Saturday, April 23, 2011
Obama's altruistic foreign policy
If only in the interest of intellectual hygiene, it would be refreshing if the Obama administration would stop ascribing moral impetuses to its foreign policy.
Today, US forces are engaged in a slowly escalating war on behalf of al-Qaida penetrated antiregime forces in Libya. It is difficult to know the significance of al-Qaida's role in the opposition forces because to date, the self-proclaimed rebel government has only disclosed 10 of its 31 members.
Indeed, according to The New York Times, the NATO-backed opposition to dictator Muammar Gaddafi is so disorganized that it cannot even agree about who the commander of its forces is.
And yet, despite the fact that the Obama administration has no clear notion of who is leading the fight against Gaddafi or what they stand for, this week the White House informed Congress that it will begin directly funding the al-Qaida-linked rebels, starting with $25 million in non-lethal material. This aid, like the NATO no-fly zone preventing Gaddafi from using his air force, and the British military trainers now being deployed to Libya to teach the rebels to fight, will probably end up serving no greater end then prolonging the current stalemate. With the Obama administration unwilling to enforce the no-fly zone with US combat aircraft, unwilling to take action to depose Gaddafi and unwilling to cultivate responsible, pro-Western successors to Gaddafi, the angry tyrant will probably remain in power indefinitely.
In and of itself, the fact that the war has already reached a stalemate constitutes a complete failure of the administration's stated aim of protecting innocent Libyan civilians from slaughter.
Not only are both the regime forces and the rebel forces killing civilians daily. Due to both sides' willingness to use civilians as human shields, NATO forces unable to differentiate between fighters and civilians and so they too are killing their share of civilians.
In deciding in favor of military intervention on the basis of a transnational legal doctrine never accepted as law by the US Congress called "responsibility to protect," President Barack Obama was reportedly swayed by the arguments of his senior national security adviser Samantha Power. Over the past 15 years, Power has fashioned herself into a celebrity policy wonk by cultivating a public persona of herself as a woman moved by the desire to prevent genocide. In a profile of Power in the current issue of the National Journal, Jacob Heilbrunn explains, "Power is not just an advocate for human rights. She is an outspoken crusader against genocide..."
Heilbrunn writes that Power's influence over Obama and her celebrity status has made her the leader of a new US foreign policy elite. "This elite," he writes, "is united by a shared belief that American foreign policy must be fundamentally transformed from an obsession with national interests into a broader agenda that seeks justice for women and minorities, and promotes democracy whenever and wherever it can -- at the point of a cruise missile if necessary."
As the prolonged slaughter in Libya and expected continued failure of the NATO mission make clear, Power and her new foreign policy elite have so far distinguished themselves mainly by their gross incompetence.
But then, even if the Libyan mission were crowned in success, it wouldn't make the moral pretentions of the US adventure there any less disingenuous. And this is not simply because the administration-backed rebels include al-Qaida fighters.
The fact is that the moral arguments used for intervening militarily on behalf of Gaddafi's opposition pale in comparison to the moral arguments for intervening in multiple conflicts where the Obama administration refuses to lift a finger. At a minimum, this moral inconsistency renders it impossible for the Obama administration to credibly embrace the mantel of moral actor on the world stage.
Consider the administration's Afghanistan policy.
Over the past week, the White House and the State Department have both acknowledged that administration officials are conducting negotiations with the Taliban.
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration's policy. During a memorial service for the late ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who at the time of his death last December was the most outspoken administration figure advocating engaging Mullah Omar and his followers, Clinton said, "Those who found negotiations with the Taliban distasteful got a very powerful response from Richard - diplomacy would be easy if we only had to talk to our friends."
Of course, the Taliban are not simply not America's friends. They are the enemy of every good and decent human impulse. The US went to war against the Taliban in 2001 because the Bush administration rightly held them accountable for Osama bin Laden and his terror army which the Taliban sponsored, hosted and sheltered on its territory.
But the Taliban are America's enemy not just because they bear responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the US. They are the enemy of the US because they are evil monsters.
Apparently, the supposedly moral, anti-genocidal, pro-women Obama administration needs to be reminded why it is not merely distasteful but immoral to engage the Taliban. So here it goes.
Under the Taliban, the women and girls of Afghanistan were the most oppressed, most terrorized, most endangered group of people in the world. Women and girls were denied every single human right. They were effectively prisoners in their homes, allowed on the streets only when fully covered and escorted by a male relative.
They were denied the right to education, work and medical care. Women who failed to abide in full by these merciless rules were beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and stoned to death.
The Taliban's barbaric treatment of women and girls probably couldn't have justified their overthrow at the hands of the US military. But it certainly justified the US's refusal to even consider treating them like legitimate political actors in the 10 years since NATO forces first arrived in Afghanistan. And yet, the self-proclaimed champions of the downtrodden in the administration are doing the morally unjustifiable. They are negotiating, and so legitimizing the most diabolical sexual tyranny known to man. Obama, Clinton, Power and their colleagues are now shamelessly advancing a policy that increases the likelihood that the Taliban will again rise to power and enslave Afghanistan's women and girls once more.
Then there is Syria. In acts of stunning courage, despite massive regime violence that has killed approximately two hundred people in three weeks, anti-regime protesters in Syria are not standing down. Instead, they are consistently escalating their protests. They have promised that the demonstrations after Friday prayers this week will dwarf the already unprecedented country-wide protests we have seen to date.
In the midst of the Syrian demonstrators' calls for freedom from one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East, the Obama administration has sided with their murderous dictator Bashar Assad, referring to him as a "reformer."
As Heibrunn notes in his profile of Power, she and her colleagues find concerns about US national interests parochial at best and immoral at worst. Her clear aim -- and that of her boss - has been to separate US foreign policy from US interests by tethering it to transnational organizations like the UN.
Given the administration's contempt for policy based on US national interests, it would be too much to expect the White House to notice that Syria's Assad regime is one of the greatest state supporters of terrorism in the world and that its overthrow would be a body blow to Iran, Venezuela, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida and therefore a boon for US national security.
In theory, the Syrian opposition presents the likes of Obama and Power with what ought to be a serious moral dilemma. First, they seem to fit the precise definition of the sort of people that the transnationalists have a responsibility to protect.
They are being gunned down by the dozen as they march with olive branches and demand change they can believe in. Moreover, their plan for ousting Assad involves subordinating him to the transnationalists at the UN.
According to a report last week in The Washington Times, Washington-based representatives of several Syrian opposition groups have asked the administration to do three things in support of the opposition, all of which are consonant with the administration's own oft stated foreign policy preferences.
They have requested that Obama condemn the regime's murderous actions in front of television cameras. They have asked the administration to initiate an investigation of Assad's murderous response to the demonstrations at the UN Human Rights Council. And they have asked the administration to enact unilateral sanctions against a few Syrian leaders who have given troops the orders to kill the protesters.
The administration has not responded to the request to act against Assad at the UN Human Rights Council. It has refused the opposition's other two requests.
These responses are no surprise in light of the Obama administration's abject and consistent refusal to take any steps that could help Iran's pro-democracy, pro-women's rights, pro-Western opposition Green Movement in its nearly two-year-old struggle to overthrow the nuclear proliferating, terror-supporting, genocide-inciting, elections-stealing mullocracy.
Power's personal contribution to the shocking moral failings of the administration's foreign policy is of a piece with her known hostility towards Israel. That hostility, which involves a moral inversion of the reality of the Palestinian war against Israel, was most graphically exposed in a 2002 interview. Then, at the height of the Palestinian terror war against Israel, when Palestinian terrorists from Hamas and Fatah alike were carrying out daily attacks whose clear aim was the massacre of as many Israeli civilians as possible simply because they were Israelis, Power said in a filmed interview that she supported deploying a "mammoth" US military force to Israel to protect the Palestinians from the IDF.
In periodic attempts to convince credulous pro-Israel writers that she doesn't actually support invading Israel, Power has claimed that her statements calling for just such an invasion and additional remarks in which she blamed American Jews for US support of Israel were inexplicable lapses of judgment.
But then there have been so many lapses in judgment in her behavior and in the actions of the administration she serves that it is hard to see where the lapses begin and the judgment ends. Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Israel are only the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere from Honduras to Venezuela, from Britain to Russia, from Colombia to Cuba, Japan to China, Egypt to Lebanon, to Poland and the Czech Republic and beyond, those lapses in judgment are informing policies that place the US consistently on the side of aggressors against their victims.
Back in the pre-Obama days, when US foreign policy was supposed to serve US interests, it would have mattered that these policies all weaken the US and its allies and empower its foes. But now, in the era of the purely altruistic Obama administration, none of that matters.
What does matter is that the purely altruistic Obama foreign policy is empowering genocidal, misogynist, bigoted tyrants worldwide.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.