The fruits of epic incompetence
By Charles Krauthammer, Published: September 12.
The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.
The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.
Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.
Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?
Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.
He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.
At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.
The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.
So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.
This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.
And what does America get? Obama saves face.
As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.
Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the United States above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.
And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to the New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — a.k.a. “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.
And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.
James Woods on Obama: He’s the ‘gift from hell’
The Washington Times
Thursday, September 12, 2013
It’s a safe bet there’s no love lost between Hollywood actor James Woods and President Obama — the former has taken to Twitter several times over the last few months to trash the policies and politics of the latter.
The latest came this week, in response to a report from British press that revealed the National Security Agency commonly provides Israel with intelligence data — without first stripping out private and personal information on American citizens. The Guardian in London reported the item, the latest in its coverage of document leaks from Edward Snowden.
He wrote: “Report: Data on Americans shared with Israel … Obama: the gift from hell that keeps on giving.”
This is hardly the first unfavorable rating Mr. Woods has posted on his Twitter account about Mr. Obama. In July, the actor ranted over Mr. Obama’s insertion of his personal opinion into the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin trial, characterizing it as fueling racial tensions and wondering why the president would speak his mind about the death of the 17-year-old Trayvon but not worry so much about American’s soldiers and wounded warriors.
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The Washington Times
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A few dozen demonstrators attending a rally on the Mall once billed as the Million Muslim March were vastly outnumbered Wednesday by a Christian group objecting to their event and a counterprotest consisting of motorcycle riders honoring Sept. 11 victims.
The noon rally, called the Million American March Against Fear took place between 13th and 14th streets in Northwest and was sponsored by the American Muslim Political Action Committee.
Speakers — among them author and Princeton University professor Cornel West — struck mainstream themes, calling for social justice for Muslims while promoting peace and condemning violence. Attendees also held a moment of silence to honor Sept. 11 victims.
Ruby Sous, from Kansas City, stressed that Muslims and American-Muslims “stand with America against terrorism.”
“We want to stand here in solidarity with the American people against hate and violence,” she said.
But other speakers addressed fringe topics, condemning what they called the use of U.S. tax dollars to kill innocent people in the Middle East and advancing conspiracy theories around the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Christian counterdemonstrators heckled the group, with some holding signs that read “One nation under God” or disparaging the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
“You picked the wrong day,” counterdemonstrators shouted at times.
U.S. Park Police gathered in force for the event. Officers deployed around and among the groups to keep them separate.
In the background, staggered clusters of motorcycles could be heard riding in the vicinity, but road closures kept the bikers from the immediate area of the rally. The motorcycles were part of the 2 Million Bikers to DC ride held, which drew thousands of bikers from around the country to a hastily arranged event honoring Sept. 11 victims and protesting the Muslim rally.
Isa Hodge, chief of operations for the political action committee behind the Muslim rally, complained that one cluster of riders drove by and revved their engines, disrupting the moment of silence for Sept. 11 victims.
Overall, Mr. Hodge said he was pleased with the turnout. The group had obtained a permit from the National Park Service several months ago for 1,000 people
VIDEO: MOTORCYCLES RUMBLE THROUGH ON THE WAY TO D.C. FOR 9/11 RALLY
Editor’s note: This post is being updated throughout the day. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the most recent videos, pictures, and information.
While the bikers heading to Washington, D.C., for the “2 Million Bikers to D.C.” rally to commemorate 9/11 (and counter the million Muslim march) aren’t expected into the nation’s capital until around 11 a.m., pictures and video are still surfacing of them making their way.
The local NBC station in D.C. says riders will be first hitting the area around 9 a.m. before reaching their ultimate destination a couple hours later.
We’ve compiled some of the preparation and early action below and will bring you more complete coverage from our reporters on the ground when they roll in:
This video was posted on YouTube of riders rolling down a highway — it’s unclear where it was taken:
WATE-TV in Tennessee has video of bikers from that area departing to join the rally:
WPMT-TV in Harrisburg, PA, chronicled a local group’s participation:
And WTOL-TV in Toledo, OH, did the same thing last week:
This video from Smithfield, NC, shows a group rolling through at night:
The event’s Facebook page posted a schedule:
And organizers also posted some pictures of organizers firing up the crowd and showing just some of the numerous motorcycles already lining up at a meeting point in Maryland:
One Twitter user posted another picture showing the line outside the local bike show. She says the bikes are four to six wide:
Another user posted a different angle:
Belinda Bee, one of the rally’s co-organizers who told TheBlaze on Monday the story of the group being denied a permit by the Park Service, told her story again this morning on “Fox & Friends”:
Blaze reader Joe Roberts, who says he’s a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, sent these pictures in as he’s waiting to start his ride.
“I don’t think the progressives on the hill will be able to ignore this,” he says:
Dick Uliano, whose Twitter profile says he’s a reporter for WTOP, sent out a message saying that there are “easily several thousand motorcycles” at the area he was stationed:
He also sent out a picture as the kickstands came up and the riders began rolling:
According to local outlet WTOP-RADIO, it appears the bikers may not be actually entering the capital as a massive group.
They reportedly will not go into D.C. as a large group.
“There are so many motorcycles that trying to go through Washington, D.C., would not have worked,” Eric Zern, a ride organizer from Hagerstown, MD, told the station.
Instead, the station says the group will travel one time on the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway from Prince George’s County to Montgomery County and then into Virginia. They’ll then return to where they started, the Harley Davidson story in Fort Washington, MD.
However, individual riders can decide if they’d like to divert themselves into D.C.
You can try and capture the arrival via DC’s extensive traffic camera system.
In fact, one video posted to YouTube appears to have been taken from one of those cameras:
Other videos are surfacing as well claiming to show the bikers on the highway:
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WASHINGTON — President Obama’s push for congressional approval for military airstrikes in Syria ran aground Monday, forcing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to delay a procedural vote as opposition builds among senators in both parties.
Six senators, including five Republicans and one Democrat, announced Monday they would vote against a resolution authorizing the use of force — a strong indication that the administration’s efforts to build bipartisan support have been ineffective.
The Senate was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a procedural motion to begin formal debate on the resolution, but Reid announced late Monday the vote would be delayed in order to buy the president more time to make his case to senators and the public.
“What we need to do is make sure the president has the opportunity to speak to all 100 senators and all 300 million American people before we do this,” Reid said.
The delay also came amid reports that Russia was seeking a deal with Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons program. Obama said in television interviews Monday such a deal could circumvent the need for U.S. military intervention, but senators had not been briefed on the development and expressed skepticism.
“I have no idea what’s going on. It’d be great if the Russians could convince Assad to turn over his chemical weapons to the international community. That’d be a terrific outcome. I just am very dubious and skeptical,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Comments made Monday in London by Secretary of State John Kerry describing the military effort as “unbelievably small” also rankled lawmakers. Graham said Kerry “undercut everything the president has been doing for the last couple of days” to build support.
The rapid clip of senators announcing their opposition on Monday raised serious doubts that the president would be able to muster the necessary support in either the House or Senate. The GOP-led House is not likely to take up a resolution unless the Senate can pass it first. A final Senate vote was expected this weekend, but Reid’s decision to delay the formal debate puts the schedule in flux.
Five GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming all announced opposition Monday, as did Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Briefings by top administration officials and a weekend conversation with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel were not enough to sway Alexander. “I see too much risk that the strike will do more harm than good by setting off a chain of consequences that could involve American fighting men and women in another long-term Middle East conflict,” he said.
Heitkamp was the latest in a string of Democratic senators from conservative states to come out in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. Heitkamp and Manchin are working on an alternative resolution that would give the Assad government 45 days to sign an international chemical weapons ban and begin turning over its chemical weapons before authorizing U.S. military action.
Two Democratic senators, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, declared their support. However, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who voted for the resolution in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned Monday that he preferred pursuing diplomatic solutions.
The opposition underscored the uphill battle Obama faces on Capitol Hill to rally around his foreign policy agenda. The president will visit separately with Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans on Tuesday before his prime-time television address.
Graham, who supports the resolution, said he believed it could still pass the Senate: “If the president does a good job tomorrow night, yes.”
Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure
The president may look incompetent on Syria. But his behavior fits his strategy to weaken America abroad.
- NORMAN PODHORETZ
It is entirely understandable that Barack Obama’s way of dealing with Syria in recent weeks should have elicited responses ranging from puzzlement to disgust. Even members of his own party are despairingly echoing in private the public denunciations of him as “incompetent,” “bungling,” “feckless,” “amateurish” and “in over his head” coming from his political opponents on the right.
For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days—and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.
Getty ImagesPresident Obama on Friday at the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Summing up the net effect of all this, as astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”
Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us—and I think it is—let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish. The accomplishment would not have been possible if the intention had been too obvious. The skill lies in how effectively he has used rhetorical tricks to disguise it.
The key to understanding what Mr. Obama has pulled off is the astonishing statement he made in the week before being elected president: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” To those of us who took this declaration seriously, it meant that Mr. Obama really was the left-wing radical he seemed to be, given his associations with the likes of the anti-American preacher Jeremiah Wright and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, not to mention the intellectual influence over him of Saul Alinsky, the original “community organizer.”
So far as domestic affairs were concerned, it soon became clear—even to some of those who had persuaded themselves that Mr. Obama was a moderate and a pragmatist—that the fundamental transformation he had in mind was to turn this country into as close a replica of the social-democratic countries of Europe as the constraints of our political system allowed.
Since he had enough support for the policies that this objective entailed, those constraints were fairly loose, and so he only needed a minimum of rhetorical deception in pursuing it. All it took was to deny he was doing what he was doing by frequently singing the praises of the free-enterprise system he was assiduously working to undermine, by avoiding the word “socialism,” by invoking “fairness” as an overriding ideal and by playing on resentment of the “rich.”
But foreign policy was another matter. As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country’s power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic “isolationist” label abroad.
This he did by camouflaging his retreats from the responsibilities bred by foreign entanglements as a new form of “engagement.” At the same time, he relied on the war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment (which, to be sure, dared not speak its name) on the left and right to get away with drastic cuts in the defense budget, with exiting entirely from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with “leading from behind” or using drones instead of troops whenever he was politically forced into military action.
The consequent erosion of American power was going very nicely when the unfortunately named Arab Spring presented the president with several juicy opportunities to speed up the process. First in Egypt, his incoherent moves resulted in a complete loss of American influence, and now, thanks to his handling of the Syrian crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.
For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen.
The problem for Mr. Obama is that at least since the end of World War II, Americans have taken pride in being No. 1. Unless the American people have been as fundamentally transformed as their country is quickly becoming, America’s decline will not sit well. With more than three years in office to go, will Mr. Obama be willing and able to endure the continuing erosion of his popularity that will almost certainly come with the erosion of the country’s power and influence?
No doubt he will either deny that anything has gone wrong, or failing that, he will resort to his favorite tactic of blaming others—Congress or the Republicans or Rush Limbaugh. But what is also almost certain is that he will refuse to change course and do the things that will be necessary to restore U.S. power and influence.
And so we can only pray that the hole he will go on digging will not be too deep for his successor to pull us out, as Ronald Reagan managed to do when he followed a president into the White House whom Mr. Obama so uncannily resembles.
Mr. Podhoretz was the editor of Commentary from 1960-95. His most recent book is “Why Are Jews Liberals?” (Doubleday, 2009).