by Bob Quasius – John Sununu has described Obama’s handling of the crisis in the Middle East as “amateur hour.” Obama and Hillary Clinton are “leading from behind.” No wonder not many of their peers respect Obama or Hillary Clinton!
Sununu is entirely correct, except this isn’t a recent phenomenon. Obama’s foreign policy has been “amateur hour” from day one of his failed administration! The Obama presidency has experienced a long series of foreign policy failures, and the Libyan consulate terror attack debacle is just the latest.
In his 2008 campaign for president, part of Obama’s often repeated ‘hope and change’ agenda was to transform foreign policy with more dialog, specifically promising to sit down and meet one-on-one with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, with no preconditions. Last week, numerous foreign leaders including Egypt’s new president and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to meet with Obama, but appearances on “The View” and Letterman shows took priority over meeting foreign leaders from a region on the brink of a major regional war.
During his campaign, Obama also said:
I truly believe that the day I’m inaugurated, not only does the country look at itself differently, but the world looks at America differently. If I’m reaching out to the Muslim world, they understand that I’ve lived in a Muslim country, and I may be a Christian, but I also understand their point of view…
My sister is half-Indonesian. I traveled there all the way through my college years. And so I’m intimately concerned with what happens in these countries, and the cultures and the perspectives that these folks have. And those are powerful tools for us to be able to reach out to the world.
Listen to the original interview, Obama’s narcissism is obvious. Having a half-sister who is Muslim, traveling to Pakistan, and a few years living in Indonesia as a boy does not make one an expert on Islam or foreign relations, but Obama arrogantly thinks it does, and his foreign policy reflects his narcissism. Unfortunately Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is just as clueless.
Four years later, Obama has yet to meet with any of these leaders except for a brief encounter with Hugo Chavez at a Latin American conference, in which Hugo Chavez ‘punked’ Obama by giving him the book “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent“, which caused the book to become an overnight best seller! The plain and simple fact is these leaders aren’t interested in meeting with Obama. Iran has shown interest in dialog at times, mostly when they feel threatened about their nuclear program, but then when they meet with the west they refuse to budge on anything, and it becomes apparent they are looking to buy time to complete their quest for a nuclear bomb.
Amateur night at the Obama State Department began with the appointment of Hillary Clinton, whose foreign policy experience was limited to sipping tea with first ladies of other nations. Her U.S. Senate career notably didn’t include any committee assignments dealing with foreign relations, and she had little administrative experience other than running a U.S. Senate or first lady staff, hardly comparable with a cabinet level position with thousands of employees worldwide.
Nearly every Secretary of State has had in-depth foreign policy experience, senior level military experience, and often cabinet level experience leading other departments as well. During the past 50 years, only two Secretaries of State stand out with a notable lack of depth in foreign policy and/or senior level administrative or military experience: Hillary Clinton and Edmund Muskie. Edmund Muskie was one of Jimmy Carter’s Secretaries of State, with no prior foreign relations experience or cabinet level leadership experience. Like Hillary, Muskie was a U.S. Senator, but unlike Hillary Muskie had administrative experience as governor of Maine for four years during the 1950s. Here’s a summary of the secretaries of state for the past 65 years along with their relevant experience prior to becoming Secretary of State:
- Condoleeza Rice, 2005-2009, PhD in Political Science from Josef Korbel School of International Studies, worked for State Department during Carter administration, National Security Adviser (2001-2005), National Security Council Soviet expert under George H.W. Bush. Multilingual.
- Colin Powell: National Security Adviser (1987-89), and four star general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during first Gulf War, which entailed extensive relationship management with our foreign allies.
- Madeleine Albright: Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, multilingual
- Warren Christopher: 43 years of prior diplomatic experience including negotiating treaties, Deputy Secretary of State, etc.
- Lawrence Eagleburger: Career diplomat with the U.S. State Department
- James Baker: Undersecretary of Commerce under Ford, Treasury Secretary under Reagan (negotiated multilateral Plaza accord, also worked on Baker Plan, before becoming Secretary of State.
- George Schultz: Secretary of Labor, Director of OMB, then Secretary of Treasury.
- Alexander Haig: Extensive military career, including Supreme Commander of NATO, senior level Pentagon assignments, Military adviser to Henry Kissinger, Deputy Assistant National Security Adviser.
- Edmund Muskie: Governor of Maine, U.S. Senator, no prior foreign policy experience or cabinet secretary or undersecretary experience.
- Cyrus Vance: Secretary of Army, Secretary of Defense, delegate to Paris peace talks.
- Henry Kissinger: National Security Adviser, extensive academic career in foreign relations, consultant to National Security Council, Study Director in Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, author of book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, consultant to the Operations Research Office, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Department of State.
- William Simon, Deputy Attorney General, Attorney General, U.S. delegation to the 20th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in 1965, on the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee for Southwest Africa
- Dean Rusk: Leadership positions in military intelligence during WWII, assistant chief of the Division of International Security Affairs, in the Department of State’s Office of Special Political Affairs, special assistant to Secretary of War Robert Patterson, State Department Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Deputy Under Secretary of State, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
- Christian Archibald Herter: Secretary of the U.S. Commission at Paris peace talks following WWI, Executive Secretary of the European Relief Council 1920-21, Governor of Massachusetts, Undersecretary of State.
- John Foster Dulles: legal counsel to the United States delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference, member of the War Reparations Committee, participated in the San Francisco Conference (to form UN) and helped draft the preamble to the United Nations Charter. He subsequently attended the United Nations General Assembly as a United States delegate in 1946, 1947 and 1950.
- Dean Acheson: Under Secretary of the Treasury, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, Under Secretary of State for Secretary of State, represented the United States in negotiations that led to the creation of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Monetary Fund.
- George Marshall: Extensive military career, rising to five star general and Army Chief of Staff during WWII, formulated the Marshall Plan for relief of war ravaged nations, for which he received a Nobel Prize.
The first evidence that amateurs are in charge of the State Department came at this meeting with Russia’s foreign minister, where Hillary presented a “reset” button which was misspelled and really said “over charge.” It’s hard to fathom that the State Department seemingly did not have a Russian language expert to catch an embarrassing mistake like that!
The numerous foreign policy failures of the Obama administration have become painfully evident. To summarize just a few:
- Obama’s infamous ‘apology’ tours in which he apologized for the sins of past administrations, admitting torture, promising to close Guantánamo, etc. Obama insisted the Muslim Brotherhood attend his Cairo speech, though that organization had been banned for engaging in terrorism, and no doubt the invitation gave the Muslim Brotherhood credibility. In a region of the world where showing strength is paramount, and showing weakness is often considered an invitation to aggression, Obama showed weakness and a taste for appeasement.
- Obama also bowed to the Saudi King Abdullah and to Japan’s emperor Akihito, though there is no custom of bowing in either situation. Heads of state don’t bow to each other in the Middle East, while in Japan, bowing is a custom, but people of equal stature bow equally, and often Japanese offer their hand for a handshake to foreigners, as did Emperor Akihito to Obama. Surely it’s reasonable to expect a State Department expert to brief President Obama on diplomatic protocol, but that obviously didn’t happen!
- Not surprisingly, eight months later Obama called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down, without due consideration of who would take his place. By throwing one of our best friends in the region ‘under the bus’ Obama demonstrated to other foreign leaders that the U.S. is not trustworthy as an ally. We all remember what happened when Jimmy Carter threw another friend, the Shah of Iran, ‘under the bus.’ In this video of a prominent Muslim Brotherhood Imam giving the speech launching the presidential campaign of Mohammed Morsi, the cleric urges the crowd to become martyrs, march on Jerusalem, brandish weapons, etc. The notorious terror group Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, so naturally at a Muslim Brotherhood rally they talk about Hamas!
Clearly there are prominent radicals in the Muslim Brotherhood which should have caused alarm in the Obama administration, but instead reportedly Obama administration leaders were celebrating when Morsi won!
- The weakness advertised by Carter led to an embassy hostage crisis that lasted over a year, and ended when Ronald Reagan – perceived as strong – was about to take office. Iran became the world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism, and now Iran is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons. The weakness shown by the U.S. wasn’t overlooked by Osama Bin Laden, who took note of how the U.S. reacted to terrorism and said “the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in retreat.” To be certain, the Shah didn’t meet our democratic values, but Democracy was relatively unknown in that region of the world then. Under Ayatollah Khomeini, more dissidents were killed in a single day than during the entire reign of the Shah. Over 30 years later, the theocratic regime in Iran continues to be one of the world’s most brutally repressive.
- Iran’s regime has become even more radicalized in recent years, despite decades of economic sanctions that were supposed to change Iran’s behavior but hasn’t changed much of anything. Iran’s first Ayatollah head of state, Ayatollah Khomeini, considered the 12th Iman cult dangerous and banned it. Most of Iran’s present leaders are full fledged supporters of the 12th Imam cult, which believes the Mahdi, or 12th Imam, will return to establish a worldwide caliphate following a period of extreme bloodshed. What do you suppose leaders who believe in this cult would do with nuclear weapons? Extreme bloodshed from using nukes perhaps? In 2009, leaders of Iran’s Democracy Movement “Greens” wrote an eight page letter to the Obama administration, as reported by the Washington Examiner the memo describes the current regime under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “brutal, apocalyptic theocratic dictatorship.”
So now, at this pivotal point in time, it is up to the countries of the free world to make up their mind. Will they continue on the track of wishful thinking and push every decision to the future until it is too late, or will they reward the brave people of Iran and simultaneously advance the Western interests and world peace.
with its apocalyptic constitution will never give up the atomic bomb, nor will it give up its terror network, because it needs these instruments to maintain its power and enhance its own economic and financial wealth.”
- Presumably Obama and Hillary Clinton thought helping Iran’s Green movement would stand in the way of talks, and pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Iran were brutally suppressed, and many paid the ultimate price for wanting what Obama spoke of from Cairo: democracy and freedom. Although Iran’s leaders have repeatedly stated for years they weren’t interested in talks with the U.S. Multilateral talks finally took place this year to persuade Iran to abandon it’s nuclear program, and not surprisingly Iran was not willing to make any concessions, demonstrating their interest in ‘talks’ was to forestall Israeli military actions to destroy their nuclear facilities. Iran is now just a few months away from achieving their leader’s long term mad dream: nuclear weapons with which to terrorize Israel and the U.S. Meanwhile, while Obama failed to lift a finger to help Iran’s democracy movement overthrow a brutal regime that endangers the U.S. and important allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, Obama has encouraged the “Arab Spring”, leading to toppling of leaders who for the most part were authoritarian but most were also allies of the U.S., with the exception of Ghadaffi. However, now it is emerging that one significant element of the “Arab Spring” movement is radical fundamentalists, many of whom have ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Hopefully the “Arab Spring” will succeed and these nations will become full fledged democracies, but we must also bear in mind that Iranian style regimes that actively support terrorism will emerge and threaten world security.
- During 2009, the Obama administration severely bungled the Honduran constitutional crisis, and in Latin American Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers continue to gain control of other nations, turning them into communist states. The Honduran constitutional crisis began when newly elected president Mel Zelaya decided he’d like to follow in Hugo Chavez’s and Daniel Ortega’s footsteps. Zelaya called for a national referendum in which his powers would be greatly expanded and term limits removed. The Supreme Court told Zelaya that he lacked the authority under the constitution to call for a referendum, and ordered the ballots impounded. Zelaya held a huge protest rally in Hondura’s capital, Tegucigalpa, then loaded thousands of demonstrators onto buses which went to the airport and overpowered the guards, seizing the ballots despite the court order. The courts ordered Zelaya’s arrest, and on the morning of the referendum the Army arrested Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. In the presidential palace was found enormous sums of cash to pay bribes, and the election computers showed that Zelaya’s referendum won, though not a single vote had been cast! The next-in-line for the presidency was sworn into office. However, Obama promptly labeled Zelaya’s removal a “military coup” though the Honduran military simply followed their orders from the Supreme Court, and never seized power. The messaging about this was dreadful. The U.S. spent decades prodding Honduras to adopt civilian democratic government rather than rule by military junta, and Honduras has been ruled by elected civilian leaders since 1979, a government with three branches and checks and balances as in the U.S., and a vigorous two party system that has likely spared Honduras from the bloody civil wars seen throughout Central American. In effect, the message sent by Obama was that democracy is good only when the outcome is that leftists win, and never mind the constitution and ‘rule of law’ if they stand in the way of a leftist winning complete control.
- Later in 2009, Obama and Clinton managed to bungle the diplomacy for a planned anti-ballistic missile system, which would have helped protect Europe from missiles from rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Russia was vehemently opposed to these anti-missile defense systems. There were some rational policy considerations for scrapping the anti-missile defense systems and using the funds elsewhere, but the Obama administration unilaterally scrapped the systems without negotiating anything in return from Russia. To make matters worse, our new Eastern European allies Poland and Czechoslovakia had already agreed to the anti-missile systems, and were not told of Obama’s decision before it was made public. The presidents of Poland and Czechoslovakia learned of the cancellation the same way the rest of us did, from TV!
Bob Quasius is founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans