Obama's Willful Foreign-Policy Blindness

There is a vast chasm between "saying" and "doing" in the Obama administration.

Republicans are upset about President Obama’s May 23 foreign-policy address, yet politics aside, it’s hard to say why. “We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News Sunday.

But four days later in his Memorial Day remarks, Obama said, “Our nation is still at war.”

Why did the earlier speech set off Republicans? He acknowledged that terrorism can never be completely eliminated and that a risk-free society is impossible. He conceded that U.S. military action breeds enemies. He admitted that not every foreign violent organization is a threat to Americans. He even quoted James Madison: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Indeed, Obama said some things that need saying, but will he do what needs doing? More precisely, will he stop doing what shouldn’t be done?

The speech provides no reason for optimism. For one thing, his premise is wrong: The U.S. government was on a perpetual war footing before the attacks of 9/11, intervening one way or another in many places. The “war on terror” has just been more visible.

Obama says he wants to understand the roots of terrorism, but he just repeats bromides.  “These threats don’t arise in a vacuum,” he said. “Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology — a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West.”

But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum. Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world.  These efforts have consisted in direct overt and covert intervention, backing for brutal and corrupt dictators and monarchs, and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so.

Despite Obama’s acknowledgement of the dangers, to Americans and others, of perpetual U.S. warfare, one strains to find signs of change in the speech. He says “our response to terrorism can’t depend on military or law enforcement alone,” but he still envisions a large role for the military: He says the first order of business is to finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.” And, “Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces.” But “its associated forces” is a conveniently vague justification for continued U.S. militarism. It goes beyond Congress’s 2001 authorization for military force.

While Obama promises only to narrow the use of drones and shift responsibility from the CIA to the Pentagon, we can’t be sure even this will happen – or matter. His “presidential policy guidance” is classified, and he reserves the authority to target alleged militants who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” when he decides that other alternatives are unavailable or are too risky. Yet his administration has drained the word “imminent” of meaning

“Before any strike is taken,” he added, “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.” But he conceded that his administration has killed an undisclosed number of noncombatants. Independent sources say several hundred have been killed — while entire villages live in terror of the next strike. This will not change.

Remember that administration targets are only accused of planning attacks. There is no due process, and an oversight board would not change that.

Obama defended his killing of American Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen on the grounds that al-Awlaki had helped plan attacks, but Obama offered no proof, and investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill says the first efforts to kill Awlaki preceded the terrorist plots he is allegedly linked to. And what about the separate drone killings of al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son and other Americans?

Obama also renewed his long-dormant call for closing Guantanamo — but not before the mass hunger strike and force-feedings that the whole world is watching.

This all looks more like legacy preparation than real change in policy. Witness Syria and Iran.

So why are Republicans fussing? Obama said, “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root.”

For Republicans, that’s un-American.

This column originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  • ||

    “We show this lack of resolve, talking about the war being over,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “What do you think the Iranians are thinking? At the end of the day, this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine.”

    They are thinking, "The great Satan has lost its will, we are now free to unleash God's fire, nuclear boom boom, on Israel. Allah, be praised."

  • dikyfuqazoniA2||

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  • ||

    Obama also renewed his long-dormant call for closing Guantanamo — but not before the mass hunger strike and force-feedings that the whole world is watching.

    And not before a bunch of scandals came down the pipeline at the same time.

  • Sevo||

    Hey! Look over there!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    It's amazing how easily McCain and others took the bait, too.

  • ||

    Is it really?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Why does Reason keep missing the most important change - ending the AUMF?

    President Obama drew sharp criticism from Republican senators Thursday for urging the repeal of the 2001 law that effectively authorized the war on terror.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., claimed the president was assuming Al Qaeda is "on the run," calling that mindset "really incredible."

    The president addressed the law, known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), toward the end of an hour-long speech largely devoted to explaining and defending his administration's lethal drone program. He even referenced the fact that America is at war in defending the legality of the drone strikes.

    But Obama made clear that his ultimate goal is to update, and then repeal, the use of force law, saying he wants to fight terrorism without keeping the country on a "perpetual war-time footing."

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politic.....z2V3sELPMb

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug| 6.2.13 @ 8:32AM |#
    "Why does Reason keep missing the most important change - ending the AUMF?"

    Right up there with his closing Gitmo, that is! Or ending the war on drugs!
    You idiot, he hasn't DONE anything; he just lies about doing something to keep suckers like you on the hook.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    This is called "deflecting blame." The AUMF gives already gives full discretion to the President. He could scale it back and get us off "war-time footing" right now. He needs absolutely nothing from Congress to make that happen.

  • ||

    "Stop me before I drone again!"

  • VG Zaytsev||

    No doubt that Obama would push a bill that expanded his war making authority and calling it 'an end to aumf'; similar to the 'press sheild' law he proposed.

  • Sevo||

    "No doubt that Obama would push a bill that expanded his war making authority..."

    And that is *exactly* what he proposed:
    "But Obama made clear that his ultimate goal is to update, and then repeal,"
    First, we'll "update" and then repeal, right after he closes Gitmo and ends the war on drugs. Assuming he gets elected to his fifth term.
    And that dipshit shreek claims this is some sort of wonderful accomplishment!

  • MJGreen||

    That's the same excuse for the DOJ spying on the media, isn't it?

    "Stop us before we spy on more journalists!"

  • ||

    But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum. Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world.

    *Lights the Johnlight*

    But seriously, Sheldon, what's up with the scare quotes on extremist ideology?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    He's right that it's largely a response to American hegemony, in the sense that the Islamists want us out so they can take over the place themselves and turn it into an even bigger Islamic hell-hole. It's not clear if Richman understands that part. It must have been very frustrating for Osama bin-Laden to see that our response to a bunch of Saudis blowing up our buildings was to strengthen our ties to Saudi Arabia. The plan was to get us out of there, not to embed even more deeply. That doesn't necessarily make it a good idea on our part, but let's not try to mislead about the other side's motives.

    Oh, and blaming it on "enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians" is laughable. Nobody in the middle east actually gives a shit about the plight of actual Palestinians, they're only interested in how they might be useful to them. Well, Jordan cares a bit, because they don't want that poison seeping into their own country. Other than that, no.

  • Killazontherun||

    Just about a word for word quote from a Palestinian gal pal of mine many moons ago.

  • Killazontherun||

    Oh, this part -

    Nobody in the middle east actually gives a shit about the plight of actual Palestinians, they're only interested in how they might be useful to them.

  • Inigo M.||

    What puzzles me is that the Palestinians remain as refugees in their host countries for going on three generations now. Especially given that they are the same ethnicity and speak the same language as their "hosts" in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, etc., it would make sense that the younger generation would simply say, "Screw it. Yeah, it sucks that the creation of Israel pushed my grandparents out of their ancestral homes, but I'm more interested in getting a job, making some money and starting my life than I am in fighting my grandfather's battles."
    I can look back at grandparents who lost their land and possessions when they had to flee from communism in the wake of WWII, but you don't see me living in a tent city and throwing rocks at former Soviets. That all happened decades before I was even born. It's ancient history.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Nobody in the middle east actually gives a shit about the plight of actual Palestinians, they're only interested in how they might be useful to them.

    It seemed like Christopher Hitchens was one of the only left-leaning pundits who noticed this. While he was all for the Palestinian people (I guess the calculus for that these days is anybody between Turkey and China who is not living in Israel), he saw Arafat, the PLO and other front-men as the worst thing for Palestinians.

  • Inigo M.||

    If Hitchens believes any non-Israeli in the Middle East is automatically Palestinian, than he is completely clueless. That's like saying any non-European who was alive before Columbus' voyage would have been a Native American (even if he lived in China, India, or elsewhere.)

  • ||

    Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world.

    On the other hand, this position under estimates the fact the militant Islam has been around well before the Americans (or Israel) came into the picture. It dates back centuries.

    The American hegemony card is correct in the short-term; that is a 20th century context. But if we really want to 'understand' this scourge is goes back further.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum.

    Yep, Wahhabism is entirely America's fault, despite being created when George Washington was a little boy, and being funded by geologic happenstance.

  • Nazdrakke||

    and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians

    Seriously? I mean, it's hard to really be a good guy in this argument, but I'd much rather be a Muslim in Israel than a Jew in Saudi Arabia.

  • Redmanfms||

    From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so.

    They've also listed things that involve an Islamic global hegemony beginning with the "return" of Al Andalus, so yeah....

    We have also witnessed the continued Islamic aggression throughout Asia and Africa, which can hardly be blamed on "Western" or "American" military adventurism, so there's that too....

    But seriously Richman, don't feel obligated to include all the facts in your analysis, it's not like you'd want to be mistaken for a journalist.

  • GetABrainMorans||

    THIS

    I agree that military interventionism isn't helping our cause in the Islamic world, but we can't ignore this.

    If we assume even a very low percentage of Muslims, let's say 1% (and it's probably higher than that) believe in the scriptural promise that Islam will rule the Earth and that it's their job to go on Jihadin' till that happens, that's still over 10 million people who espouse that ideology.

    One can't ignore that these people believe in a suicidal death cult that they believe will bring about the rule of Islam or the End Times, if their eschatology suggests.

    They certainly are not tolerant of other religions, or secularity in politics. To blame this all on the United States is shortsighted and dishonest in the name of political correctness.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I recall in my 1990s college days, this part One can't ignore that these people believe in a suicidal death cult that they believe will bring about the rule of Islam or the End Times, if their eschatology suggests (substitute Islam with Christianity) was attributed to Ronald Reagan. I kid you not!

    The most blatant was in some stupid Humanities elective, where the instructor was relieved that Reagan was not "able" to complete his "plan." I desperately wanted to ask about the evidence of the plan, and I was still very anti-Reagan then, but I skipped the occasion to lower my grade.

  • Inigo M.||

    Keep in mind that "jihad" meaning a religious war was intended to be internal. In other words, the struggle is supposed to be within oneself -- not an external battle of any kind.

    Also, even assuming the 1% figure is accurate, that doesn't mean 10 million people are going to form some kind of army of terror. Many of those 10 million will be crotchety old geezers of both sexes who bitterly complain about how things "should be," and who do nothing but bore to death and alienate the people around them.

  • Redmanfms||

    Keep in mind that "jihad" meaning a religious war was intended to be internal. In other words, the struggle is supposed to be within oneself -- not an external battle of any kind.

    You will quickly disabuse yourself of this oft repeated, but hilariously asinine notion if you ever actually bother to read the Koran and hadiths.

  • ||

    You can take out the Americans but it won't end the suicide killings I argue.

  • cavalier973||

    Despite Obama’s acknowledgement of the dangers, to Americans and others, of perpetual U.S. warfare, one strains to find signs of change in the speech.

    Obama: "That's a feature, not a bug."

  • wareagle||

    "Obama shows no understanding that..."

    doesn't this pretty much capture all you need to know about the campaigner in chief?

  • WomSom||

    These guys totally seem to know what time it is for sure.

    www.WorldPrivacy.tk

  • Dweebston||

    Beer o'clock, anonbot?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    TL:DR - It's all america's fault!1!11!!

  • Mike M.||

    The core problem with the United States, for Qutb, was not something Americans did, but simply what America was — “the New World...is spellbinding.” It was more than a land of pleasures without limit. In America, unlike in Egypt, dreams could come true. Qutb understood the danger this posed: America’s dazzle had the power to blind people to the real zenith of civilization, which for Qutb began with Muhammad in the seventh century and reached its apex in the Middle Ages, carried triumphantly by Muslim armies.

  • Mike M.||

    Qutb rejected the idea that “new” was also “improved.” The Enlightenment, the Industrial Age — modernity itself — were not progress. “The true value of every civilization...lies not in the tools man has invented or in how much power he wields,” Qutb wrote. “The value of civilizations lay in what universal truths and worldviews they have attained.” The modern obsession with science and invention was a moral regression to the primitive condition of the first toolmakers. Qutb’s America was bursting with raw energy and appetite, but utterly without higher virtues. In his eyes, its “interminable, incalculable expanses of virgin land” were settled by “groups of adventurers and groups of criminals” who lacked the time and reflection required for a civilized life. Qutb’s Americans “faced the uncharted forests, the tortuous mountain mazes, the fields of ice, the thundering hurricanes, and the beasts, serpents and vermin of the forest” in a struggle that left them numb to “faith in religion, faith in art and faith in spiritual values altogether.”

  • VG Zaytsev||

    OT Arianna Huffington was on This Week with Stepho - Every single time she spoke it was some verison of Bush did it too!

  • General Butt Naked||

    I'm really trying to wrap my head around why that defense of Dear Leader's terrible policies is so popular. Wasn't the whole reason that every non-racist was supposed to vote for Dear Leader is that he's fundamentally different from the Evil Bush?

    I guess they assume that everybody who disagrees with Dear Leader was a huge Evil Bush supporter so any criticism is a sign of hypocrisy. Do all of these people that are supposedly our intellectual betters really have a world view as simplistic and dumb as shrike's?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I don't get it either. "Bush was an evil idiot tyrant - and we're only doing what he did" It's moronic. And worse, it's boring at this point.

    I wish that the 'right' person on those shows would just howl BOOOOOSSSSSHHHH, anytime a lefty asshat goes there.

  • Mike M.||

    It's not that it's popular; the scumbags simply have no other defense or deflection left that they can resort to.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: VG Zaytsev,

    OT Arianna Huffington was on This Week with Stepho - Every single time she spoke it was some verison of Bush did it too!


    I am almost hesitant to ask because I am almost sure the answer is obvious, but I still want to ask you: Did good ol' Stepho remind Arianna that the fact that "Bush did it, too" is not an excuse as it is irrelevant when talking about the "most transparent adminitration" ever? And that it actually makes the whole thing worse because the Obama regime should've known better?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Not a chance.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum. Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world. These efforts have consisted in direct overt and covert intervention, backing for brutal and corrupt dictators and monarchs, and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so.

    And, yet, the Muslim world could have responded to Western hegemonic oppression with a Ghandi-esque campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience. But you'll never hold them to such a standard and will always find reason to excuse their violent rampages, Richman. Why? Because you're a fucking bigot.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Heroic Mulatto,

    And, yet, the Muslim world could have responded to Western hegemonic oppression with a Ghandi-esque campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.


    Did the Americans follow your advice back in - oh, I don't know - 1775???

    Give me a break, H.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Did the Americans follow your advice back in - oh, I don't know - 1775???

    Actually, they did. You might want to, you know, read the justifications for armed revolt that the Founders listed in the Declaration of Independence.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Or is nonviolent civil disobedience not macho enough for you or something, OM?

  • ||

    Sheldon, Sheldon, Sheldon. Were you born last night?

    "But this implies the “extremist ideology” arose in a vacuum."

    Certainly it did not. It is an ideology spawned by a red-eyed, early iron age savage, a barbaric thief, murderer and pedophile. It has always been about conquering, looting and enslaving. Even at that, it is only the latest iteration from a part of the world that has never known peace. At no time in the history of Islam was it a religion of peace. As far back in time as you care to go there has been perpetual war and atrocity in the middle east.

    "Obama shows no understanding that Muslim violence has been a response to generations of Western and most recently American efforts to maintain hegemony in the Muslim world. These efforts have consisted in direct overt and covert intervention, backing for brutal and corrupt dictators and monarchs, and enabling of Israel’s repression of the Palestinians. From Osama bin Laden on down, the perpetrators of anti-American violence have consistently said so."

    Well, if they said so that must be it, cuz they sure as hell dont lie. There are only two strategies we can use with them. Stop attracting their attention and let them turn their savagery on others, or kick the fuck out of them and make them too afraid to screw with us. The latter is more likely to be successful.

    "...enabling Israel's repression of the Palestinians."

    Are you joking here? Surely you are.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Suthenboy,

    It is an ideology spawned by a red-eyed, early iron age savage, a barbaric thief, murderer and pedophile. It has always been about conquering, looting and enslaving.


    An even better reason to let them alone to rot in their own Dark Ages juices, S. The U.S. should NOT be involved in their business, period. By the same token, if they want to go into a conquering rampage under some romantic notion about the global Caliphate that their prophet wanted, the Christian countries can just blow all of them to kingdom come.

  • ||

    I said that very thing in a slightly different way.

  • Jerryskids||

    ...a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West.

    Well damn, I guess I'm an extremist now. I actually believe that Western Civilization has advanced the lot of Mankind immeasurably over the last 500 years or so and that Islam isn't much different than, say, the 15th century Catholic Church which fought that progress.

    Of course, the mainstream intellectual thought that makes me an extremist is the multi-culturalism in the West that holds that the Enlightenment, with the rational, secular, scientific, capitalistic individualism and the 'illusion of progress' it created was - if not an unalloyed Bad Idea - not any better than any other course of civilization.

    And since you have to be pretty highly educated to believe some crap like that, espousing crap like that demonstrates how highly educated you are.

  • carolacosta1||

    my buddy's aunt makes $76 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for seven months but last month her check was $14817 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here... http://www.Taz1.com

  • General Butt Naked||

    Fuck that, I've been out of work for 2 years and my friend's Uncle Barack sends me a check every week and dude gave me a cell phone.

    Read more here... http://www.carewireless.com/ http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/u.....insurance/

  • General Butt Naked||

    OT:

    Kinda thought that this was funny.

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