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Middle East Mess
Charlie Brown to Stop Running Toward Football. Maybe.
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  • Kevin

    First time I’ve heard WRM compare Obama to Buchanan.

    • Nevis07

      haha, great point about Carter…

      In response to you question, I’d say that Obama’s approach to foreign policy is very much of the same socialist variety as his economic policy. Offer empty moral platitudes to the world in the hope that you’ll somehow benefit from it; just as performing wealth transfers from the rich to the poor does nothing real to create added value work to create wealth. High mindedness is not a policy of economics or foreign policy, it’s just a naive wish.

  • Gene

    It was alarming enough back when Obama and Kerry were making remarks to the effect that Russia had failed to catch up to the allegedly enlightened norms of the 21st century and that sooner or later Russia would pay a terrible price for its old-fashioned calculations of national interests and power. It got much worse soon after, when it became clear that O and K weren’t bullshitting — they really did believe their own rhetoric!

    Once again confusing “ought” with “is,” our leaders apparently believe that strength, an understanding of national interests, credibility and influence backed by real power no longer hold sway in our world. Guess what: The old-fashioned calculations never went away, and those enlightened norms in John Kerry’s imagination are more at home in textbooks and professors’ dreams than they are in the real world.

    • Andrew Allison

      The smartest man in the room! A legend in his own mind.

    • Jim__L

      Rudyard Kipling, 1919.

      (A “copybook heading” is a line, usually an aphorism, that students of Kipling’s (late-Victorian) day were supposed to copy out repeatedly to improve both their moral sense and their penmanship.)

      AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
      I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
      Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
      And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

      We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
      That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
      But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
      So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

      We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
      Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
      But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
      That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

      With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
      They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
      They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
      So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

      When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
      They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
      But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
      And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

      On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
      (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
      Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
      And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

      (See .)

      In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
      By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
      But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
      And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

      Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
      And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
      That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
      And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

      As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
      There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
      That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
      And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

      And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
      When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
      As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
      The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

  • johngbarker

    I guess he will tell all in the next six volumes of his autobiography.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Presuming of course that he can arrange for the same ghostwriter….

  • QET

    It is probably too late for the US to accomplish anything positive in Syria at this point. Confronting Russia militarily there, now, after all that has happened (and not happened) would seem to be more an exercise in spleen than in sound strategy or tactics. Like Poland in 1939, the US might have been able to prevent Syria had it acted decisively earlier, but by 1939 there was no power on Earth that could prevent the destruction of Poland.

    The US probably needs the equivalent of a sports team’s rebuilding year for our military. It may be best to simply pull our assets (troops, equipment) from MENA and most other places, rest and refurbish them, rebuild naval and air capacities (equipment, trained personnel) to significant levels, and adopt an aggressive defensive posture vis-a-vis Russia and China and Iran. It may be that now is the right time for a more isolationist approach. Withdraw from NATO–as far as I can tell, the US is not benefiting from it. We can spend the next 100 years assigning blame for the present circumstances (Bush? Obama? Clinton? Reagan? All of the above?), but we at least ought to face them soberly and not further weaken ourselves by pretending. NATO appears to be non-functional in practice and the US ought to extricate itself from its burdens under that alliance and redeploy its resources accordingly. In the face of Russia/China, a remilitarization by Europe is the last thing we ought to be concerned about.

    In the face of a US conciliatory attitude for 8 years, all that our enemies have done is continue to threaten war. Russian hints a nuclear war every 5 minutes lately. So we should just go ahead and develop, build and deploy defensive technology–missile shields, satellite systems–with all of our technological capability and ignore Russian and Chinese threats about how doing so will force them to act aggressively. Revive MAD very publicly and make it clear that any nuclear use even of a small device by anyone against a US interest will result in immediate massive retaliation. Planetary extinction. Yeah that sucks but it is not the US that has been threatening to use nukes. All during the Cold War certain people here and abroad tried continually to make themselves and others comfortable with the idea that a nuclear war could be “won,” that their (our) country could “survive” a nuclear war. The very public MAD doctrine ensured that this comfort and assuredness could never take hold. It is time again for that approach in the face of Iran, Russia, N Korea threatening nuke war so often these days. It requires a very stout and resolute leader to bluff effectively in this matter and that is just what the US doesn’t have at the moment.

    The Davoisie Dreamers forget (if they ever knew) that their globe-hopping London condo-owning Internet-of-things lifestyles are made possible only on the substratum of credible US military power. We just don’t have that credibility any longer and pretending we do is insanity. Even if we elect a leader who restores some of that credibility, it is not certain our military today is in a position to make good on an offensive posture. It seems that we need to seriously build up, again, our naval and air power, to act as a deterrent to more radical aggressions by RussiaChinaIranNKorea. I don’t think Syria can be isolated from the general decrepitude of US power everywhere. I think the entire US defense posture will need a radical reorganization. If the price of economic globalization is to be subject to continual hostile and increasingly volatile confrontations with nations who have absolutely no stake in maintaining an “international liberal order,” then I say, no thanks. It could well be that an international isolationist posture would throw the US back more on its own domestic economy which it would then have to re-strengthen in order to maintain that posture and the strength to deter more radical aggressions. Maybe we can get “globalization” right the next time. For now, we ought to admit we failed and take the necessary actions.

    • johngbarker

      Very thoughtful.

    • ljgude

      I think you are grappling with the real issues which involve some sort of reality based pursuit of the real issues post Obama. And YES, you point to the core of the problem when you say that we have to get globalization right next time.

  • gabrielsyme

    The broader problem is that Obama has never settled on a coherent strategic objective in Syrian. Overthrowing Assad is obviously an insufficient objective, as such a result would leave powerful Islamist factions the dominant players within any post-Assad regime, while the collapse of the Syrian state could result in pogroms and religious cleansing directed against minority communities (as Erdogan, loyal NATO ally, has endorsed in post-liberation Mosul). A negotiated settlement, ostensibly the goal of American intervention, would doubtless result in a very fragile state, beset by Islamists on the one side and possibly by Kurdish separatists on the other – but the larger problem is that such a negotiated settlement appears to be a pipe dream. Incompetence added to an incoherent strategic approach is typical Obama, of course.

    • Nevis07

      The thing is we could have at one point done something in Syria. But Obama gave up the strategic narrative by deciding not to directly control events on the ground. He set a discomfort threshold of 1 out of 10, which Putin picked up on quickly. Once Russia took the initiative, it was forever lost, as I’ve said since the beginning of the conflict.

      • gabrielsyme

        Sure, the U.S. could have “done something” in Syria. The actual suggested interventions, however, were uniformly unwise.

        • MarkE

          Obama is more name caller and ideologue not a chess player. If you don’t play the game you can’t win. The President seems to have received very poor strategic advice or, more likely, failed to actively listen to any of it which has left poor Kerry to bear “a series of ritual humiliations.”

          • f1b0nacc1

            Obama seems to have adopted the trash-talking of the basketball court rather than the planning of chess or go. I suspect that his rather meager intellect was never really up to more than that in the first place, and once he found a comfortable narrative he clung to it with an almost obsessive persistence.

    • Gene

      Obama, like his leftist supporters, wants to transform the First World forever. He is utterly uninterested in how many Middle Easterners kill each other and can’t understand why Russia is in any way a concern to the U.S. The strategic objective is to avoid commitments in either of the above areas in the hope that sooner or later they’ll just go away.

      Events will show that attitude–shared, BTW, by American libertarians–to be perfectly reasonable. Until it isn’t.

    • Tom Scharf

      It should be pointed out that 10 years ago the prospect of Syria ripping itself apart in a decade long civil war would be seen as a positive development. Syria was never a friend of the west. It wasn’t so long ago we were having to covertly bomb their secret nuclear development facilities. Israel hasn’t had to worry about Syria for a while. It will take decades for Syria to become an organized threat to anyone. There are obvious negative aspects of this war as we can all see, but as the saying goes, “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person”.

  • Arkeygeezer

    I understand that the Obama Administration is considering air strikes on Syrian forces to protect the rebel forces we favor.

    We feed them arms and they give up arms to ISIS. Now we want to get in a war with Russia to protect the rebel forces that will turn on us in a moment’s notice. I hope Obama dithers on the air strikes for a long time.

    • Tom Scharf

      The chances of Obama dropping a bomb anywhere near a Russian in his final months of office are exactly zero. This would unravel all his hard worked for “success” of non-intervention in the Middle East. Putin knows he has a free hand until January, and everyone else in the world knows it too.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is incapable of learning from his mistakes, because he psychotically always blames someone or something else for his own mistakes. This means that he never takes responsibility for his mistakes, and therefore can’t learn any lessons from them.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I don’t know if you were ever a fan of the movie (not the lame TV series) *M*A*S*H*, but Obama reminds me a great deal of the character Frank Burns who, when confronted with a failure, always described it as “God’s will or somebody else’s fault”….

  • Tom Scharf

    “Charlie Brown to Stop Running Toward Football”

    Hilarious. Best headline here ever.


    First it was the ridiculous reset button to Russia. Then Obama and his admin. including Sec. of State Coat-tails decided to ignore the Iranian people and instead thought, as with Russia and Putin, that their superior progressive intelligence was all that was needed this time to reach the Ayatollahs. Everything else is history. ISIS, Libya, Benghazi, arms to Al Qaeda, Syrian civil war, troops returning to Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia taking the lead in the M.E., Hezbollah’s fighting for Iran in Syria, Russia air force controlling the skies, loss of our allies confidence. All that just for Obama’s legacy which has driven him for 8 years.

  • FluffyFooFoo

    It’s amazing things could get worse than what happened under George W. Bush, but they have.

    James Buchanan… it’ll be 150 years before that will be considered an apt comparison in polite society. It is the truth, nevertheless.

  • jstrong365

    Now is the time. 400,000 Christians could invade Syria and subdue the Muslims. First we could take on the Radical Islamic Terrorists, then we could move on to Assad and his partners. After a couple of decades fighting an Arab insurgency, we would leave and the Arabs could get back to their internecine warfare, which is just about who holds the reigns of power.

    The west cannot solve the problems in Arab society or governance with the application of military force. Western countries can barely govern themselves and have demonstrated total incompetence at “nation building” in countries that have no interest in the theories of the European enlightenment. You can pump in a couple of trillion dollars in funding. It will all disappear into endemic graft and corruption.

    Warlords govern the Syrian cantons. No one cares about civilians. It is an exercise in power and dominance.

  • זאב ברנזון

    people need to learn how the global political system “works”

    political conflict is decided by the balance of power (economic military moral) multiplied by the “balance of will” the weak have no pull regardless of their will and the strong are worthless without the will to do what is needed.
    Israel is weaker then the Arab collective but our will to survive is far bigger then their will to destroy us .

    Syria(like Iraq) is doomed from the start nothing within the capacity off the west can hold such a fake colonial contraption with multiple ethnic and religious cleavages together .

    let the Russians try putting humpty dumpty together again they will fail ruin their reputation (such as it is ) waste money get killed and will change nothing in the long run .

    Obama is a middle east disaster because he ignored sound statistics and social research indicating the impossibility of democratic success in the Arab world in the shot to medium turn .

    for the enthusiasm of a young white house intern that knows nothing off politics outside the USA .

  • afhack62

    Does anyone expect Obama to do any better than he has? It seems that some are having a hard time accepting that his ruination of US foreign policy was always in the cards. Oddly enough, Obama seems to believe that he will get away with it, as in he will get a decent legacy out of his president gig. He’s such a narcissist he can’t accept that he crossed the line long ago and the accumulation of damage is just too great. History certainly won’t sweep any of it under the rug.

  • Bob Parkman

    Anyone associated with Obama’s foreign policy should be banned from government employment forever.

  • mf

    this is a typical “conservative” drivel. Obama’s predecessor invaded Iraq under false pretenses. He botched the aftermath to a point of inciting a vast rebellion. Obama pulled the US military out of that cauldron. The all volunteer military finally had the time to heal. His successor has options that do not include dramatic evacuations from the embassy rooftop. With wisdom and restraint US AND her allies will prevail. Needless to say, the wisdom does not include mass invasion “to set things straight”, like in a movie with Chuck Norris.

    Here is the real problem we are facing. Not that long ago, comrades Putin and Assad would have had already opened files in the Hague, knowing what awaits them before they die. Unfortunately, today these files cannot be created because, together with them, we would have to consider similar files for Bush and Rumsfeld. This is what happens when you lose the moral high ground. You end up alone.

    Clearly, the “conservatives” richly deserve Donald Trump as their standard bearer. Just like him, they like to speak from both sides of their mouth. Counselling restraint and “realism” one day, while denouncing lack of action another. If I have to choose between Bush and Obama, Obama wins hands down. Perhaps I would prefer a more aggressive foreign policy, but creating it after the prior disaster takes time. And wisdom. And restraint.

  • Stephen

    Oh, look! A Buchanan comparison.

    Well, at least Jimmy Carter has gotten something out of Obama’s terms in office.

  • charlesrwilliams

    The fundamental mistakes vis-a-vis Russia were made in the nineties. When Russia was at its weakest post-Soviet point, the US expanded NATO rather than shut it down and the phony borders of the USSR became the basis for phony sovereign nation-states. We have no interest in defending this legacy, we lack the resources and we lack the will. And when Obama and Kerry try to defend this legacy on the cheap with moralizing speeches and annoying attempts at negotiation from a position of zero leverage, Putin humiliates them again and again.

  • Czech Mate

    “Obama has been subjected to a series of ritual humiliations as he vainly chased after agreements he lacked the leverage to get.

    …even now, President Obama could help his successor by reversing course
    on some of his key decisions and laying the foundation for a revival of
    American power and prestige. But it seems more likely that, much like
    President James Buchanan who dithered in the White House as the
    Confederacy rose in the South, Obama just wants to run out the clock,
    and is hoping that nothing catastrophic happens on the world stage
    before he can get back to the more congenial realm of thought leading
    and oratory.”

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