Posts Tagged ‘foreign policy’

1.  Am I the only one who looks at President Obama’s nuclear nirvana-seeking and sees a guy who, somewhere in his past, got an A+ on a term paper arguing that a nuclear-free world is achievable, and has believed ever since that he’s the guy to do it?

2.  If I had a hypothesis-proving time machine and took Pelosi, Reid, et. al. two years into the future to show them that by cutting taxes 5% for the upper 15% of wage-earners, they could achieve nearly-full employment by the time the 2012 elections roll around, would they still refuse to do it on principle?

3.  If Israel started denouncing the United States and threatening Iran’s security, would it get more support from this Administration?

4.  Were we to apply the same rules of nomenclature currently being considered for the War on Terror to our past conflicts, would we have been forced to refer to our Cold War adversaries as “ideologically-committed Eurasians,” or our German enemies as “highly-organized expansionists?”

and for a funny 5th…   Is this how Hillary deals with what must be her (and her party’s?) daily recognition that the wrong candidate beat John McCain?  Gotta say, I can’t begrudge her it.


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President Obama’s decision today to tie America’s hands when it is attacked is so bizarre on so many levels.

It’s of a piece with many other pronouncements of this White House — they look good to their liberal buddies, everyone feels good about themselves, but they don’t really mean anything worth talking about.  Does anyone actually think that, if China gassed Manhattan, the Obama Administration would leave the nuclear option off the table?  If it would, the President should be impeached immediately.  And if Syria sponsored an anthrax attack in Mobile, we should feel just fine about lobbing a tactical nuke into Assad’s compound.  Making grandiose statements about what we would or wouldn’t do after incurring an attack from a foreign power involving weapons of mass destruction is just as ineffectual as President Bush’s announcement that Russia was no longer targeting the United States with its nuclear weapons.  The weapons were still there, and they could be re-targeted, but right now, at this moment…they aren’t aimed at us.  Comforting, eh?

The larger point, however, is that basic international — or interpersonal — relations require that when someone is threatening you with serious harm, you give them no comfort that greater harm might not come to them if they tried it.  You don’t issue quid pro quos, and you don’t make your own threats.  Those tactics reduce you to their level.

But to each and every scenario they might posit about ways to inflict pain and suffering on your people, as for the consequences, you want them to imagine the worst.  Thus is the way of deterrence.

When they ask the question Obama answered today — “If I launch a chemical warhead into your largest city, will you send five ICBMs into my population centers?” — you always want them to hear you say, “You never know.”

“If I send a horde of infected monkeys to infect all of Florida with a brain-wasting disease, will you explode a hydrogen bomb in my palace?”

“You never know.”

“When I lace your frozen blueberry supply with toxins so potent that hundreds of smoothie-consumers will keel over upon their first sip of the straw?  Would you really make my countryside radioactive for that?”

“You never know.”

“Could I just set off a terrible stink bomb,  coat a few dozen buildings with a really smelly substance, rendering the city uninhabitable for a couple of months?  Still nuke me then?”

“You never know.”

Why would you ever want to answer these questions with anything but “You never know?”  Why, as our President stated without irony today, would you want to do anything but “preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” when no one was asking you to do anything different?  If Putin blew up a daisy cutter in Oakland, would Obama take his phone call so he can insist that, “Hey, Barack, buddy, keep your hands off that football.  You promised!”

In the end, I’m glad that our President thinks the process doesn’t matter in life — just the ends.  Because if he actually thought this silly process of setting the rules of Global Thermonuclear War actually mattered, I’d be much more worried.

"Would you like to play a game?"

Michelle B. Mathews/AMPAC/ECCI

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If Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Bank of America, AIG, GM, Chrysler, Fannie, and Freddie were each too big to fail, then why aren’t Pakistan…

…and Afghanistan…

…too big to fail?

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As many have noted, it is hilarious and stunning that our President was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize when he had been in office 11 days, and that he won it without any major international accomplishment to his credit. But consider how President Obama and Democrats have treated his fellow honorees and their most-beloved causes and countries.

The Dalai Lama

This week, President Obama declined to meet with Tibet’s Dalai Lama when he was in Washington, the first time a President has failed to meet with His Holiness during a visit to the United States. While the White House has publicly stated that this was a mutual decision based on scheduling difficulties, observers have widely speculated that this was an effort to appease China in advance of President Obama’s visit there in November. China, of course, is the very government that has oppressed the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan people, and from which he has sought relief and freedom for his entire life while living in exile. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for this peaceful and nonviolent struggle.

Aung San Suu Kyi

For months, Senator Jim Webb has sought to aggrandize the Burmese government and lift sanctions that the United States have imposed since 2003.  President Obama blessed Webb’s recent visit to Burma, has done nothing to dissuade his Democratic colleague from his efforts, and his State Department issued visas upon Sen. Webb’s request that allowed Burmese representatives into the country last month (for a hearing where he refused to allow opponents to speak). Burma, of course, is the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize “for her nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights.” Burma has held Kyi under house arrest for years in retaliation for her efforts to free her people. When Sen. Webb visited her earlier this year, he emerged from the conference to say that Kyi supported his efforts wholeheartedly.  Burmese activists have strongly disputed this account, and Kyi herself has graciously avoided conflict with Webb while affirming her opposition to the junta.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has signaled that it may be willing to lift sanctions against Burma.

Elie Wiesel

President Obama toured Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel in June of this year. During their visit, Wiesel slammed those who hadn’t learned from the Holocaust, and specifically called on the President to bring “a sense of security for Israel, a sense of security for its neighbors,” clearly invoking the Holocaust denials and threats issued by Iran’s Ahmedinejad. But rather than create that sense of security, President Obama has taken no steps to protect Israel or its neighbors from Iran’s growing nuclear threat. Instead, he has demanded that Israel stop expanding into territories it won in a war waged to bring about its destruction. Indeed, his representatives have met face to face with Iranian diplomats, engaging in direct diplomacy with a government that promises the world that Israel will be “wiped off the map.” Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Shirin Ebadi

When President Ahmedinejad was up for reelection in June 2009, there was not much hope among international observers that there would be real change in that country. Even if Ahmedinejad had lost the election, his opponent Mir Hossain Mousavi was believed to be just a different face for the theocratic radicals that rule behind the scenes. But no one could have anticipated the populist uprising that would demand true democracy, human rights, and the end of the Islamic Revolution.  During those transformative weeks, Mousavi became a champion for democracy, women in scarves and burqas were at the forefront of street protests and demonstrations, and young men and women thronged in the boulevards of Tehran, shouting not “Death to America!” but “Death to the dictator!.”  An Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, was shot by the Basij, and the video of her death became the symbol of the protests.  Ultimately, police and armed militias arrested or killed hundreds of protesters and ended the immediate threat to the government by force.

Shirin Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize “for her efforts for democracy and human rights” in Iran.  As the Nobel Committee noted, “[s]he has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.”  Long a target of the Iranian regime and its surrogates, Ebadi called for new elections during the post-election strife, and she has not been able to return to her country since.  She has criticized the West for placing nuclear negotiations ahead of demands for human rights and democracy, saying that “[u]ndemocratic countries are more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. It’s undemocratic countries that jeopardise international peace.”  Rather than a strengthening of relations, she has called for “the downgrading of Western embassies, the withdrawal of ambassadors and the freezing of the assets of Iran’s leaders.”  The Obama Administration, on the other hand, took days to state that the election was fraudulent, and more to say that its fraud was significant.  In the weeks and months since, it has initiated direct negotiations with Ahmedinejad’s government, with no apparent repercussions for his fraudulent election or the violent oppression of Iran’s people.

So I ask: How can President Obama stand next to these courageous Nobel laureates, wearing the same prize given to Linas Pauling, George Marshall, Lech Walesa, and Mother Teresa, and feel worthy of the award?

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There isn’t much going well for the Obama Administration right now, and that’s kept the White House from riding its favorite rhetorical metaphor: the high horse.  But when all other moral high grounds fail, they never get tired of flogging Hondurans.

This year, we’ve had North Korea launching missiles at our allies, shipping military supplies to our enemies, and renewing its nuclear weapons program; Iran hiding its own nuclear weapons program from the world; Russia strengthening its hold on territory in Georgia; Libya celebrating a terrorist’s homecoming; but the only nation whose actions warranted harsh punishment from the U.S. government was Honduras.

First. when Honduras acted to protect its constitutional system and remove a president unrepentant in his treason, the President called it a “coup,” and the State Department ordered the interim Honduran government to allow former President Zelaya to return and finish his term.

When Honduras refused the Administration’s edict, it struck back, withholding all non-humanitarian aid from Honduras ($32 million) in an effort to force a change in policy.  When the Honduran democrats refused to budge, the U.S. revoked the visas of all officials who participated in Zelaya’s removal and exile.  The grounds?  That Zelaya should be allowed to finish his term in office as the elected leader of Honduras.  Apparently Democrats believe that once you’re elected president, there’s nothing you can do that makes your ouster appropriate, but we already knew that.

Then, the White House threatened not to recognize the outcome of Honduras’ November presidential elections.  Mind you, these elections were planned long before Zelaya was removed from office.  In fact, it was these same elections that Zelaya was trying to hijack, by holding a referendum intended to allow him to run for president again.  But nevermind that – the Obama Administration apparently believes that all democratic activities in Honduras are tainted by Zelaya’s ouster — even though he couldn’t participate in them even if he had remained in office. State Department officials called this maneuver “putting [Honduras] in a box,” which may or may not be like putting Baby in the corner.

So, you might have thought the State Department was pleased by the news last week that Zelaya had sneaked back into the country and was hiding out in the Brazilian Embassy.  But no – that, too, was an occasion for tut-tutting in Foggy Bottom.  After initially calling for “restraint” from all sides, the U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States unloaded on Zelaya:

“The return of Zelaya [without] an agreement is irresponsible and foolish. He should cease and desist from making wild allegations and from acting as though he were starring in an old movie,” said Mr Amselem at an emergency meeting of the OAS.

“Having chosen, with outside help, to return on his own terms, President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters,” he added.

Of course, in the spirit of indiscriminate disdain for Honduran government officials, the good Ambassador didn’t hesitate to take the interim government to task for refusing to allow his buddies in the OAS to intervene and for declaring a state of emergency in the country.

Once again, we are left wondering exactly what the Obama Administration wants out of Honduras and its leaders.  It tries to uphold its democracy by removing its treasonous president, and it loses economic aid.  It tries to defuse the situation by removing the ex-president from the country, and it’s called a coup.  Its leaders continue to operate as a democracy in the weeks and months since the president’s ouster, but their visas are voided by the United States.  It continues to plan for elections in November, but the U.S. refuses to recognize them.  The U.S. demands that the ex-president be allowed to serve out his term, but when he returns to the country, he’s called a fool.

We recognize no constitutions, no elections, no rule of law, no leaders worthy of respect.  Sounds like the White House is desperate to install a banana republic in Honduras.

But that can’t be right, because

[n]o one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.

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Late last week, the State Department announced that it was making permanent its temporary freeze of foreign aid to Honduras.  It did so in quite striking terms:

Mr. P.J. CROWLEY (Spokesman, State Department): These are not temporary measures. We now have pressed the stop button. This aid is lost to Honduras for the time being. There’s going to be greater impact on those individuals who are part of the de facto regime and those individuals who support the de facto regime. It’s time for everyone to reassess where they are.

Of course, this is merely the next logical step in the Administration’s longstanding position on the Honduran government, after the military forcibly removed former President Zelaya from the country.  But what I have never heard out of Washington is what Honduras’ officials — whether they be the military, the attorney general, the courts, or the legislature — should have done in the face of Zelaya’s actions in the weeks and months leading up to his ouster.  With thanks to Miguel Estrada, here is a summary of those events:

  • Earlier this year, with his term as President winding down, Zelaya ordered a referendum on whether a constitutional convention should be convened to draft a new constitution.  This convention was clearly intended to bypass the existing Honduran constitution’s limitations on amendments that would extend a president’s four-year term.
  • In fact, the constitution states that any president that even proposes the possibility of reelection must “cease forthwith his duties” as president.
  • Oh, and by the way — all referendums must be approved by two-thirds of the legislature.
  • Instead, the legislature voted to declare Zelaya’s “illegal.”
  • The attorney general filed suit and got a court order barring the referendum.
  • Zelaya said his vote would still go on, as an “opinion survey.”
  • The attorney general got the courts to strike this down, as well.
  • Zelaya ignored the courts and ordered his military to proceed with the referendum.
  • When his top general refused to comply with Zelaya’s order, Zelaya fired him.
  • The Supreme Court of Honduras declared the firing illegal, reinstating the general.
  • Zelaya got his ballots printed by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but they were seized by customs officials upon entering the country.
  • Zelaya organized a gang of thugs to seize the ballots from the customs warehouse.
  • The attorney general obtained an order from the Supreme Court to arrest Zelaya for treason and other crimes.
  • That order, which was enforced by the military per Honduras’ constitution regarding matters of succession, was enforced on June 28th, the day he intended to take his “survey.”  Zelaya was arrested and sent into exile in Costa Rica.
  • The next official in the constitutional line of succession, the speaker of the legislature, was installed as temporary president, pending the outcome of a new election.

So, President Obama — where in there did the Honduran government go wrong?  Sure, it sounds ugly when military officers take an elected president out of his bed in his pajamas and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.  And as Estrada points out, the decision to exile Zelaya rather than try him in the nation’s courts was legally suspect, even if it was arguably more favorable to Zelaya.  But to call this a “coup,” when the nation’s constitution (and its courts) clearly state that Zelaya’s presidency was over when he began his crusade to extend his power, is irresponsible.

And this isn’t a minor issue restricted to former military dictatorships in Central America.  Even the United States has had its brushes with lawless executives.  Andrew Jackson threatened to ignore the Supreme Court and allow Georgia to continue to oppress the Cherokees.  Governors throughout the South thumbed their noses at the federal courts for years in support of segregation.  And of course, Richard Nixon did his darndest to “massacre” his own Justice Department as it investigated the Watergate burglars.  Each time, the nation faced a constitutional crisis — are we a nation of laws, or a nation of powerful men, throwing their weight around?  Each time, the nation’s leaders stepped back from the brink and avoided the essential breach of a democracy, whereby its leaders consider themselves greater than the nation and its charter.

To put it more bluntly, if we replaced the word “Honduras” with the words “United States” and “Zelaya” with the word “Bush” (to suit Democrat sensibilities) in each bullet above, would Obama want Honduras to call it a coup?

So, President Obama, what should Honduras have done with Zelaya?  Let his poll go forward, despite the lawful verdict of the courts?  Allow his armed thugs to overturn the lawful judgment of the customs officials?  Give Zelaya his new constitution, ignoring the well-founded fears of Honduras’ constitutional framers that such a provision would open the door for a strongman?

And are we truly cutting off aid to Honduras because they exiled, rather than tried, Zelaya?  Surely not — we give aid to North Korea, for Pete’s sake.  So is this a greater statement on the Administration’s views of the lawless executive — one that lines up fairly well with the State Department’s more hospitable tone toward Chavez, Ahmedinejad, and Castro?  After all, Zelaya was only following the time-honored advice of our President: “do what works.”

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