Writing in the Wall Street Journal on June 17, Bret Stephens, in his column entitled, “The Pace of Obama’s Disasters”, made a strange comment in passing in his otherwise excellent appraisal of the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures, which read as follows:
“…Yet when it comes to leadership, we have our very own Clement Attlee at the top, eager to subtract the burdens of international responsibility so he can get on with the only thing that really animates him, which is building social democracy at home.”[Emphasis added.]
This is a common sentiment among many commentators today: Obama ‘doesn’t care about foreign policy’. However, a closer look at his presidency would reveal quite the opposite. Obama cares more about foreign policy than anything else, so long as it relates to Israel. This focus of his on Israel, moreover, is hardly benign; here too, it is quite the opposite. Indeed, this writer would submit that Obama’s intention to weaken our ally, Israel, is the central feature of his presidency.
Let us step back a little further into the recent past.
On Sunday, March 2nd of this year, America and the world were treated to an almost surreal spectacle.
The Russian military was poised to invade the Ukraine. 150,000 Russian troops were conducting drills on the Ukrainian frontier, and Russian special operation forces had just entered the Crimea.
In the face of the most serious direct Russian military action since the invasion of Afghanistan 35 years ago, what was the Leader of the Free World doing? Was he conferring with his top military, diplomatic and intelligence officials on the nature of this threat, discussing possible U.S. options in response to the same? Was he demanding an emergency session of the UN Security Council to address this crisis?
No. He was giving a lengthy interview to one Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News, concerning the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”, a charade of his own making that was near collapse, on the eve of the arrival of Israel’s PM Netanyahu. The tone of this interview was highly critical of Netanyahu, even vaguely threatening, and was clearly intended to undermine any effort by Netanyahu to defend his own position in these fruitless talks. This slap in Netanyahu’s face, the leader of America’s most important front-line ally in the war against Islamist terror, was Obama’s priority ahead of addressing the unfolding crisis in the Ukraine.
Then, about two and a half weeks later, something equally surreal occurred.
Mahmud Abbas, the leader of the PA, had just paid a visit to Obama, following on the heels of Israeli PM Netanyahu’s visit from two weeks before. He had summarily rejected Obama’s suggestions for moving forward in the negotiations, among other things, once again reaffirming his refusal to so much as recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
In the wake of this rebuff by Abbas, what was Obama doing? Did he publicly castigate Abbas for his “intransigence”, for “not wanting peace”, as he was so ready to do in Netanyahu’s case? Did he even choose to re-focus his efforts towards other pressing issues, such as the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine?
He did neither. Incredibly, he was giving interviews to ESPN, weighing in with his perspective on the college draft picks for the NBA. It really did seem that so far as Obama was concerned, if he was not engaged in something related to bullying Israel into accepting his diktat concerning the Palestinians, he really had nothing else to do…so he might as well just give interviews about one of his favorite leisure pastimes, basketball.
The moments in recent history described above are illustrative of the entire purpose of the Obama presidency. Specifically, that purpose is as follows:
Force a Saudi-style “peace” plan between Israel and the PA down Israel’s throat, putting a Gaza-like terror state adjacent to Israel’s most important population and industrial centers, thus ensuring Israel’s ultimate dismantlement as a Jewish state.
Or, failing that:
Sabotage the U.S.-Israeli strategic partnership as it has existed since the late 1960s, as “punishment” for Israeli “intransigence” vis-à-vis the Palestinians; this will be the prelude to a campaign to strangle Israel politically and economically as a pariah “Apartheid” state in the manner of Rhodesia in the 1970s.
What is the driving motivation behind this perverse policy? Briefly, Obama, along with those he has surrounded himself with who share such views, believes that by abandoning Israel to her enemies, the primary perceived source of Islamist hostility towards the U.S. – i.e., U.S. support for Israel – will be removed, allowing for a relatively cheap and bloodless withdrawal from the war on Islamist terror for the U.S., at Israel’s expense. This idea that by ‘dumping Israel’, the U.S. will buy herself an exemption from Islamic hostility is easily disproven by the experience of other countries. But for those inclined to ‘blame the Jews’ for any number of problems, and who are afraid of the consequences of facing the reality of Islamist hostility quite apart from the issue of Israel versus the Palestinians, this is an attractive delusion.
Virtually everything else Obama has done, or seems to pursue apart from these goals, is either mere distraction, or is in the service of these goals. This was apparent from the very beginning of his presidency.
The very first foreign leader Obama telephoned upon assuming office was Mahmud Abbas.
During the summer of ’09, Obama simply sat on his hands during a major popular uprising in Iran, following from their rigged national elections. From there, he went on to do everything in his power to thwart decisive Israeli action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and then, early in his second term, betrayed Israel by engaging in secret, sham negotiations with Iran over the same. Does anyone believe it was just coincidence that the time frame for negotiating a deal with Iran, as laid out by the Obama administration this past November, was almost precisely the same time frame he laid out for completing a ‘final status” agreement between Israel and the PA? The bottom line is this: Obama needs the threat of an imminently nuclear Iran as his most powerful tool of coercive leverage in forcing a suicidal “peace” deal down Israel’s throat.
Today, virtually no serious person believes that Obama will do anything to stop Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. It is clearly up to Israel, and Israel must act in direct defiance of Obama on this issue. Given the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”, this state of affairs should come as no surprise. The two are clearly linked, and yes, Obama is more than willing to play Russian roulette with the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and all the grave negative impacts this will have on regional and global stability, in order to “punish” Israel for her unwillingness to capitulate to his demands vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
Consider Egypt. Here, Obama supported the overthrow of a longtime, if imperfect, U.S. ally in the form of Hosni Mubarak. Was this in the name of “freedom”, “democracy”, or “human rights”? No, for despite transparent claims of this nature that were made at the time, the Muslim Brotherhood regime led by Muhammad Morsi represented anything but those things. The election that brought him to power was massively rigged by any standard, with MB thugs actively preventing whole neighborhoods from going to the polls. Morsi’s subsequent persecution of Christians in Egypt – beatings, church burnings, murders, rapes carried out by his MB supporters – were far worse than anything Mubarak had done. Yet not a peep of condemnation or reproach was to be heard from Obama as these outrages were going on, which, incidentally, led to a catastrophic contraction in the Egyptian economy besides, as tourism and investment dried up.
Under Morsi, Egypt’s real value to Obama was to serve as a rabid Islamist dog installed at Israel’s doorstep. The coercive value of Egypt to Obama in this context was demonstrated in an incident that occurred the summer after Morsi had seized power. In August of 2011, Egyptian terrorists, aided by Egyptian border police, carried out an attack on Eilat, and were shot by Israeli security forces. In response, a mob put the Israeli embassy in Cairo under siege. When Israel asked the U.S. to intervene, Obama refused to do so until the Israelis apologized for shooting the Egyptian border police who had apparently aided and abetted this attack. Israel complied, and the siege was lifted. In forcing Israel to humiliate herself in this manner, Obama accomplished two things: underlined to Israel’s enemies her dependence on the U.S., and compelled Israel to sacrifice her ‘honor’ before them, a matter of prime importance in that part of the world. This, in microcosm, represented the dynamic that Obama intended to replicate on a much larger scale over the course of his presidency.
We saw this again with Obama’s staunch support of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist leader of Turkey, who had actively supported a terrorist act against Israel via the Gaza flotilla incident of 2010. Under Erdogan, Israeli-Turkish relations have deteriorated badly, with Erdogan even running diplomatic interference for Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Here too, the intention was to reinforce yet another overtly hostile Islamist regime near Israel’s frontiers.
An American cartoonist once penned a panel in which a perplexed homeowner is surveying the broken glass scattered over his living room floor, after a rock had just been thrown through the window. Attached to the rock is a note: “Rocks thrown through your window? Call Al’s Glass Repair!” This is the essential dynamic Obama has been manufacturing for Israel: Surround her with violently hostile regimes in order to increase her sense of vulnerability and isolation, regimes over which the U.S. under Obama would have at least some influence – because of his role in installing them – that would in turn make Israel that much more likely to make any concession to U.S. demands (i.e., regarding the Palestinians), in order to secure U.S. “protection”.
Even the Libyan war fit in with this dynamic. Under Qaddafi, while no friend of Israel, Libya had become a more “moderate” player in the region. While he paid lip service to the Palestinian issue, Qaddafi was not about to go out of his way to support Israel’s enemies in any substantial way. His ouster has led to a state of chaos in Libya, which is now little more than a collection of terrorist factions, and more importantly, a major source of arms for radical groups opposing Israel, such as Hamas in Gaza. The overthrow of Morsi in 2013 may have put a major roadblock into this particular scheme – Egypt’s new leaders have cracked down hard on arms smuggling to Gaza – and there are now rumors afloat that the American CIA under Obama is now organizing groups in Libya to target and destabilize Egypt, in order to bring the MB back into power there. These are just rumors…but given Obama’s known behavior up to now, such rumors are very credible nonetheless.
The crisis in Syria that unfolded in August/September of 2013, however, posed a particularly complex problem for Obama, given his agenda.
On the one hand, it seemed that Obama wanted to indulge his knee-jerk instincts and install another MB regime on Israel’s frontier. By August of last year, the Western-oriented, democratic secular elements of the opposition had been largely sidelined. So, if the rebels won, Obama would have another MB mad dog with which to threaten Israel. This prospect was given added urgency by the recent loss of Obama’s favored MB regime in Egypt in July 2013, when a military coup d’état deposed Morsi.
But threatening Assad’s hold on power could mean a major Syrian attack on Israel; Assad made explicit warnings of this nature at that time. An all-out attack on Israel by Syria in the immediate wake of U.S. strikes would increase public sympathy for Israel, virtually force Obama to treat Israel materially as an ally within the context of a serious shooting war, and distract greatly from the bogus peace talks with the PA that Obama had strong-armed Israel into re-starting.
Thus, Obama’s usual foreign policy compass no longer worked. He was now truly lost at sea.
Consequently, Obama, having set his “red lines”, had to come up with a “middle way” to demonstrate U.S. credibility; a “limited strike” that would not threaten Assad’s rule. This made no sense to anyone, perhaps not even to Obama. He needed a way out. Russia provided it. He happily took it. The ultimate result being that for the first time in history, Russia successfully vetoed U.S. action in an area of vital interest. This chain of events showcased the most dramatic decline in U.S. international influence and standing since at least the fall of Saigon nearly 40 years ago, if not ever.
Also, as yet another indicator of Obama’s priorities, one might consider the obvious fact of what had taken up the overwhelming majority of Secretary of State John Kerry’s time since the latter had been appointed to that post. Like his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, he has spent an outrageously disproportionate amount of effort towards badgering Israel over the Palestinian issue. The peace talks have at last collapsed this past spring, but this writer predicts that Obama is not done with this “project” of his; more on that in a moment.
Here, one might want to take a moment, by means of providing contrast, if you will, to examine the real importance Obama attaches to his much ballyhooed domestic agenda of transforming the U.S. into a European-style “social democracy”, as commentators such as Bret Stephens allege.
Consider the Affordable Health Care Act. This was Obama’s central piece of domestic policy legislation. For the remainder of American history, where domestic policy is concerned, it is this program that will be associated with Obama, which is truly his “signature” piece of legislation, given its informal appellation, “Obamacare”.
Wouldn’t it seem more than intuitive for a national leader, such as Obama, to place maximum effort at ensuring that this legislation was rolled out competently? Yet apparently, despite the fact that his name is on this policy to a degree that eclipses everything else he has done or attempted to do thus far as president, he had largely ignored this issue. He had spent very little effort in even building the legislation; this was mostly the project of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Obama served primarily as the “pitchman”, attempted to sell it to the public (he failed), but delegated the actual writing and implementation to others, with virtually no active executive leadership or oversight role of his own. It has been and continues to be a total disaster, yet rather than address its flaws and make it more workable, Obama simply postpones its implementation, and in doing so, exceeds his executive authority under the U.S. Constitution. He really doesn’t seem to genuinely care about making this happen at all; it appears to be a giant smokescreen.
Thus, when one looks at Obama’s actual, personal role, it seems that turning America into a “social democracy” is not of such great importance to him. Yes, it is important to many in his administration, who rode his coattails into the halls of power in order to pursue such an agenda. But if one examines where he personally places his priorities, as evidenced by his direct involvement, one issue stands out far above all others: undermining Israel. Going forward, what can Obama do about Israel, per his clearly demonstrated preferences and agenda?
After the mid-term elections this year, Obama will have nothing left to lose that he personally cares about. Whatever damage he will do from that point forward to the Democratic Party, to America’s standing in the world, to our economy, will all amount to, so far as he Is concerned, “the mess that the next president has to deal with”. This means that he will feel truly free to deal with Israel in a manner of unprecedented hostility, with minimal if nonexistent domestic political constraints.
His policies have predictably led to an increase in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, as he has never held the Palestinians accountable for anything. No matter the facts, in the wake of the collapsed talks, he has used his stooges and proxies (e.g., Indyk, Kerry, plus much of the mainstream media), to heap blame on Israel for the failure of the peace talks, in order to set up Israel in the public mind as being “deserving” of the consequences she will soon be facing. As Israel is pushed to more dramatic levels of military action in order to defend herself against growing terrorist pressure – as we are now seeing in Gaza as of this writing - this writer predicts that Obama will ultimately abandon Israel in the UN, leaving her to twist in the wind as a pariah state. He’ll stand by as the UNSC passes binding sanctions against her, in order to strangle her politically and economically. Such a scenario may push Israel into extreme actions indeed, but this may not turn out as Obama believes it will.
July 16, 2014