heard. Somebody’s got to come up with better talking points, whatever you think. And of course, there are alternatives. It’s not to allow them to get richer, but to force them to get a little poorer so they can fund fewer terrorism armies . . . I think the case against this treaty is so powerful, I love the way [George] Shultz and [Henry] Kissinger put it just in a very remorseless, factual, serious, non-political way, really. And I thought, I always think that’s the most devastating way to make an argument.”). As cringe-worthy as the State Department’s remarks were, they perfectly encapsulate the contempt for debate and the attitude of “see no problems and hear no problems” that characterizes its non-deal with Iran.
Even when trying to seem sophisticated, the administration sounds foolish. Secretary of State John Kerry in a PBS interview acknowledged that Iran was behind the Houthi onslaught in Yemen but insisted, “Well, we’re very concerned about what’s going on there. And it’s just not a fact. They have been — there are obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran. There are a number of flights every single week that have been flying in, and we trace those flights and we know this. We’re well aware of the support that Iran has been giving to Yemen, and Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.” But we are standing by, which he in effect conceded, “So we’re very concerned about it. . . . And we’re not looking for confrontation, obviously, but we’re not going to step away from our alliances and our friendships and the need to stand with those who feel threatened as a consequence of the choices that Iran might be making.” The lessen for aggressors: Attack other countries because the United States will shrink from “confrontation.” The “big word” for that is “appeasement.”
So that’s what the administration has been up to. Meanwhile, Walker is growing more confident on foreign policy issues. In a Fox interview last night, he responded to the president’s attack: “The thing about that statement is this is a guy in the last year who called ISIS [the Islamic State] the jayvee squad, who just last fall his administration continues to call Yemen a success story, who had a Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton gave Russia a reset button and then they ultimately went into the Ukraine. This is a guy who has the audacity to be talking about schooling anyone when it comes to foreign policy. ”
He also made certain to include Hillary Clinton in his indictment.
Well, between this president and the person who advised him in his first four years, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I think the only place where either one of them can claim success is maybe Burma, but that’s about it. You look at the mess with the Houthis coming into Yemen. The Saudis, the United Arab Emirates, certainly to the other allies throughout the region like Jordan and Egypt, they have real concerns. They are frustrated that this administration even began talks with the premise of enriching uranium, something that very much concerned them and then at the same time they’re backing the very Shiite militias that are going into places like Yemen right now, a real threat not only to Saudi Arabia but to all peace loving people in the Middle East and around the world.”
Actually, he was being generous, since Burma has gone south recently. As for the Iran deal, Walker argues:
Think about it, this is a combination of our allies in the Arab world, not just Israel, in the Arab world concerned about the United States being at the negotiating table with Iran considering all the client state initiatives not only in Yemen but you look at what they’re doing to prop up Assad in Syria, you look at the other problems created around the world. But on top of that think about why were the Iranians at the table in the first place? After nearly two decades of sanctions they’re actually working. They’re not coming to the table out of the good nature of their hearts trying to push for world peace. They’re coming to the table because they were being brought to their knees because of the sanctions from the United States and our from allies particularly in Europe. And right at the time when they’re working think about this kind of negotiation. We should have been saying here’s the deal: you take it or if not we’re going to go back to our allies and push for even stronger sanctions because we know they’re working and the deal is you got to get out of terrorism and prove you don’t have any nuclear weapons and that’s the only deal we’re negotiating.
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak (one of Democrats’ favorites and a Labor Party member) agrees with Walker on a take-it-or-leave-it approach.
So given the choice between Walker (who was kind enough not to use too many big words) and the Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy, there really is no contest. Unfortunately, the president refuses to learn from experience and adjust to reality. Hence, we find ourselves with a list of concessions to Iran, Iran on the move in multiple places, the Islamic State taking root in two countries and junior partner Bashar al-Assad still in power and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his people. There is a big word for that: incompetent.