Perception, President Obama and the Rand Paul Filibuster

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 14th, 2013

Politics 101

Sound Bites and Photo Opportunities define our Politicians Today

Perception is in the eye of the beholder.  Are you familiar with the story about a real estate broker?  He works in a small town with a main road through it connecting two larger cities.  A lot of traffic travels this road.  This broker has two properties listed for sale.  One on the road into town.  And one on the road out of town.  All of these cars driving through this town see those two signs and think, “Wow, this guy must be the biggest broker in town.  I see his signs everywhere.”

But he is not the biggest broker in town.  But because his two signs are on the busiest road in town the perception is that he is.  Because people can’t enter the town or leave the town without seeing one of what seem to be many of his signs.  If they drove on the other streets of this town they would not see any of his signs.  While they would see a great many of his competitors’ signs.  With a detailed analysis people would conclude that this real estate broker is the smallest and least successful in town.  But with only a cursory glance he is the biggest broker in town.  This is perception.

Politicians understand perception.  So they work hard to shape what people see and hear.  And less on substance.  That’s why sound bites and photo opportunities define our politicians.  Politicians get their picture taken with babies and the down trodden to show how much they care.  Their speeches will be nothing but a series of sound bites suitable for quoting by the talking heads on television and in political ads.  And they will always answer a question with a prepared talking point.  Instead of answering the question.  And when it comes to campaigning they will take everything their opponents say out of context to change everyone’s perception about them.

Our Schools teach our Kids that a Just Society uses Government to Redistribute Wealth to make Society Fairer

Democrats are masters at creating perception.  Which is easy to do when you have the mainstream media in your pocket.  As well as college professors and high school teachers.  The entertainment industry.  The music industry.  Etc.  This small sliver of people has a profound impact on the masses.  For they dominate what people hear and learn.  And with them having a far left ideology their message is far left.  So when this small sliver of people fills our airwaves, cable television, movies and our classrooms their minority viewpoint creates the perception of being the majority viewpoint.  Like that real estate broker.  Because it’s everywhere.  While the majority of people who don’t share their ideology aren’t on television or in the movies.  On the radio or teaching our kids in the classroom.

The perception our kids have of America when graduating from high school is not that good.  Our teachers teach them that America stole the land from the Indians.  And stole Spanish America from the Spanish who stole it from the Indians.  They teach that slavery is America’s original sin.  As if America invented the institution of slavery.  Despite slavery having been around as long as civilization has been around.  They teach that America grew rich because of free slave labor.  Despite the South losing the American Civil War because the institution of slavery so impoverished the South that it was no match for what the North’s paid-labor could produce.  They teach our kids that capitalism is unfair and that profits are evil.  Despite the greatest oppression of people (as well as the lowest standards of living and greatest famines) has always been in anti-capitalistic nations (the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba, the countries of Eastern Europe during the cold war, etc.).  While at the same time they teach our kids the goodness of government.  And gloss over the oppression and privations of socialist/communist countries everywhere.

So our kids graduate from high school with the perception that if government doesn’t greatly regulate the free market the greed of capitalism will cause great unfairness.  And that a just society uses government to redistribute wealth to make society fairer.  And that anyone who opposes higher taxes and greater regulation to facilitate this fairer society hates kids.  They want to pollute our air and water.  They want unsafe food.  They want women to die from cancer.  They hate the planet.  Poor people.  Gay people.  Etc.  They hear this so often and so consistently that they accept it as the majority opinion.  And when they go on to college or start watching the news this perception is reinforced.  Which is why our young people vote Democrat.  Because the perception is that Democrats are for the working man.  The party that puts people before profits.  While the Republicans put rich people, and their money, before everything else.

Was it the Rand filibuster that made President Obama launch a Charm Offensive?

A big part of forming perceptions is not telling the truth. When President Obama was candidate Obama he didn’t want to nationalize health care.  He opposed same-sex marriage.  He didn’t support gun control.  He talked about transparency.  He attacked President Bush for being fiscally irresponsible.  And for running massive deficits that added to the debt.  He talked about not spending more than the government collected.  But the real President Obama was none of this.  And the real President Obama has never left campaign mode.  For he doesn’t govern.  He continues to campaign.  Against Republicans.  Blaming them for every problem exasperated by his own policies.  And, of course, he continues to blame George W. Bush.  Always attacking Republicans.  Always blaming Republicans.  To reinforce a perception of the Republican Party that will benefit him.  And his party.  So he can win the House back in 2014.  And finally govern as he always wanted to govern.  As a president with no political opposition to restrain his powers.

The president’s Middle East foreign policy has been a disaster.  He refused to support a Democracy movement in Iran.  Our enemy.  While supporting a democracy movement in Egypt.  And in Libya.  Our allies in the War on Terror.  (But not in Syria.  An ally of Iran.)  Now the Middle East is becoming Islamist.  And closer to Iran.  Our enemy.  And the enemy of peace and stability.  This disastrous policy came to a head in Benghazi.  Where four Americans died to advance the perception that President Obama had al Qaeda on the ropes.  When in fact they were resurgent in Benghazi.  Which our ambassador knew.  And tried to tell his boss.  Hillary Clinton.  Begging for more security.  Which never came.  When questioned in Congress about who edited the talking points that Secretary Rice used on the Sunday morning talk shows to advance the lie that it was not al Qaeda but a spontaneous uprising in response to a YouTube video that no one had seen she yelled with righteous indignation, “What difference did it make!?!”  An answer no one accepted in the Watergate investigation.  Which Clinton assisted with as a young attorney.  Back then a government cover-up made a big difference.  Which led to impeachment hearings.  That ended when President Nixon resigned.  But the Obama administration would escape that fate.  For the perception was that this was a Republican partisan witch hunt.  Because they were racists and hated the president.  And with all their support in entertainment, education and the news the people accepted this perception.  And apparently didn’t care about the cover-up of Benghazi.  Unlike they were about the cover-up of Watergate that resulted in no dead Americans.

And this is what made the Rand Paul filibuster so powerful.  For he dared to challenge the perception that the Obama administration was sweet and innocent and transparent unlike the ‘criminal’ administration of George W. Bush.  President Obama has expanded the use of drones.  He has killed more people with them than George W. Bush.  And a lot more innocent bystanders.  Including a few Americans.  Even appearing to want to reserve the right to use a drone strike on Americans on U.S. soil without due process even if they posed no imminent threat.  The Obama administration finally stated that they wouldn’t do that.  But not before those on the Left took notice of Rand Paul’s filibuster.  Including Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.  People who expected something like this from the Bush administration.  But not from the Obama administration.  Giving the Obama administration some rare negative press.  Just enough to get some people to ask, “They want to do what?!?”  And the fact that it took a 13-hour filibuster to get a simple ‘no’ out of the administration makes it look like, perhaps, it’s the Democrats who are not trying to cooperate with the Republicans.  Unlike the perception that it’s the Republicans that are being uncooperative.  Perhaps explaining why the president has launched a charm offensive.  To improve a tarnished perception that they never had to do before.  Thanks to the Rand Paul filibuster.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Muslim Brotherhood cracks down on pro-Democracy Groups in Egypt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 19th, 2012

Week in Review

So how is that Arab Spring going?  Well, if it was a democracy movement, not too good.  But if it was an Islamist movement, none too bad (see Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood backs military in dispute with US over pro-democracy groups by the Associated Press posted 2/15/2012 on The Washington Post).

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday threw its weight behind the country’s military-backed government in an escalating dispute with the U.S. over the funding of pro-democracy groups.

Cairo claims that the groups are fomenting protests against the country’s military rulers, and has referred 16 Americans and 27 others to criminal court. Six Americans are barred from leaving the country.

Funny.  The Muslim Brotherhood came to power in a pro-democracy movement.  The so-called Arab Spring.  Helped in part by President Obama.  Who told Hosni Mubarak that he had to go.  Is now trying to clamp down on pro-democracy groups.  And is imprisoning Americans.  Guess the meaning of democracy changes with time.  And one person’s democracy is another’s enemy of the state.

The Brotherhood’s political party swept recent elections, taking nearly 50 percent of the seats in the new parliament. Liberal and secular activists who led last year’s popular uprising that toppled Mubarak failed to win significant strength in the parliament, and they are suspicious of the Brotherhood, suspecting that the veteran Islamist movement is working with the military to divvy up power while excluding the more secular forces.

Funnier still is that the people who overthrew the Mubarak government have no say in the new government.  Who would have seen that coming?  Other than those who know history?  And warned that Egypt may very well go the way of the Iranian Revolution?  Which it sort of looks like it is.  Time will tell.  Sadly for the people of Egypt.  For democracy in the region.  And especially for Israel.  Who the Muslim Brotherhood really, really hates.  And all of this going on while Iran is going nuclear.

Could be a sad time for the world.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Arab Spring may be the Israeli Winter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 15th, 2011

The Arab Spring may not be all Sunny and Bright

Before anyone tried to win Ben Stein’s money, he was a speechwriter for the Nixon administration.  And the Ford administration.  So Ben Stein is a pretty smart guy.  Though controversial at times.  And he’s been wrong on occasion.  Like about the subprime mortgage market in 2007.  He didn’t think there was a problem.  Of course, there was.  A big one.  Putting people into houses who couldn’t afford houses gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Especially when all the derivatives backed by the subprime mortgages became worthless.  But that’s another story.

So he knows a thing or two about history.  Foreign policy.  And the Middle East.  Looking at what’s going on now in the Middle East, he’s not seeing the “Arab Spring” a lot of others are seeing (see Ben Stein: “Arab Spring” is a fraud by Ben Stein posted 5/15/2011 on CBS News).

First, the “Arab Spring” as a force for democracy, human rights and peace in Egypt seems to me to be a fraud.

The dictator and his entourage who were kicked out in Egypt were pro-West, a bit restrained on Israel, open to free enterprise, and resistant to Iranian-sponsored terror.

Egypt is now rapidly becoming anti-Israel, pro-Iran, pro the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas, and very far from being pro-human rights. They are arresting businessmen right and left in Egypt just for the crime of being successful. They have arrested Mubarak’s sons, and have said they plan to try Mubarak.

It would seem that their democracy movement is resulting in less democracy than they had under Mubarak‘s dictatorship.  Funny.  You’d thought it’d be the other way around.

The most potent of the political forces in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, hates the United States, loathes Israel, condemns the killing of bin Laden (whom they praised as a martyr), and have been wedded to terror for their entire existence.

Oh, P.S, they are closely connected with Adolph Hitler.

They will probably take over Egypt completely sooner or later.

So the worst political element is also the strongest political element.  Saudi Arabia rejected the offer to bury bin Laden in Saudi soil.  Perhaps if the U.S. asked the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt they would have accepted that offer.  Even built a shrine to honor this ‘martyr’.

Has anyone noticed that the common denominator of all the successful Arab street movements is that they are sympathetic to Iran? When the dust settles, Iran is going to own the Middle East – except for maybe Saudi Arabia, if we have the guts to help them (which I very much doubt).

We are going to lose our pals in Bahrain – not nice guys, but pals of the U.S.A. anyway – and we are going to lose our pals in Yemen, and it will possibly have an actual al Qaeda government.

There is a gigantic regional coup by Iran taking place. We are doing very little, if anything, to stop it.

Yes, Iran is everywhere in these movements.  Wherever there is a Shiite population they are there.  Supporting these democracy movements.  Of course, when Iranians put on a little democracy movement themselves, the Iranian government sees that differently.  And brutally suppresses it.  But they’re all for democracy.  Everywhere but in Iran.

We are going to regret helping the Egyptians kick out Mubarak as much as we regret helping Khomeini force out the Shah.

You can call it “Arab Spring” if you want. But with Iran now the regional superpower, it is a lot more like an extremely bleak Mideast winter.

The Egyptian policy of the Obama administration may prove to be the greatest blunder in U.S. history.  Losing Iran was big.  But it was one country.  If the U.S. loses Egypt, they may very well lose the Middle East.  And the first thing on the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda when they ascend to power no doubt will involve Israel.  Who will be by then completely surrounded.  With a nuclear option.  Faced by an enemy that will no doubt also possess a nuclear option.  Thanks to the Iranian nuclear program.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Egypt becomes more Islamist

So how are things in Egypt these days?  How is that democracy working out for them?  Not bad.  As long as you’re not in the minority (see Egypt’s top Christian leader calls for end of sit-in after demonstrators attacked overnight by Associated Press posted 5/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have felt increasingly insecure since 18 days of street protests brought down Mubarak, who led the country for nearly 30 years until he was forced to resign on Feb. 11.

The Christians, many of whom are Coptic, have complained that the interim government and security forces have failed to protect them and have allowed extremist Islamic groups to attack with impunity.

Earlier this month, mobs of Muslims, apparently urged on by the ultraconservative Salafi sect of Islam, stormed the Virgin Mary Church in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba and set it ablaze. The attack was sparked by a rumor that a Christian woman planned to marry a Muslim, which some religious purists consider to be forbidden.

If Salafi Muslims are cracking down on Christians in Egypt, that can’t bode well for Israel.  Because the Jewish state of Israel is probably less popular with the ultraconservatives rising in Egypt than this Christian minority. 

Put yourself in Israel’s place.  And take a look at the map around you.  The Palestinian West Bank to the east.  Syria to the north. Lebanon to the north.  As well as Hezbollah.  And running down the Mediterranean coast you have the Gaza Strip.  Ruled by Hamas.  That borders Egypt.  Where ultraconservative Salafi Islamists are attacking Christians.  While the ascendant political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, no doubt sides with the Islamists and may be pressuring the army to allow these attacks.  In other words, Israel is surrounded.  Not just by opposing armies.  But by a people who seek the destruction of the state of Israel.  And never before were they in such a position to make this happen.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

The Arab Spring turns to Winter over Israel

And speaking of Israel, how are things going for them amidst this “Arab Spring” (see 9 Killed as Israel Clashes With Palestinians on Four Borders by Ethan Bronner posted 5/15/2011 on The New York Times)?

Israel’s borders erupted into deadly clashes on Sunday as thousands of Palestinians — marching from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank — confronted Israeli troops to mark the anniversary when Arabs mourn Israel’s creation. As many as nine Palestinians were reported killed and scores injured in the unprecedented wave of coordinated protests.

It doesn’t sound like the Israeli spring is as ‘springy’ as it is in the Arab world.  In fact, one could say this is more of a bleak winter.

Every year in mid-May many Palestinians mark what they call Nakba, or the catastrophe, the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 and the start of a war in which thousands of Palestinians lost their homes through expulsion and flight.

But this is the first year that Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon tried to breach the Israeli military border in marches inspired by recent popular protests around the Arab world. Here too, word about the rallies was spread on social media sites.

“The Palestinians are not less rebellious than other Arab peoples,” said Ali Baraka, a Hamas representative in Lebanon.

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering throughout the Arab world.  In places that have been relatively peaceful.  Such as in southern Lebanon.  And southern Syria.  Especially in the once peaceful Golan Heights.

Yoni Ben-Menachem, Israel Radio’s chief Arab affairs analyst, said it seemed likely that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was seeking to divert attention from his troubles caused by popular uprisings there in recent weeks by allowing confrontations on the Golan Heights for the first time in decades.

Incidentally, even though Assad did something Mubarak never did, turn the army on his people, it was Mubarak that the Obama administration said had to go.  Not Assad.  Funny, too, because the world probably had less to lose with the fall of Assad than they did with the fall of Mubarak.

The day’s troubles began when an Israeli Arab truck driver rammed his truck into cars, a bus and pedestrians in Tel Aviv, killing one man and injuring more than a dozen others in what police described as a terrorist attack.

Later, hundreds of Lebanese joined by Palestinians from more than nine refugee camps in Lebanon headed toward the border, around the town of Maroun al-Ras, Lebanon, scene of some of the worst fighting in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

They passed posters that had gone up the past week on highways in Lebanon. “People want to return to Palestine,” they read, in a play on the slogan made famous in Egypt and Tunisia, “People want the fall of the regime.”

So the “Arab Spring” is flowering among the people of Hezbollah and Hamas.  The enemies of Israel.  Friends of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And Iran.  And it was the ‘democracy’ movements in Tunisia and Egypt that have inspired them.  Imagine that.  The “Arab Spring” inspired political movements that would be anything but democratic to Israel.  Because, perhaps, to them “Arab Spring” has the same meaning as “Israeli Winter.”

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

Anything is Possible in the Middle East these Days

Even though Ben Stein was wrong about the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, it’s hard to fault him on what’s happening in the Middle East.  At least, based on the facts.  And the underlying history.  Oh, and let’s not forget how the Iranian Revolution went down.  It, too, started off as a democratic movement.  And ended in one of the harshest, Islamist theocracies the world has seen. 

Iran may soon be the regional power in the Middle East.  When that happens, life will change.  For everyone.  More terrorism.  More war.  And probably some higher prices at the gas pump.  You know, the late Saddam Hussein is looking better and better in hindsight.  Sure, he was a pain in the ass.  But he was also Iran’s pain in the ass.  And the enemy of our pain in the ass is our friend.  Of course, the wild card is what will happen to Iraq when the U.S. leaves.  Will it just be another domino to fall to Iran?  I hope not.  But anything is possible in the Middle East these days.

An extremely bleak Mideast winter indeed.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obama’s Incoherent Policy on Egypt, Libya and Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 23rd, 2011

Syrians not as worthy to Save as Libyans?

President Assad is killing innocent Syrians in the streets.  In an effort to squelch their yearning for liberty.  A contagion spreading through the Arab world.  TunisiaEgyptBahrainYemen.  Libya.  And now Syria.  The international community is shocked at Assad’s brutality.  And they issued a stern ‘you better stop doing that or we may tell you to stop a second time’.  Whereas we demanded Mubarak to step down in Egypt.  And bombed Libya.  But in Syria all we got is a wag of the finger (see Obama’s Middle East Head Spin by Christopher Dickey posted 4/22/2011 on The Daily Beast).

From Washington’s vantage, every Friday is becoming Black Friday in the Middle East… This Friday, the shock came in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad runs one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes. Across the country, protesters have grown ever more emboldened in recent weeks, and on Friday they poured into the streets by the tens of thousands to face the deadly fusillades of Assad’s security forces. More than 70 died. What did the White House have to say? From Air Force One: “We call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence.”

Pity the president didn’t add, “Don’t make me turn this car around.”  For children know it’s serious when Dad threatens to turn that car around.  Of course, Obama isn’t their dad.  But he expects everyone to listen to him as if he were.  And if that’s all we got going for our foreign policy, I say use it.  Can’t hurt.

Then again, perhaps the president just doesn’t know what to do.  He had no governing experience before running for president.  He never had a real job.  It’s rather baffling why so many championed the guy when he was in fact so utterly unqualified.  But they did.  And here he is.  What was it that Rush Limbaugh called him?  Man child?  Pretty strong criticism.  But is it true?

The drama—the tragedy—increasingly apparent at the White House is of a brilliant intellect who is nonetheless confounded by events, a strategist whose strategies are thwarted and who is left with almost no strategy at all, a persuasive politician and diplomat who gets others to crawl out on limbs, has them take big risks to break through to a new future, and then turns around and walks away from them when the political winds in the United States threaten to shift. It’s not enough to say the Cabinet is divided about what to do. Maybe the simplest and in many ways the most disturbing explanation for all the flailing is offered by veteran journalist and diplomat Leslie H. Gelb: “There is one man in this administration who debates himself.” President Obama.

A brilliant intellect who is not allowed to think brilliantly.  Because of all this stuff going on in the world.  This isn’t what he signed on for.  He wanted to pontificate great things.  Not govern.  It’s not fair.  He wanted to provide a laser-like focus on job creation.  Build a stronger economy.  Lower the sea levels.  Instead he failed.  Everywhere.  As he is failing in his foreign policy.  Or, rather, flailing.  With a policy that is utterly incoherent.

At the Pentagon, which bears the brunt of much of this hesitation and vacillation, the mood is one of not-so-quiet desperation. Said one longtime friend of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “They think it [the Libyan operation] is just nuts. We are destroying our credibility with this situation, and there is really no answer to it.”

This is what happens when you have people who hate the military (i.e., liberals) use the military.  The military has a constitutional role.  To defend the United States.  And protect vital national security interests.  There is no constitutional clause that says, oh, and by the way, if a sovereign nation is being mean to her people we should commit U.S. military force without a clear objective or exit strategy.  Just to feel good.  But we can’t do that.  For feeling good is a poor national strategy. 

So Vice President Joe Biden has been left to handle the file, and he’s seemed none too happy about it. In an interview with the Financial Times, he argued that America’s real strategic interests were elsewhere, notably in helping to stabilize Egypt, while continuing to try to deal with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea. “We can’t do it all,” said Biden. NATO and the Europeans should do more, he insisted. But NATO is run by consensus, and when its most powerful member refuses to lead, hard decisions are hard to come by. France and Britain, for their part, have taken the initiative in Libya from the beginning and crossed a new threshold last week by announcing publicly that they would send military advisers into Libya to help the rebels organize. (One firm decision by the U.S.: It will not put its troops on the ground in Libya under any circumstances.)

Of course when we say ‘by consensus’ we mean ‘by the United States’.  For any international effort is weak and ineffective without the full weight and force of the United States.  It goes with being a superpower.  But we have to pick and choose our fights.  For even a superpower’s might is finite.  There are national security interests (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea, for example).  And there are non-national security interests.  Such as Libya.  And look where we are.  The non-national security interest.  Why? 

The United States got involved “because of the worry that Gaddafi could destabilize the fledgling revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt, with Egypt being central to the future of the region; and, second, to prevent a humanitarian disaster.” Then the clincher: “A third reason was that, while it was not a vital interest for us, our allies considered it a vital interest. And just as they have helped us in Afghanistan, we thought it was important, the president thought it was important, to help them in Libya.”

All right, let me see if I understand this right.  Our allies joined us in the fight against international terrorism.  Because international terrorism is international.  It’s not only America at risk.  Everyone is.  So they helped us in Afghanistan.  Where we’ve taken the lead role.  Because it was in our national security interest.  As it was in theirs.  So, to thank them for joining the fight against international terrorism, we joined their fight to keep their supply of oil cheap and plentiful.  Got it.

There is no question, for instance, that what happens in Syria is of vital interest to Israel, which is America’s strategic partner; nor is there any question that Assad is watching Gaddafi’s brutal tactics for precedents that will serve the Syrian’s own savage regime…

The fundamentally important American alliance with Saudi Arabia, which holds the keys to the global oil market, was shaken badly by what King Abdullah saw as Obama’s betrayal of Hosni Mubarak. Add to that the king’s bitter disappointment with American course corrections, and reversals, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative. A European envoy who met with Abdullah in early March described him as “incandescent” with rage at Obama. Yet the Saudis backed the intervention in Libya—only to see the Americans fumble their leadership once again.

As for Iran, ever since the regime there confronted and crushed huge pro-democracy protests in 2009, nothing threatens it more than successful revolutions in the Arab world. And nothing gratifies Iran’s leaders more than to see the United States dithering about whether Arab democracy is in American interests. The ripple effects are felt even in East Asia, where a former U.S. ambassador says he’s heard that the North Koreans are telling the Chinese “if this is the best the Americans can do in Libya, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Well, if Obama’s foreign policy strategy is to placate our enemies and infuriate our allies, he’s succeeded.  If that wasn’t the strategy you’d then have to say those in charge of foreign policy are in over their heads.  Or just incompetent.

Israel Looks at Syria and sees Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran

The world’s superpower can suffer bouts of incompetence.  Because it takes time to bring down a superpower.  We have the world’s largest economy.  And the most powerful military.  It takes a lot to disrupt our daily lives.  So people don’t really fear the outside world.  Except the occasional terrorist attack.  And when something like that happens, people rally around the grownups.  George W. BushRudy Giuliani.  But can you imagine if it was that way all of the time?  To be under attack all the time?  To be in a perpetual state of war?  The Israelis can.  They can’t afford the luxury of incompetence.  There, the grownups are in charge.  And they’re looking at all the developments in the Middle East a little differently than the Obama Administration (see Israel in a quandary over turmoil in Syria by Joel Greenberg posted 4/22/2011 on The Washington Post).

Syria has long been a bitter enemy of Israel’s, a key player in a regional alliance with Iran, a backer of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon and host to the political leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Yet it has also been a reliable foe, keeping its cease-fire lines with Israel quiet for decades through periods of war and confrontation in Lebanon and Gaza, and it has participated in U.S.-mediated peace talks.

A power shift in Damascus could alter those dynamics. But there is no clear sense in Israel of where that might lead, and there are a range of views here on the most preferable scenario. Experts speculate that Syria could dissolve into anarchy and civil war, Libya-style, or that a new authoritarian leadership could emerge, backed by the army and security forces, or a government dominated by the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

So Syria is a lot like Egypt in a sense.  Peaceful and secular.  The only difference is that they’re in tight with Iran.  And Hezbollah and Hamas.  Who have a penchant for killing Jews in Israel.  And share a common objective with Iran.  The destruction of Israel.  But it could be worse.  They’re not Islamist.  They may be the client of an Islamist state (Iran).  But they’re not Islamist.

“We prefer the devil we know,” said Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, referring to Assad. “Although the Islamist forces are not the majority in the opposition, they are better organized and politically competent. And if we fantasize today that one day we’ll be able to take the secular regime in Syria outside the Iranian orbit, it may be more difficult, if not impossible, if the regime is an Islamist one.”

Dore Gold, a former foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, also emphasized the importance to Israel of monitoring “who the opposition is” in Syria to see whether “what looks like a sincere desire for freedom ends up being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“Israel views a lot of the current developments through the prism of the Iranian threat,” Gold added. “It would be unfortunate if Iran becomes the beneficiary of the developments across the Middle East. Iran could face a tremendous strategic loss if the Syrian regime falls and is replaced by a more Western-oriented leadership.”

How wise.  If only Obama viewed developments through the prism of the Iranian threat.  Perhaps he would have moved slower on Egypt.  Until we knew who the opposition was.  And whether the Muslim Brotherhood would hijack their democracy movement.  Maybe we could have persuaded Mubarak to implement reforms.  Like the Israelis are willing to do with Assad.  Because sometimes the known devil is easier to deal with than the unknown one. 

Still, a change of leadership in Syria or a weakened Assad regime could present opportunities that the United States and Israel should explore when the dust settles, according to Uri Sagi, a former chief of military intelligence who headed the Israeli negotiating team in talks with the Syrians from 1999 to 2000.

“I would suggest that the Americans take advantage of this crisis in order to change the balance here, namely to get the Syrians out of their intimate relationship with Hezbollah on the one hand and the Iranians on the other,” Sagi said.

The Syrian policy would probably be a little less complicated had it not followed the collapse of our ally in Egypt.  Had the Syrian uprising happened first, there would have been more room for risk taking in Syria.  We would have had the opportunity to shut down Hezbollah and Hamas.  By severing the link to Iran via Syria.  But Egypt happened first.  And the great unknown now is the Muslim Brotherhood.  They’re there.  Lurking in the background.  In Egypt.  And in Syria. 

Egypt is our ally.  Syria is not.  If we’re hesitating to act in Syria, then we should have hesitated in Egypt.  This may prove to have been a big mistake.  Forcing Mubarak out.  We’re sending mixed messages to our allies and enemies.  And losing all credibility by flailing about in Libya sure doesn’t help matters either.

Obama Looks at Syria and sees the 2012 Election

Yes, American foreign policy has not been President Obama’s shining moment.  But I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.  After all, he’s president.  He must have a lot of things to worry about.  Important things.  More important than turmoil in the Middle East.  I mean, how can that compare to his reelection campaign (see Obama’s 2012 Campaign: What’s the Strategy? by Daniel Stone posted 4/22/2011 on The Daily Beast)?

Staffers declined to disclose how many people are currently working for Obama in Chicago, and how fast the operation has been taking in money. But so far, campaign events hosted by the president himself have had high yields. At several fundraisers this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles, some supporters donated up $35,800 per couple, the maximum allowed by federal election laws.

Sure they’re shooting Syrians down in the street.  But it’s not all bad news for Obama.  His fund raising is doing very well.

Despite the clear advantage of having all the trappings of the presidency—Air Force One, a support staff of hundreds, guaranteed press coverage—Obama’s challenges may be new and unique. “Last time he was an underdog and outsider and really led a movement,” says Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 and John Kerry’s 2004 campaigns. “This time is different. He’s the president. His campaign will have to take advantage of all the things they did last time, coordinating and using technology. It’s hard not to be institutional.”

You can say many things about Obama.  Criticize him for his disastrous economic policies.  The lack of transparency in his administration.  His abysmal foreign policy.  But one thing for sure.  He’s a man that his priorities in order.  Reelection first.  Everything else is a distant second.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,