Smart Diplomacy: Noun. Anything but what George W. Bush did, except when it’s exactly what George W. Bush did, but we’ll pretend it isn’t. Example:
In early March, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, acting on Mr. Obama’s vaunted “smart diplomacy,” a diplomacy which was supposed to change the world and make every nation like and respect America after the suppose ineptitude of George W. Bush, presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a gift: A bright yellow and red button supposedly labeled “reset.” The point was that with smart diplomacy, America would start over the Obama way and make everything better.
Unfortunately, the button was mistranslated and did not say “reset,” but “overcharged” or “overloaded.”
So smart was Mr. Obama’s diplomacy, and such a brilliant diplomat was Hillary Clinton they failed to recognize that Russia has always been precisely as it was defined by Henry Kissinger: it can be trusted to act in its own best interests. Russians are nationalists first and foremost, and see America as a competitor–at best–when it does not see America as an enemy. Russian presidents spend precisely no time apologizing for Russia. Russian leaders cares only about maintaining advantage, and if they can’t do that, they want to hinder and embarrass America (actually, they always want to do that). Mr. Lavrov, rather than embracing the smart diplomacy so clumsily offered by Mrs. Clinton, publically pointed out her preventable error.
Two years later, Mr. Obama, during a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, whispered that when Vladimir Putin took office in the near future, he could count on Obama being more “flexible.” In another display of smart diplomacy, Mr. Obama didn’t realize he was speaking for a live mic as he assured the Russian president he would be looking out for Russia’s interests.
These are only two examples of the application of smart diplomacy in a world that neither considers Mr. Obama smart or worthy of respect. In fact, Mr. Obama, who has apparently never read Machiavelli‘s The Prince, is neither loved nor feared, particularly by those that wish America, and her allies, harm.
And there is Benghazi, which illustrates the human cost of Smart Diplomacy, albeit on a small scale. Who knows how many lives have been lost for want of American leadership? That millions may be lost is a given.
Some of the best commentary on the American political scene these days comes from American Internet sources, and British legacy media sources. Among those, Nile Gardiner of The Telegraph stands out. In an August 30th article titled “Barack Obama is proving an embarrassing amateur on the world stage compared to George W. Bush,” Gardiner writes:
George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the ‘coalition of the willing,’ which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled.
As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France ‘as our oldest ally,’ but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated.
Secretary of State Kerry has a long history of smart diplomacy, consisting almost entirely of aiding and supporting America’s enemies and denigrating America. In this photo, Mr. Kerry and his wife can be seen dining with Syrian
dictator Assad and his wife in 2009. As late as 2011, Mr. Kerry called Assad a “very generous” man. And let us not forget that in March of 2011, Hillary called Assad a “reformer.” Well sure, particularly if one counts murdering thousands of one’s own citizens with chemical weapons “reform,” as many of the world’s dictators always have.
The British Parliament’s refusal to authorize military intervention in Syria can hardly be read as anything other than an eloquent commentary on Mr. Obama’s credibility and leadership: he has neither with our closet ally, which is hardly surprising considering how he has treated England since taking office. Gardiner continues:
In marked contrast to Obama, President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain. The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. Bush also went out of his way to build ties with other allies in Europe, including with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and an array of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.
In addition, and most importantly, George W. Bush was a conviction president on foreign policy matters, driven by a clear sense of the national interest. President Bush emphatically made his case to the American people and to the world, explaining why he believed the use of force was necessary, and dozens of countries decided to follow him. In the case of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy has been weak-kneed, confused and strategically incoherent, the president hasn’t effectively made the case for military intervention in Syria, and has made no serious effort to cultivate support both at home and abroad.
Gardiner is absolutely correct. But why has Mr. Obama, the man who was supposed to change the world for the better, made things immeasurably worse? Gardiner closes:
President Bush may not have been greatly loved on the world stage, but he was respected by America’s allies, and feared by his enemies. In marked contrast, Obama hasn’t generated a lot of respect abroad, and he certainly isn’t feared.
Let’s review: On August 20 of 2012, Mr. Obama did what President Valerie Jarrett fears most: he went off teleprompter and ad-libbed:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
Since then, Mr. Obama’s handlers have tried to back away from the hastily drawn red line, and Syria has crossed that line multiple times. Mr. Obama did precisely nothing. That’s actually not quite true. He did what he did when drawing red lines for the Iranian nuclear program: he loosed fearsome rhetoric. Well, I’m sure he considered it fearsome. The peals of Iranian and Syrian laughter have not yet quite stopped echoing.
But now, with photos of murdered children flooding the world, Mr. Obama’s credibility is in tatters. He looks even more like a fool and weakling than ever. So he has announced, mostly through leaks followed by a press conference, that he’s going to attack Syria, but not really, and it won’t take long, or something, and there’s really no reason relating to America’s security interests for it and no particular goal, and he’s all but given the Syrians the GPS coordinates of potential targets, and oh yes, he had the power to act unilaterally, but he’s going to wait until Congress is back in session to get authorization for military action because no one is more respectful of the separation of powers and the law than Mr. Obama.
And of course, our new UN Ambassador couldn’t make an emergency Security Council session on the Syrian situation because she had an important prior engagement and was out of the country. What’s that you say? What was she doing? Attending a Charlie Chaplin film festival in Ireland. What’s more important than that? And hey, everybody knows there are practically no flights between Ireland and New York City. I don’t even think Ireland has airports. It’s not like the President of the United States drew a chemical weapon red line in the sand or anything. It is? Oh.
But why would the president do this? Because he’s a narcissist and a neophyte. Dictators and Islamist maniacs respect and fear only resolve and power. Mr. Obama thinks he has the power to make the seas recede and heal the planet through his marvelous, unique being, and his unparalleled rhetoric as delivered via teleprompter. Thus spake Obama; thus it must be made manifest! John Steele Gordon at Commentary has Mr. Obama’s number:
With Barack Obama, it’s always all about him.
Asked at his early August press conference why there has been so little progress in getting the perpetrators of the Benghazi massacre after eleven months, Obama replied, that these things can take time and added by way of example that ‘I didn’t get Bin Laden in eleven months.’ Obama, of course, was in the White House that day, playing cards. It was Navy Seals who put their lives on the line as they stormed the house in Abbottabad and ‘got’ Bin Laden. (Can you imagine the mockery the media would have rained down on George W. Bush had he ever used such a construction? Bush, of course, a modest man, would never have said any such thing.)
Now Obama is planning a response to the gas attack by the Syrian government against its own people. Again, it’s all about him. Had Obama last year not indulged his bad habit of speaking when he should be quiet and announced with little apparent thought that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line that must not be crossed, no one thinks we would now be about to attack Syria.
Even while a freshman senator, Mr. Obama, modestly commenting on his own much vaunted speaking ability, told Harry Reid: “Harry, I have a gift.” Gordon continues his article about the man who single-handly “got” Bin Laden:
But, having casually made the red line remark, he is stuck with it and his credibility (or what little is left of it in international affairs) is clearly on the line. If he let’s Bashar al-Assad get away with his chemical attack unscathed, no one will believe a word Obama says in the future.
Oh dear. Does anyone believe a word he says now? And will lobbing a few JDAMS and Tomahawk missiles at empty military targets–since Mr. Obama has kindly warned Mr. Assad about his intentions–give Mr. Obama any credibility with those who most wish America harm?
But his base fears and loathes American power, so, as Jonathan noted on Wednesday, the Obama administration has been leaking like a sieve to reassure supporters that any attack will be minimal. The fact that he is, inescapably, also reassuring the Assad regime (and even instructing it how to further minimize damage) is, evidently, neither here nor there. His relations with his base are what’s important.
Today, The Hill is reporting the latest leak, one that completely gives away the game, quoting a ‘U.S. official’ that ‘the White House is seeking a strike on Syria ‘just muscular enough not to get mocked.’ Whether the strike does any good (or does ill, for that matter) doesn’t matter. The risk that Obama might be mocked is all that counts.
History will not treat this man kindly.
I’m afraid “muscular” and “Obama” in any possible formulation, constitutes an oxymoron. Being mocked is the least of the consequences Mr. Obama can expect regardless of what he does. But what can one expect of a man who actually told author Richard Wolffe, who was writing a book about Mr. Obama:
You know, I actually believe my own bullshit.
I have no doubt of it. Mr. Obama also thinks himself incredibly accomplished, despite having no actual– you know–experience or accomplishments:
I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers…I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m…a better political director than my political director.
One could be tempted to think anyone might think so very highly of themselves without justification if they surrounded themselves with advisors like Valerie Jarrett, who said:
I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama thought himself unmatched in human history long before he ascended to the presidency, and there is no evidence his boundless self-regard has diminished a jot or tittle since. Throw in journalists who think Mr. Obama brilliant because of the creases in his pants and who think him a god, and Mr. Obama’s behavior is easily understood.
In seeking to make himself look manly, Mr. Obama ignores such basic questions as what would constitute winning a military engagement with Syria. The indispensable Mark Steyn notes:
The problem with the American way of war is that, technologically, it can’t lose, but, in every other sense, it can’t win. No one in his right mind wants to get into a tank battle or a naval bombardment with the guys responsible for over 40 percent of the planet’s military expenditures. Which is why these days there aren’t a lot of tank battles. The consummate interventionist Robert Kagan wrote in his recent book that the American military ‘remains unmatched.’ It’s unmatched in the sense that the only guy in town with a tennis racket isn’t going to be playing a lot of tennis matches. But the object of war, in Liddell Hart’s famous distillation, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks (or Russian helicopters) but his will. And on that front America loses, always. The ‘unmatched’ superpower cannot impose its will on Kabul kleptocrats, Pashtun goatherds, Egyptian generals, or Benghazi militia. There is no reason to believe Syria would be an exception to this rule. America’s inability to win ought to be a burning national question, but it’s not even being asked.
One of history’s oldest maxims goes something like this: when your enemies are killing each other, don’t stop them. No one fighting in Syria is America’s friend, and a great many would gleefully wipe America from the map if they could. And Mr. Obama wants to lob a few munitions in that general direction in the hope somebody will think he’s suddenly serious? I’m afraid Mr. Obama’s diplomacy has been too smart for tool long for that.
Gordon is right. History will not treat Mr. Obama’s “smart diplomacy” kindly. Unfortunately, by the time he’s out of office, there will be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, fewer people around to read that history, a history that he thinks is, must be, all about him. Here’s hoping some of those millions won’t be Israelis or Americans.