John on February 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm
We’ll start with Charles Krauthammer who helpfully sums up a few of the provocations aimed at probing Obama’s backbone:
Consider the long list of brazen Russian provocations:
(a) Pressuring Kyrgyzstan to shut down the U.S. air base in Manas, an absolutely crucial NATO conduit into Afghanistan.
(b) Announcing the formation of a “rapid reaction force” with six former Soviet republics, a regional Russian-led strike force meant to reassert Russian hegemony in the Muslim belt north of Afghanistan.
(c) Planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in Georgia’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, conquered by Moscow last summer.
(d) Declaring its intention to deploy offensive Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead with plans to station an American (anti-Iranian) missile defense system.
President Bush’s response to the Kaliningrad deployment — the threat was issued the day after Obama’s election — was firm. He refused to back down because giving in to Russian threats would leave Poles and Czechs exposed and show the world that, contrary to post-Cold War assumptions, the United States could not be trusted to protect Eastern Europe from Russian bullying.
The Obama response? “Biden Signals U.S. Is Open to Russia Missile Deal,” as the New York Times headlined Biden’s Feb. 7 Munich speech to a major international gathering. This followed strong messages from the Obama transition team even before the inauguration that Obama was not committed to the missile shield. And just to make sure everyone understood that the Bush policy no longer held, Biden said in Munich that the United States wanted to “press the reset button” on NATO-Russian relations.
Unfortunately, we’re just getting started. Gateway Pundit notes that a story in the Telegraph indicates that Obama has tacitly approved a plan to turn a large portion of Waziristan over to the Taliban:
American officials have privately backed Pakistan’s “Sharia law for peace” deal with Taliban militants in the Swat Valley despite publicly criticising it as a “negative development”.
The deal, under which Sharia law will be introduced in the Malakhand and Kohistan districts of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province if Taliban militants end their armed campaign in the Swat Valley, has been met with alarm by Nato chiefs and British and American officials.
Land for peace always works out so well, so why not give the Taliban a stronghold even as we plan to send 17K more US troops into A-stan. What could go wrong?
Then of course there’s Syria. Claudi Rosett reports on Obama’s softening toward that murderous tyranny:
News emerged this week that the U.S. Department of Commerce has just approved a license allowing Boeing to go ahead with major overhauls of two 747 jetliners belonging to Syria’s state-owned Syrian Arab Airlines. The administration itself has been coy on the subject. In response to my query, a Commerce spokesman e-mailed a statement that such license requests are granted on a case-by-case basis, and Commerce cannot comment on specific instances.
More eagerly, Syria’s state news agency hustled out an announcement on Tuesday, Feb. 10, saying that the “U.S. Trade Department agrees to provide spare parts for rehabilitating Syrian Airlines.”
Bringing two commercial planes back up to speed may seem a minor matter, and Boeing’s spokesman says that for the company’s purposes, the only concern is aircraft safety. Except this aircraft repair looks like the leading edge of an Obama diplomatic overhaul involving a host of high-level appointments, envoys, concessions and complex calculations about trying to wean Syria away from Iran, engage Damascus in brokering yet more of the endless Middle East “peace process,” temper terrorism and generally create a new atmosphere of what Obama describes as “mutual respect” between Washington and Damascus.
The realistic scenario is that Obama, hand extended to Damascus, is setting himself up for a sucker punch–potentially at great cost not only to America and Israel but to other democratic states and any democratic dissidents inside Syria who have not yet vanished into the care of Assad’s secret police.
In extending a hand to Assad, Obama is reaching out to a regime which may well have some shared interests with the U.S.– including an interest in Boeing aircraft parts. Damascus has many more shared interests, however, with tyrannies and terrorists dedicated to the destruction of America’s democratic way of life, which runs counter not only to what those tyrannies and terrorists do, but what they are. Obama might take a moment to recall the uses to which even commercial aircraft, in such hands, have been directed.
Obama is also reportedly planning to remove Syria off the US State Sponsors of Terror watch list. If Syria — funder of Hezbollah and implicated in the murder of a former Lebanese President — does not belong on such a list then the list itself is meaningless.
Finally, Obama’s administration commented favorably on the recent power grab by Hugo Chavez:
On the surface, Chavez’s referendum to lift all term limits â€” which he won 55% to 45% â€” had the lifelike look of demo-cracy. And if it were only about votes, it might be true.
In reality, Sunday’s referendum, Venezuela’s 14th since 1998, wasn’t about voice and choice. It was a manipulative maneuver using voters’ fear, exhaustion and capacity to be bought to make Chavez president for life in an elected dictatorship.
That’s why the Obama administration’s praise for this phony facade of democracy was dispiriting: “We congratulate the civic and participatory spirit of the millions of Venezuelans who exercised their democratic right to vote,” a State Department spokesman said, breaking past policy of not commenting on Venezuela’s referenda.
Although he noted “troubling reports of intimidation” of voters, he called the referendum “fully consistent with the democratic process” and high-mindedly urged Venezuelan officials to “focus on governing democratically.”
The trouble with these courtesies is that the “governing-democratically” horse left the barn long ago, and the current praise gives Chavez legitimacy. After being driven bonkers by the silent treatment of the Bush administration, this was what he wanted. But not if he had to govern democratically to get it.
Regular readers may recall that Chavez was uncovered as a friend of communist FARC thugs just last Spring. Why in God’s name would the US praise this demented autocrat?
I haven’t even bothered to mention Obama’s stance toward Iran. And what have we gotten for all this newfound kindness? As Ace notes, absolutely nothing:
US hopes of securing more troops for Afghanistan from its Nato allies were disappointed on Thursday as European countries refused to offer up many more soldiers despite pleas from Robert Gates, US defence secretary.
At a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in the Polish city of Krakow, Mr Gates said the new US administration “is prepared to make additional commitments to Afghanistan. But there clearly will be expectations that the allies must do more as well”.
In a tangible sign of the importance the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, is placing on Afghanistan, Washington has said it will send an additional 17,000 soldiers to boost the 38,000 troops already there.
However, other Nato allies, which have about 30,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, were prepared to offer only several hundred more to help secure the country during forthcoming elections, while Poland, host of the meeting, said it had no plans to increase its forces above the 1,600 already in theatre.
So this whole thing about being beloved around the world doesn’t really seem to translate into any actual support. The bottom line here is that America is well on its way to getting rolled by a collection of thugs and dictators and our friends and allies don’t seem to care.
Category: Foreign Affairs |