John Bolton

John Bolton

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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Conspicuous Absence of U.S. Allies at Obama Nuke Summit

Why do so many of our friends and allies have a problem with Obama?

With leaders of over 40 countries attending, Obama's two day pow wow on nukes and terrorism will be the largest gathering of world leaders in the U.S. since Franklin Roosevelt invited world leaders to form the United Nations in 1945. The big show, starting Monday, will be a lead news item.

But more interesting than an empty summit with little to no practical value is the list of friends and allies who will not be attending. Chief on the list are leaders from Israel, Australia, Great Britain and Saudi Arabia.

What's worse, treating key allies like Germany as if they are no more important than minor states like Nigeria, Malaysia, Ukraine and Armenia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was not even guaranteed a meeting with Obama until late Sunday and only after Obama saw the states listed above first. Is it any wonder German newspapers report the "difficult friendship with Obama?"

PhotobucketWhat's Obama's problem? Is it something in his DNA where he can't help but treat our friends like dirt while kissing the ass of our enemies? Just look at the body language he displayed recently towards Israeli Prime Minster Benajamin Netanyahu. Then, recall the photo showing how he had the Dalai Lama tossed out the back door of the White House along with the garbage.

Absence of key U.S. allies at summit amplifies doubts about Obama’s foreign policy
By Jon Ward
The Daily Caller

President Obama is holding one of the biggest global summits ever on U.S. soil starting Monday, but for all the hoopla, the event will be missing America’s strongest allies.

As remarkable as it is, the fact that neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are attending President Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington Monday and Tuesday is not altogether surprising.

Relations with both countries — Israel in particular — have grown strained under Obama. Combined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent defiance of the administration, questions are growing about the president’s ability to maintain important relationships.

“It is a curious state of affairs when relations with our major democratic allies are all wobbly at once,” said Michael Green, a former foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush, who also listed Japan and South Korea as traditional allies whose relationships with the U.S. have frayed under Obama.

“And one has to ask why righting these key alliances has not received more attention,” he said.

The president’s critics, many of them from the Bush administration, say the summit absences — heads of state from Australia and Saudia Arabia also are not attending — are the most glaring examples of a floundering foreign policy that treats rivals and enemies better than friends.

“He seems to want to engage rivals, even enemies, more than spend time with friends and allies,” said David Kramer, a top State Department official in the Bush administration.

“His lack of contact, relatively speaking, with close allies suggests an assumption that they’ll be with him in the end anyway. And yet he found time to go to Copenhagen to lobby for the Olympics.”

Kramer implied in a recent column for Foreign Policy magazine that the Obama White House has a backbone problem, showing toughness to allies in part only because it backs down when challenged by rivals such as Russia.
Elliot Abrams, another former top Bush administration foreign policy adviser, said the current White House was guilty of “diplomatic malpractice.”

“In his treatment of Karzai and Netanyahu, the president has shown an odd understanding of what it means to be a U.S. ally. Surely it should mean that inevitable disagreements are handled privately whenever possible. Surely it should mean avoiding steps that seek to weaken or humiliate a foreign leader,” Abrams said.
Though relations with Karzai grew strained at the end of the Bush administration, the Obama administration’s relationship with the Afghan president — the leader of the country that is currently home to the biggest concentration of U.S. military forces on the planet — has been a soap opera.

Several top administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, have had acrimonious meetings with Karzai that have then been leaked to the press. During Obama’s trip to Kabul just two weeks ago, he did not praise Karzai and his top officials made clear he was there to put pressure on the Afghan president to do a better job of governance and rooting out corruption.

Karzai responded by denouncing Western interference in last summer’s elections and by talking of joining the Taliban himself.

As for Netanyahu, the Obama administration took umbrage at the Israeli government’s announcement of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem the day Biden arrived there for a visit last month. Clinton upbraided Netanyahu in a phone call and a Clinton spokesperson publicly called Israel’s actions a “deeply negative signal.”

Abrams said that by comparison, the leaders of countries that are hostile to the U.S. or are wary competitors have received nothing but polite diplomacy.

“Surely we should be treating [Karzai and Netanyahu] better than we treat enemies like [Syrian President] Bashar al-Asad or [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez, or the Russian and Chinese leaders, who if not enemies are certainly not friends,” Abrams said.

Remember how Obama promised he would improve our image around the world and restore our alliances? Well, he hasn't kept his other promises, so none of us should be surprised about this. But in the end, we may need our friends one day when the folly of appeasing our enemies becomes clear. Let's hope we still have some friends left by then.

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