Smart Power: How to lose friends and influence no one

March 28, 2010

In the nearly 15 months since Barack Obama was inaugurated as President and Hillary Clinton installed as his Secretary of State, our Smart Power team has done something I thought impossible: make me yearn for the days of Jimmy Carter as a model of a strong and effective foreign policy. Consider three recent items:

First, he has managed to do almost certainly fatal damage to our “special relationship” with Great Britain, an alliance forged between FDR and Winston Churchill in crucible of the Second World War. After that, the two nations cooperated closely in the Cold War against Soviet communist aggression, operating hand-in-glove whether the governments in Washington and London were Democrat or Republican, Labour or Conservative. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the welcome death of the USSR, America and Britain have continued to work together, even to the point war.

No more. The special relationship is dead, and Obama and Clinton own the corpse:

BRITAIN’S special relationship with the US — forged by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war — no longer exists, says a committee of influential MPs.

Instead, America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies, according to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee published today.

The report also warns that the perception of the UK after the Iraq war as America’s “subservient poodle” has been highly damaging to Britain’s reputation and interests around the world. The MPs conclude that British prime ministers have to learn to be less deferential to US presidents and be “willing to say no” to America.

Gosh, I’m not sure why they would conclude that, after the respect Obama has shown for the UK, such as returning a bust of Churchill loaned by London as a show of solidarity after 9/11, or insulting Prime Minister Brown and the Queen with gifts from the Wal-Mart bargain bin. I mean, why should they be bothered by his failure to acknowledge the sacrifice made by British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, or other acts of deliberate rudeness? And why should Whitehall care that Secretary Clinton is willing to negotiate the status of sovereign British territory? Nial Gardiner implores Conservative leader David Cameron to do all he can to preserve the relationship, but, really, what is Britain to do when Obama repeatedly spits in her eye?

Special Relationship, we hardly knew ye.

Then we come to something just appalling. Regardless of what one thinks of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel is a close ally of the United States, until recently the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and certainly one of the most humane and ethical nations on the planet. Thus for the President of the United States to treat the Prime Minister of Israel as a recalcitrant child beggars belief:

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

Translation: Obama says to Netanyahu, “You just think about that young man, and you’d better have a different answer when I get back, or there will be no TV for you!” It reminds one of the rumors of his bizarre behavior in Copenhagen and calls into question his vaunted judgment and even his maturity. Israel is a key ally in our war with jihadist Islam and for the furtherance of Western interests in the region, in general. And yet, time and again, Obama and Clinton have gone out of their way to turn minor incidents into causes celebres requiring the public pillorying of Israel and to put it on the same moral level as the despotisms that surround it. (More at Legal Insurrection, Fausta’s blog, Hot Air, the Telegraph, Contentions, and The Jawa Report)

This is “smart power?”  Raised Eyebrow

Finally, what can be said but Russia skunked us?

Face it. The only conclusion one can draw from these and other blunders is that we are lead by callow and incompetent (and even delusional) leaders. Their conduct of American foreign policy has been a disgrace.

The only question is whether this mangling of American interests is unwitting or the fruit of deliberate choice.

You can guess my answer.  Doh

ADDENDUM: At least Obama and Clinton have created a bipartisan consensus on their policy toward Israel – both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats hate it.

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Monday links fiesta!

March 15, 2010

I’ve got a bunch of interesting links that I’ve been letting sit for one reason or another, so here they are in a bunch. Pick and choose the ones that most interest you!

War and the Jihad

Iraq held a national election for a new parliament last week. In spite of terrorist attacks that killed dozens in an attempt to derail the elections, roughly 60% of the electorate turned out. (Lazy American voters, hang your heads in shame.) Now that a few days have passed, the results are in and they look encouraging. Perhaps George Bush’s “mission accomplished” moment was only premature, not wrong? Regardless, congratulations to the Iraqi politicians, security forces, and the people themselves for flipping millions of purple fingers at the fascists.

At Threat Matrix, Bill Roggio relays a congressman’s concerns about a growing threat from another jihadist group: Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Something you will rarely read on this blog, in this case regarding Geert Wilders: Charles Krauthammer is wrong. More at Jihad Watch and from Roger L. Simon.

More from Wilders, on his controversial call to ban the Qur’an in Holland.

Foreign Affairs

Barack Obama finally gives up trying to force a dictator on Honduras.

I Can’t Believe She Said This

Nancy Pelosi on why we have to pass ObamaCare:

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

It’s not that she thinks we’re stupid. It’s that she thinks we’re all kindergartners. (More from ST)

More Health Care

Shawn Tully on the insane accounting needed to make ObamaCare look even barely presentable. (via Blue Crab Boulevard)

At Last

At Big Government, “Josie Wales” argues the constitutional case against the progressives who dominate the Democratic Party and control our government.

That’s all, folks!


Honduras, perhaps not as bad as we thought?

November 1, 2009

Earlier I went on a tirade about the Obama administration’s foreign policy and its alliance with Latin American dictators against constitutionalism and the rule of law in our ally, Honduras. While I maintain my criticisms of US policy under the President and Secretary Clinton, the situation in Honduras may not be as bad as first thought in the wake of the agreement between the legitimate Honduran government and deposed President Zelaya. Otto Reich at National Review’s The Corner blog explains why:

Contrary to press reports, Zelaya is not in any way automatically returned to office by the accord.  First, there must be a vote by the entire Honduran congress on whether Zelaya is fit to return to office.  Prior to that, the Honduran supreme court, which ruled against Zelaya in June by a vote of 15 to 0, must issue an opinion on the same.

In other words, Zelaya must pass two big tests which he failed before: a judicial review by the highest court in the land, and approval by the legislature.  While Zelaya’s Liberal party has the largest faction in the congress, it is also the party of Micheletti.  According to my Honduran sources, there is no way that Zelaya can win a free and transparent ballot.  At the present time Zelaya can count on less than 25 percent of the congress.  In June, the same legislative body voted 122 to 6 against him.  There will doubtless be a battle this time, and the anti-Zelaya forces fear that Hugo Chavez will try to buy votes for Zelaya.  They are also concerned that the U.S. government not involve itself in the legislative process, especially U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens, who is widely seen as favoring Zelaya.  The accord was facilitated when Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon reportedly promised Micheletti that Llorens will not attempt to influence the vote.

If Reich is right, then he correctly calls this a defeat for the leftist ideologues in the White House, something anyone who cares about democracy should be grateful for. He worries that Venezuela’s dictator Hugo Chavez might try to buy-of votes in the Honduran Congress to get a majority to restore his protege Zelaya to power; let’s hope that the Hondurans, who’ve shown great resolve and commitment to the integrity of democratic institutions so far, continue to hold their ground.


Honduras: An Obama-Clinton disgrace

October 30, 2009

Today’s Times Online brings news of a resolution to the months-long crisis in Honduras, in which a constitutional democracy defended itself from a budding dictator, President Manuel Zelaya, by removing him from office, replacing him with the proper constitutional officials, and sending the would-be caudillo into exile. Elections would be held as scheduled and the interim president, Micheletti, had promised not to run. Because Zelaya refused to accept his ouster and had gathered allies in the hemisphere, a standoff ensued. Now that standoff is over, with the result that … Manuel Zelaya will be restored to power:

The interim government of Honduras has yielded to international pressure and agreed to allow the return to power of Manuel Zelaya, the ousted President who was toppled in a military coup four months ago.

The breakthrough came after renewed pressure from senior US officials who travelled to Honduras this week for a last-ditch effort to end the crisis.

“It is a triumph for Honduran democracy,” said Mr Zelaya after the rival sides agreed to a deal under which he may be reinstated as President within days.

Roberto Micheletti, the president of the interim government that took power after the coup on June 28, announced that he had agreed to reinstate his political rival.

“I am pleased to announce that a few minutes ago my negotiating team signed an agreement that marks the beginning of the end” of the four-month stand-off, Mr Micheletti said in a statement from the presidential palace.

Mr Zelaya was sent into exile at gunpoint on June 28 but returned secretly to Honduras last month where he has taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy.

For background on the crisis, see my earlier post.

This is another new low for American foreign policy under President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. Instead of gathering the facts and then backing the defense of constitutional order in Honduras, the White House and Foggy Bottom jerked their collective knees and condemned the legitimate government, demanding Zelaya’s restoration, which left them in the grotesque position of allying the government of the United States with its sworn enemies in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, who were backing their anti-democratic protege.

Not at all phased by this diplomatic cluster-frak, the administration kept beclowning itself by cutting off aid to Honduras, denying visas to its officials to visit the UN (while granting them to Burmese dictators), and supporting diplomatic missions meant to strongarm the Honduran democracy into surrender. At long last, it worked.  Congratulations on the win, Team Obama!

Let me make this as plain as I can: the President of the United States, the moral leader of the democratic  nations of the world, and his chief diplomat allied his administration with some of the hemisphere’s worst dictators in order to bully a constitutional democracy and ally into accepting the restoration of a man who is definitely anti-democratic, anti-constitutional, and probably mad. And all this was done in the face of a finding by the Law Library of Congress that the removal of Zelaya was legal under Honduran law (PDF). (For a strong dissent, see here)

Forget constitutionality, forget rule-of-law, and forget supporting a democratic ally defending itself from dictatorial neighbors. All that matters to Obama and Clinton is that they got what they wanted and once again showed that they prefer thugs and tyrants to genuine democrats. Israel versus the Palestinians, Iran’s mullahs versus Iran’s people, Russia versus our Central European allies and Georgia, and now Venezuela versus Honduras. In each case the administration has hugged the enemy and slapped the friend.

The only good in this is that Zelaya is bound by the agreement to honor the election results and that command of the Army is taken away from him. On the other hand, the Obama administration still has three years to go, yet it’s already an embarrassing disgrace.

LINKS: Power Line; Fausta (The best source on Honduras); Ed Morrissey; and Legal Insurrection.

RELATED: That staunch defender of democracy, Senator John “Don’t Question My Patriotism” Kerry wants the Law Library of Congress to retract its report as unhelpful. In return, the Law Library has told Kerry to drop dead.

UPDATE: Reader Karateka has posted a darkly funny (and sadly accurate) political cartoon at his blog, Innovation and Politics.


Coup in Honduras, and our flaccid foreign policy

June 28, 2009

This morning the Honduran military arrested the country’s president and sent him into exile in Costa Rica. While most reports are describing this as a coup d’etat, Honduras’ largest newspaper, La Prensa, claims that President Zelaya was removed from office under order from the country’s Supreme Court:

An official statement of the Supreme Court of Justice explained that the Armed Forces acted under lawful grounds when detaining the President of the Republic, and by decommissioning the
materials to be used on the illegal poll which aimed to bring forth Executive Power against a judicial order.

Other sources verified that the president of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, will assume the presidency of the republic in a few hours.

Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was detained this morning by the military in compliance with an order of the courts of law.

(translation by Fausta Wertz)

The most up-to-date coverage can be found in this post by Fausta, and I refer the reader there. Plenty of good links to follow.

My concern is with the United States’ response:

WASHINGTON — U.S. diplomats are working to ensure the safety of
deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his family as they press
for restoration of constitutional law and his presidency.

President Barack Obama called Sunday for “all political and social
actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the
tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter” as the Central
American crisis unfolded.


For those conditions to be met, Zelaya must be returned to power, U.S. officials said.

Secretary of State Clinton also jumped in:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the action taken against Honduras’ president should be condemned by everyone.


She says Honduras must embrace the principles of democracy and respect constitutional order.

Two things I’ll point out about this:

First, how is it that it took days for the Administration to strongly condemn the theft of an election and subsequent massacres in Iran, yet the removal at the request of the legally constituted courts and legislature of a president allied to one of our enemies and who was trying to emulate his ally by becoming  populist dictator is worthy of immediate condemnation? Why do President Barack Obama and his State Department seemingly coddle dictators while giving constitutionalists the cold shoulder?

Second, do the Administration and State know the situation in Honduras? Even cursory research indicates a situation more complicated than it first appears. Zelaya is allied to Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the former a current enemy of us and the latter an old foe. He was violating the constitution and defying a court order by trying to hold a referendum seeking approval for extending his term, something prohibited by the constitution. Latin American constitutions often give the military the role of “defender of the constitution” (add irony as needed), and it’s quite possible, given the support and direction provided by the legislature and the court, that the military acted not to sieze power, but to prevent a seizure of power by the president. In other words, it may have been an act in defense of constitutional order and the rule of law. It may also not have been, but we should be aware of the subtleties here.

Is Washington aware of this? Did they consult with the embassy in Tegucigalpa before rushing to the microphones? (Again, if they could wait for days on Iran because they didn’t want to meddle, why the rush to meddle now?) Somehow I doubt it. Both statements look like variations on boilerplate used by the government for decades.

It’s been argued that Obama is simply more comfortable with, and therefore more solicitous toward, anti-American dictators than with genuine democrats, which explains his various moves. His background makes him open to thuggery. Perhaps, but it’s also possible that what we’re seeing are the spastic reactions of a foreign policy tyro, a naif who really doesn’t know what he’s doing, being far more interested in domestic affairs and having only the most superficial knowledge of the world beyond our borders. Both are possible, and both are in their way very disquieting.

LINKS: Ed Morrissey thinks this is another indication Obama’s priorities are out of step with the rule of law.