Now and then I feel a twinge of guilt criticizing the Barack Obama administration’s foreign policy, or what passes for it. It feels like cheating. I mean, it can’t really be as bad as it seems, can it? At some point, you have to think a viable plan will emerge, lessons will be learned, some history books will be read or someone who knows what they’re doing will attain a position of trust. Alas, such is not the case.
Look, I’m no fan of President Obama, clearly. But once past the border, he’s supposed to represent the home team, and I want to cheer for the home team. I’d like to think there’s a grand strategy or a learning curve the president has finally crested. Something. Anything. And then his latest policy, speech or approach is revealed, and it’s just as puerile and ridiculous as his previous policy, speech or approach.
It’s not that his foreign policy, as a qualitative matter, is particularly worse than his domestic policies. But at least his ridiculously puerile economic policies don’t have the potential of killing as many people.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently tried his level best to talk tough — to Israel, not Iran. He, Obama and the rest of the team of jesters were all atwitter over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation by the Speaker of the House to address Congress. Their feelings are hurt because they weren’t consulted beforehand, and Netanyahu didn’t seek their permission. Kerry and others in the administration have indicated this snubbery strains relations between the United States and Israel, much like a 10-year old reports sullenly he’s no longer friends Johnny because Johnny shared his action figure with Billy.
OK, having a head of country A speak to the legislative branch of country B while bypassing the head of state of country B is diplomatically indelicate. But what choice did Bibi have?
The U.S., under the management of an administration that doesn’t seem competent to lead a 3-year-old across the street let alone navigate dangerous nuclear treaties with rogue states, is poised to rubber stamp a deal with Iran that at best pretends to delay the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons for a few years. One can understand how this might be a deep concern for Mr. Netanyahu.
Kerry has been fond of saying Netanyahu’s visit threatens the signing of a deal that prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons (his words). The only problem is, there’s no such deal. The agreement in the works essentially acquiesces to most, if not all, of Tehran’s demands, dropping most sanctions, allowing Iran the right to operate centrifuges and enrich uranium and sunsetting whatever few restrictions remain on its nuclear program.
It makes you wonder if the Iranians are holding gambling debt or compromising photos of key administration members.
Obama might think he’s playing chess while the GOP and Israel are playing checkers. (I’m open to other suggestions.) The problem is, Obama is not a chess player. Worse yet, he hasn’t surrounded himself with any.
The president doesn’t have a Schultz or Kissinger, or even an Acheson or Brzezinski to help him try to competently manage the grand chessboard — as Brzezinski once characterized the geopolitical field. No, Obama has John Kerry.
I don’t know if it’s pride, ideology, some combination of both or something else altogether that keeps Obama from seeking out competent foreign policy help, but he’d better come up with something. ISIS is a threat and won’t be neutralized by tiptoeing around hard truths and holding conferences slathered with politically correct buzzwords. Russian aggression in the Ukraine is a threat that won’t simply go away by turning the channel. Iran is a threat and won’t be managed adequately by giving away the house.
George Schultz once said, “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” Obama might or might not think he has the luxury of playing cute with the Iranians. But Netanyahu knows that he and his country certainly do not.
So who can really blame Netanyahu for taking whatever opportunity he can to shout from the rooftops (or Senate podium) his opposition to this plan which puts his nation at grave risk? That’s what a nation’s leader does.