John Bolton

John Bolton

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Obama: The 1970's are Calling and they Want Jimmy Carter Back

We should have learned in the 70's that weakness invites war!

I can't get over this video clip from the 2012 presidential debates:

OBAMA: Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years.
Odd that Obama would describe Al Queda as a threat since he spent most of the campaign saying he had beaten them. But let's move on. The clip above is ne indication that Obama refuses to see Russia as a threat to peace. After all, he had bragged about the "reset" that his administration had achieved with Russia in 2009. Some reset hunh?

Shortly after Obama's "reset" with Russia brag, Paul Mirengoff wrote:
It probably never occurred to the Russians that a U.S. president would come to power hoping to “reset” relations with Russia on some basis other than the hard bargain and the “trust but verify” mentality. Yet this is precisely what has fallen into the Kremlin’s lap. From what I’ve heard, the Russian elites can neither believe their good fortune nor hide their amusement.
Remembering that more recently Mirengoff declares: "what’s Russian for “I told you so”?"

I'm reminded of the old saying "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." Obama's big mistake is that he thought he could change the past with empty speeches that sounded good but were devoid of any substance or follow up. Time after time the actions he has taken, or failed to take, have signaled weakness to bad guys all over the globe. And it's not just Mike's America saying it.

The following is a sampler of opinion in the wake of this predictable and preventable foreign policy disaster:

Washington Post Editorial Board: "President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy:"
FOR FIVE YEARS, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was a world in which “the tide of war is receding” and the United States could, without much risk, radically reduce the size of its armed forces. Other leaders, in this vision, would behave rationally and in the interest of their people and the world. Invasions, brute force, great-power games and shifting alliances — these were things of the past. Secretary of State John F. Kerry displayed this mindset on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday when he said, of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, “It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century.”
Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior. Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements. These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies. They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.
as long as some leaders play by what Mr. Kerry dismisses as 19th-century rules, the United States can’t pretend that the only game is in another arena altogether. Military strength, trustworthiness as an ally, staying power in difficult corners of the world such as Afghanistan — these still matter, much as we might wish they did not. While the United States has been retrenching, the tide of democracy in the world, which once seemed inexorable, has been receding. In the long run, that’s harmful to U.S. national security, too.

As Mr. Putin ponders whether to advance further — into eastern Ukraine, say — he will measure the seriousness of U.S. and allied actions, not their statements. China, pondering its next steps in the East China Sea, will do the same. Sadly, that’s the nature of the century we’re living in.
The New York Post Editorial Board titles it's editorial "Jimmy Obama:"
Vladimir Putin has taken the measure of Barack Obama. He’s found Jimmy Carter. Like Jimmy Carter, who boasted he was free of any “inordinate fear of communism,” Obama began his term as president vowing to “reset” relations with Russia. Like Jimmy Carter, who conveyed weakness when Iran took our embassy staff hostage, Obama confirmed his own weakness when he drew a red line in Syria and then backed down from enforcing it. Like Jimmy Carter, who was rewarded by Leonid Brezhnev with a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Putin has returned Obama’s favor with a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And just like Carter, who responded with what his staff called “a strong public statement,” Obama responded with his own statement saying he is “deeply concerned” by Russia’s military movement in Ukraine.
In a memo to Jimmy Carter three days after that Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, his national security adviser summed up well the problem of words bereft of action: “Since we have not always followed these verbal protests up with tangible responses, [the Russians] may be getting into the habit of disregarding our concern.”

Memo to President Obama: Putin is disregarding you in Crimea for the same reason.
The Washington Times Editorial Board:
Mr. Putin, America’s foes in the Middle East, and the leaders in China know exactly what they want and think they can get it. Mr. Putin wants to keep his warm water port in the Crimea, and like Russian rulers of yore, wants subject nations on his periphery to protect Mother Russia from east and west.
China wants to dominate the region around her; she wants islands she claims the Japanese have no right to, and she wants Taiwan. Iran wants the bomb to give her the influence and reach she needs to dominate her neighbors and eliminate her enemies.

They have concluded they can get what they want. They have taken Mr. Obama’s measure and are persuaded that the leader of the free world has no idea of what he wants or how to deal with those eager to cross every red line.
Dithering and weakness lead to war that could have been avoided.
Mark Thiessen in the Washington Post:
Kerry fumed on CBS’s “Face the Nation” this weekend: “Russia is in violation of its obligations under the U.N. charter, under the Helsinki Final Act. It’s in violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest agreement.” But KGB thugs like Putin are not deterred by pieces of parchment. They are deterred when the United States projects strength and resolve.

Today, America is projecting weakness. Obama’s failure to enforce his red line in Syria projected weakness. His constant talk of withdrawal and ending wars so we can focus on “nation-building here at home” projects weakness. His decision to gut the U.S. defense budget and reduce the Army to pre-World War II levels projects weakness.

When your adversaries believe you are weak, they are emboldened to act — and prone to miscalculate. Putin believes there will be no real costs for his intervention in Ukraine because there were no costs in Syria. He knows the Obama Doctrine is to do just enough “not to get mocked.” If he is proved right, it will have consequences far beyond the Crimean Peninsula. A failure to impose costs on Russia will further embolden adversaries from Beijng to Pyongyang to Tehran — all of whom are measuring Obama’s resolve in Ukraine, just as Putin measured Obama’s resolve in Syria and found it lacking.

The lesson of history is clear: Weakness is provocative. And symbolic gestures and strongly worded statements are not going to get Russian troops out of Ukraine.
Walter Russell Mead writing in American Interest:
Washington’s flat-footed, deer-in-the-headlights incomprehension about Russia’s Crimean adventure undermines President Obama’s broader credibility in a deeply damaging way. If he could be this blind and misguided about Vladimir Putin, how smart is he about the Ayatollah Khameni, a much more difficult figure to read?
Ron Fournier in National Journal:
President Obama speaks of a world in which "the tide of war is receding." Secretary of State John Kerry dismisses the invasion of Ukraine as "a 19th-century act in a 21st-century world." They're like new guys at a dangerous bar admiring the drapes while their wallets walk out the door.
Andrew Peek at the Fiscal Times:
More even than usual, the administration looks like a group of highly intellectual graduate students challenged to a fistfight by a jerk. They’ve got lots of interesting hypotheses on the situation, some fairly articulate footnotes, and one frankly devastating satirical preface, but nobody who can actually fight, because it’s scary. And so they’re being humiliated.

It’s ironic that for all the talk about how tough Chicago politics are, and what hardball they train into their politicians, Obama is absurdly soft in the face of menace. Sure, he’s tough on certain things – House Republicans, debt ceiling limits, Bibi Netanyahu – but give him someone who doesn’t have to kowtow and he shrivels. Let the mullahs have Syria, Putin have Ukraine, street gangs have Libya, and China most of the habitable islands in the Pacific Rim. They’re willing to scrap for them.
William McGurn in the New York Post describes "Obama's Foreign Policy Mush":
For all the talk about George W. Bush as a cowboy, military force was only one component of a much more robust foreign policy. This included, for example, opening the White House to dissidents rather than sneaking the Dalai Lama out the back door. It also included negotiating key trade deals with the struggling democracies of, say, Central America and Colombia.
Above all, it was about letting people know something President Bush liked to say: In the contest between liberty and oppression, the United States is not neutral.

Which brings us to the moral point. Plainly President Obama is uncomfortable with the idea of mixing morals and foreign policy. What he does not recognize is that the moral case rests on a hard reality: Evil unchecked expands.
To show he was serious Putin sent 16,000 troops to Ukraine. To show he was serious, Obama sent John Kerry.

Andrew Malcolm at Investor's Business Daily writes "Obama vs Putin: How soft is this U.S. leader?":
Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest Obama's passivity toward Putin is connected to the American's overheard promise of post-election "flexibility" to Putin's predecessor back in 2012. So, we won't.

Here's how Col. Putin responded to Obama's words of warning: He sent more Russian troops into Crimea. Then, to show how really serious he is, Obama dispatched Secy. of State John Kerry to Kiev to offer cheap symbolic support for the reformers attempting to organize a new, but bankrupt Ukraine government.

Here's how Kerry quaintly characterized the Russian invasion: "That is not the act of somebody who is strong. That is the act of somebody who is acting out of weakness."

Kerry is reporting for duty after a series of diplomatic triumphs including alienating Egypt's new military-backed government, negotiating a Syrian chemical weapons accord that country is now ignoring and agreeing to give Iran six more months to maybe possibly agree to stop its nuclear weapons program, which everyone knows is not going to happen.

Kerry has also failed to reach agreement with Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai on a residual U.S. troop presence after December.
Recently, Kerry announced that global warming is “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Just so we -- and Russia -- know where this administration's true priorities lie.
Obama's misconceptions about Russia stem from his student days and misconceptions about America. Johah Goldberg writing in USA Today:
Student Obama

In 1983, then-Columbia University student Obama penned a lengthy article for the school magazine placing the blame for U.S.-Soviet tensions largely on America's "war mentality" and the "twisted logic" of the Cold War. President Reagan's defense buildup, according to Obama, contributed to the "silent spread of militarism" and reflected our "distorted national priorities" rather than what should be our goal: a "nuclear free world."

Of course, it's unfair to put too much weight on anyone's youthful writings. Except there's precious little evidence his views have changed over the years.

In his first term, President Obama's biggest priority with Russia was to get the two countries on the path to that "nuclear free world." One of his — and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's — first actions in office was to betray our commitments to Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense.

Indeed, across a wide range of areas, it has been Obama who has been, in the words of The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl, in a 1980s-soaked "foreign policy time warp."

Two weeks ago, in response to tensions in Ukraine, the president explained that "our approach ... is not to see (events in Ukraine) as some Cold War chessboard in which we're in competition with Russia." This is a horrible way to talk about the Cold War because it starts from the premise that it was all just a game conducted between two morally equivalent competitors.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee: Putin is playing chess, Obama is playing marbles.

What Would Reagan Do?

Robert Tracinski writing in The Federalist:
The Reagan Doctrine: a commitment to counter the Soviets and roll back their influence worldwide, point for point. This came from the president whose strategy for the Cold War was: “We win, they lose.”

If President Reagan could see what Russia is doing today, he would cock his head and say, “Well, there they go again.” And then he would deploy the whole panoply of resistance we used against Moscow in his day. He might start with the fact that Poland has strong ties to Ukraine’s pro-European majority and a direct interest in opposing Russia, making the Poles an obvious conduit for support to the new government in Kiev—both open and covert, and both economic and military. The Baltic states are also freaking out, given their own vulnerability to Russian aggression, and they can be counted on for extensive support. The urgent priority is to rapidly convert Western Ukraine into a “porcupine state”—one that may not be able to win a war with Russia outright, but can make such a war too painful to be appealing.

Instead, we get President Obama’s totally ineffectual response, in which he spends 90 minutes on the phone to warn Vladimir Putin that invading Ukraine would “negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community.” As Julia Ioffe replies: “as if there’s much left or as if Putin really cares.”
Finally this:

OBAMA: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space...This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Russian President MEDVEDEV: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir." 

Obama has signaled weakness at every turn. It's doubtful he can change course now. To paraphrase Winston Churchill and later Ronald Reagan: peace comes through strength. Obama displays weakness at every turn. Expect more trouble, and worse, ahead!

UPDATE: Russia Test Fires Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Like a giant middle finger to the West it sends a signal. Meanwhile, Obama proposes to slash the U.S. military to pre World War II levels. What signal does that send?

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