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In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is The Thing To Do


The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here’s one Americans shouldn’t miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it, things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

The foreign-policy “experts” in both major political parties, and the intelligentsia generally, think otherwise. No matter who holds power, we can expect the opposition to complain that the chief executive poorly anticipated and thus improperly responded to world events.

If this charge weren’t so ominous, it would be comical to hear Republicans berating Barack Obama for failing to be “proactive,” for repeatedly being caught by surprise, and for not exerting “American leadership” to keep the world’s hot spots under control and, most important, in harmony with “American interests.”
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Obama's Self-Made Foreign Policy Problem

The Obama Administration is talking too much.

Kerry went to Egypt, delivered money and weapons, and was shown the finger over his human rights laments. Kerry went to Iraq, delivered some military support, and demanded a "unity government." Maliki's government already includes Kurds and Sunnis and he just won elections. So Kerry gets shown the finger. Kerry went to Erbil and demanded that the Kurds stick to Iraq. They have all the oil they want. Kerry gets shown the finger. Obama wants more sanctions on Russia but needs the Europeans to join. But why should the Europeans ruin their economies over this? Obama will be likely shown the finger.

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Trivial Pursuit: Obama Versus the Interventionists

Angry Obama

American politics is largely a series of debates over unimportant details. These debates are conducted far above the fundamental level because the supposed contenders share the same premises. Where they disagree is at the level of application, and so the disagreements end up being fairly minor, especially if you think the premises are wrong.

This is an especially pronounced feature of what passes for foreign-policy debate within the accepted range of opinion. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Barack Obama’s address to the West Point graduates the other day. In that address, as in other speeches on foreign policy, Obama tried to position himself in what he likes to portray as the reasonable center. On the one side is “isolationism”: “It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option. We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.” On the other are those he calls “the interventionists from the left and right”:
U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your Commander-in-Chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.
Note how Obama stakes out his “moderate” position between isolationism and interventionism. To do this he has to misrepresent what he stigmatizes as “isolationism” and create a straw man in order to place himself in opposition to the interventionists.
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The Unwelcome Return of Navi Pillay

Navi Pillay

You could very well say that Navi Pillay was more than anyone else the person responsible for NATO’s disastrous invasion of Libya. As UN Human Rights Commissioner she chaired that fateful meeting in February, 2011 where Libyan NGO leader Soliman Bouchuiguir was allowed to repeat incredible tales about the “massacres” taking place in Libya – tales he openly admitted after the NATO invasion he had just made up. “There is no evidence,” he exclaimed when asked after the invasion to back up his claims, which were the basis of the chain of events that led to NATO bombing.

The first link in that chain was the UN Human Rights Commission hearing chaired by Pillay, where Bouchuiguir’s lies led to the suspension of Libya from that body and the referral of the Libya issue to the UN Security Council. At the hearing, Pillay took her cue from the falsifier Bouchuiguir, exclaiming that, “The Libyan leader must stop the violence now.” Eventually the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, cracking the interventionist door to Libya, which NATO very soon kicked open.
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The Wishful Thinking Left: Unwitting Agents of the Imperial Order

Once upon a time, in the early 1970′s, many people, including myself, thought that all the “struggles” of that period were linked: the Cultural Revolution in China, the guerillas in Latin America, the Prague Spring and the East European “dissidents”, May 68, the civil rights movement, the opposition to the Vietnam war, and the nominally socialist anti-colonial movements in Africa and Asia. We also thought that the “fascist” regimes in Spain, Portugal and Greece, by analogy with WWII, could only be overthrown through armed struggle, very likely protracted.

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US Set to Launch 'Iraq, The Sequel', in Syria

Missile Strike

If you liked the run up to the US attack on Iraq, with the lurid fictional tales of mobile chemical weapons labs and Saddam's nukes, you will love "Iraq, The Sequel", currently unfolding in Syria. It is everything the interventionists have been hoping for: a heady brew of Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya all rolled into one. The possibility for an infinitely more toxic conflagration is exponentially higher, to boot, adding for the interventionists much excitement to the mix.

Here is the latest:

A fourth US warship capable of launching the type of cruise missiles that turned Libya to rubble and paved the way for al-Qaeda affiliates to take control of that country is now rushing to the waters off of Syria, ready to unleash destruction. Chuck Hagel, who some antiwar commentators foolishly believed would put an end to Washington's military adventurism, is feverishly preparing plans for President Obama to attack. The media worldwide,  interventionist to the core, is pushing willing leaders in the US, France, and the UK to finally treat Syria to another devastating "liberation."

What has prompted this sudden dramatic move just over the past few days toward a Western invasion of Syria? A pretext. A claimed chemical attack near Damascus that has produced, according to an estimate from Médecins Sans Frontières, perhaps some 300 deaths. It is unclear whether a bona fide chemical attack has taken place, and it is even more unclear who might be responsible should the attack indeed be the work of some chemical agent. Yet all of a sudden another Washington/Paris/London war is to be set in motion. How banal the triggers for war have become. Almost like a video game.
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Washington’s Hegemonic Ambition and U.S. Policy Toward Syria (excerpts)

What really drives American foreign a post-Cold War determination on the part of the United States to dominate the Middle East, to play a hegemonic role in the Middle East,  to micromanage political outcomes in key Middle Eastern states so that those states’ strategic orientation is subordinated to U.S. foreign policy preferences and the Middle East has a regional order which is essentially run by the United States.

When you look at the situation in Syria, it’s obvious that many innocent people have been killed, and that is a profound tragedy.  But I think that the narrative in the West — that this was basically a peaceful protest by Syrians that was responded to brutally, and these people took all of this violence until a year later, eighteen months later, they had to start responding violently — I don’t think that’s really the way things played out. Outside powers — the Saudis, others — were pouring money and weapons into Syria from a very early point.
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