Resetting U.S. Foreign Policy

169338855.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeOriginally published in the Jerusalem Post

Aside from the carnage in Benghazi, the most enduring image from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as US secretary of state was the fake remote control she brought with her to Moscow in 2009 with the word “Reset” in misspelled Russian embossed on it.

Clinton’s gimmick was meant to show that under President Barack Obama, American foreign policy would be fundamentally transformed. Since Obama and Clinton blamed much of the world’s troubles on the misdeeds of their country, under their stewardship of US foreign policy, the US would reset everything.

Around the globe, all bets were off.

Five years later we realize that Clinton’s embarrassing gesture was not a gimmick, but a dead serious pledge. Throughout the world, the Obama administration has radically altered America’s policies.

And disaster has followed. Never since America’s establishment has the US appeared so untrustworthy, destructive, irrelevant and impotent.

Consider Syria. Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of Obama’s pledge that the US would seek the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime if Assad used chemical weapons against his opponents.

On Wednesday, Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against civilians around Damascus. According to opposition forces, well over a thousand people were murdered.

Out of habit, the eyes of the world turned to Washington. But Obama has no policy to offer. Obama’s America can do nothing.

America’s powerlessness in Syria is largely Obama’s fault. At the outset of the Syrian civil war two-and-a-half years ago, Obama outsourced the development of Syria’s opposition forces to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. He had other options. A consortium of Syrian Kurds, moderate Sunnis, Christians and others came to Washington and begged for US assistance. But they were ignored.

Obama’s decision to outsource the US’s Syria policy owed to his twin goals of demonstrating that the US would no longer try to dictate international outcomes, and of allying the US with Islamic fundamentalists.

Both of these goals are transformative.

In the first instance, Obama believes that anti-Americanism stems from America’s actions. By accepting the mantel of global leadership, Obama believes the US insulted other nations. To mitigate their anger, the US should abdicate leadership.

As for courting Islamic fundamentalists, from his earliest days in office Obama insisted that since radical Islam is the most popular movement in the Islamic world, radical Islam is good. Radical Muslims are America’s friends.

Obama embraced Erdogan, an Islamic fascist who has won elections, as his closest ally and most trusted adviser in the Muslim world.

And so, with the full support of the US government, Erdogan stacked Syria’s opposition forces with radical Muslims like himself. Within months the Muslim Brotherhood comprised the majority in Syria’s US-sponsored opposition.

The Muslim Brotherhood has no problem collaborating with al-Qaida, because the latter was formed by Muslim Brothers.

It shares the Brotherhood’s basic ideology.

Since al-Qaida has the most experienced fighters, its rise to leadership and domination of the Syrian opposition was a natural progression.

In other words, Obama’s decision to have Turkey form the Syrian opposition led inevitably to the current situation in which the Iranian- and Russian-backed Syrian regime is fighting an opposition dominated by al-Qaida.

At this point, short of an Iraq-style US invasion of Syria and toppling of the regime, almost any move the US takes to overthrow the government will strengthen al-Qaida. So after a reported 1,300 people were killed by chemical weapons launched by the regime on Wednesday, the US has no constructive options for improving the situation.

A distressing aspect of Obama’s embrace of Erdogan is that Erdogan has not tried to hide the fact that he seeks dictatorial powers and rejects the most basic norms of liberal democracy and civil rights.

Under the façade of democracy, Erdogan has transformed Turkey into one of the most repressive countries in the world. Leading businessmen, generals, journalists, parliamentarians and regular citizens have been systematically rounded up and accused of treason for their “crime” of opposing Turkey’s transformation into an Islamic state. Young protesters demanding civil rights and an end to governmental corruption are beaten and arrested by police, and demonized by Erdogan. Following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt last month, Erdogan has openly admitted that he and his party are part and parcel of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Obama’s approach to world affairs was doubtlessly shaped during his long sojourn in America’s elite universities.

Using the same elitist sensibilities that cause him to blame American “arrogance” for the world’s troubles, and embrace radical Islam as a positive force, Obama has applied conflict resolution techniques developed by professors in ivory towers to real world conflicts that cannot be resolved peacefully.

Obama believed he could use the US’s close relationships with Israel and Turkey to bring about a rapprochement between the former allies. But he was wrong. The Turkish-Israeli alliance ended because Erdogan is a virulent Jew-hater who seeks Israel’s destruction, not because of a misunderstanding.

Obama forced Israel to apologize for defending itself against Turkish aggression, believing that Erdogan would then reinstate full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Instead, Erdogan continued his assault on Israel, most recently accusing it of organizing the military coup in Egypt and the anti- Erdogan street protests in Turkey.

As for Egypt, as with Syria, Obama’s foreign policy vision for the US has left Washington with no options for improving the situation on the ground or for securing its own strategic interests. To advance his goal of empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, Obama pushed the Egyptian military to overthrow the regime of US ally Hosni Mubarak and so paved the way for elections that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

Today he opposes the military coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood government.

The US claims that it opposes the coup because the military has trampled democracy and human rights. But it is all but silent in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood’s own trampling of the human rights of Egypt’s Christian minority.

Obama ignores the fact that Mohamed Morsi governed as a tyrant far worse than Mubarak.

Ignoring the fact that neither side can share power with the other, the US insists the Brotherhood and the military negotiate an agreement to do just that. And so both sides hate and distrust the US.

Wresting an Israeli apology to Turkey was Obama’s only accomplishment during his trip to Israel in March. Secretary of State John Kerry’s one accomplishment since entering office was to restart negotiations between Israel and the PLO. Just as the consequence of Israel’s apology to Turkey was an escalation of Turkey’s anti- Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric, so the consequence of Kerry’s “accomplishment” will be the escalation of Palestinian terrorism and political warfare against Israel.

As Jonathan Tobin noted Wednesday in Commentary, to secure Palestinian agreement to reinstate negotiations, not only did Kerry force Israel to agree to release more than a thousand Palestinian terrorists from prison. He put the US on record supporting the Palestinians’ territorial demands. In so doing, Kerry locked the US into a position of blaming Israel once the talks fail. When the Palestinians escalate their political and terrorist campaign against Israel, they will use Kerry’s pledges as a means of justifying their actions.

The current round of talks will fail of course because like the Turks, the Syrians and the Egyptians, the Palestinians are not interested in resolving their conflict.

They are interested in winning it. They do not want a state. They want to supplant Israel.

Clinton’s Reset button was played up as a gimmick. But it was a solemn oath. And it was fulfilled. And as a result, the world is a much more violent and dangerous place. The US and its allies are more threatened. The US’s enemies from Moscow to Tehran to Venezuela are emboldened.

The time has come to develop the basis for a future US policy that would represent a reset of Obama’s catastrophic actions and attitudes. Given the damage US power and prestige has already suffered, and given that Obama is unlikely to change course in his remaining three years in power, it is clear that reverting to George W. Bush’s foreign policy of sometimes fighting a war on nebulous “terrorists” and sometimes appeasing them will not be sufficient to repair the damage.

The US must not exchange strategic insanity with strategic inconsistency.

Instead, a careful, limited policy based on no-risk and low-risk moves that send clear messages and secure clear interests is in order.

The most obvious no-risk move would be to embrace Israel as America’s most vital and only trustworthy ally in the region. By fully supporting Israel not only would the US strengthen its own position by strengthening the position of the only state in the Middle East that shares its enemies, its interests and its values.

Washington would send a strong signal to states throughout the region and the world that the US can again be trusted.

This support would also secure clear US strategic interests by providing Israel with the political backing it requires to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, it would bring coherence to the US’s counter-terror strategy by ending US support for Palestinian statehood. Instead, the US would support the institution of the rule of law and liberal norms of government in Palestinian society by supporting the application of Israel’s liberal legal code over Judea and Samaria.

Another no-risk move is to support former Soviet satellite states that are now members of NATO. Here, too, the US would be taking an action that is clear and involves no risk. Russia would have few options for opposing such a move. And the US could go a long way toward rebuilding its tattered reputation.

Low risk moves include supporting minorities that do not have a history of violent anti-Americanism and are, in general, opposed to Islamic fascism.

Such groups include the Kurds. In Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran, the Kurds represent a national group that has proven its ability to self-govern and to oppose tyranny. With certain, easily identified exceptions, the stronger the Kurds are, the weaker anti-American forces become.

Then there are the Christians. The plight of the Christians in the Islamic world is one of the most depressing chapters in the recent history of the region. In country after country, previously large and relatively peaceful, if discriminated against, Christian minorities are being slaughtered and forced to flee.

The US has done next to nothing to defend them.

Strong, forthright statements of support for Christian communities and condemnations of persecution, including rape, forced conversions, massacre, extortion and destruction of church and private Christian-owned property from Egypt to Indonesia to Pakistan to the Palestinian Authority would make a difference in the lives of millions of people.

It would also go some way toward rehabilitating the US’s reputation as a champion of human rights, after Obama’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Under Obama, America has made itself worse than irrelevant. In country after country, it has become dangerous to be a US ally. The world as a whole is a much more dangerous place as a consequence.

Nothing short of a fundamental transformation of US foreign policy will suffice to begin to repair the damage.

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  • The Political Commentator

    Barack Obama: Foreign policy eunuch! (

    This article at The Political Commentator contains eight examples of Barack Obama’s lack of leadership and who, due to his failed foreign policies and empty rhetoric, has painted the United States with his rancid brush of perceived weakness, ineptness and impotence!

    A fact that has now incredibly even been recognized by the mainstream media.


    Michael Haltman

    The Political Commentator

    2011, 2012 Fabulous 50 Blog Award Winner

    New York, New York

    Twitter: @ThePoliticalCom

  • Oncewas

    Obama doesn’t even know what the definition of foreign policy is. Okay…who is pulling his strings? IMPEACH

  • NJK
    • truebearing

      Obama looks like a communist pervert???? We know he’s a communist from his New Party membership, and everything he has supported. Larry Sinclair has established his perversion bona fides.
      Yes, he looks like Frank Marshall Davis, but he looks like Malcom X too.

  • Mladen_Andrijasevic

    Apart from slavery, the Obama administration’s support for the anti-American and anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood is probably the most disgraceful episode in American history.

    • truebearing

      Obama’s agenda is a form of slavery. it is at least as reprehensible.

      • Mladen_Andrijasevic

        The scope and the duration is not comparable. Up to 4 million slaves from 1776 to 1865.

    • TinaJames

      Drone warfare: Drones is Personal War for Obama.

  • truebearing

    The net effect of Obama’s policies are that evil is served, in every instance. There are NO cases where Obama’s policies don’t enable evil. If anyone cares to refute my assertion, please do. I can hardly wait. Step forth, fish in a barrel.

  • joe doughnut

    When are you people going to realize that these conflicts don’t impact Americans and we have much more important issues of our own in our country. Spending resources meddling into other countries and populations affairs is exactly what we need to not do. This is a problem and issue for Israel and the middle east. Obama, despite major criticism from pro israeli media in this country is doing the right thing and although I am not an Obama supporter, he deserves to be commended for how he is handling our foreign policy. This is not our fight and he is doing the right thing staying out of it.

    • wildjew

      You say this is not our fight. What is not our fight? Syria? Egypt? Libya? Iran? The “Palestinian-Israel conflict?” Didn’t we learn as a consequence of the the second world war, near total isolation does not work too well? Beyond that (I am not saying it is a good thing; it is really not a good thing), don’t America and the West currently have interests in the region? Oil?

    • ziggy zoggy

      Joe Wingnut,

      I guess you’re one of those morons who hasn’t noticed that the Jihadi in Chief has been meddling in the “Muslim world” for five years now – with disastrous results. He also screws with Israel every chance he gets.

      Not that burying our heads in the sand is the answer.

  • wildjew

    I think supporting minorities that do not have a history of violent anti-Americanism and are, in general, opposed to Islamic fascism, is a good idea.

    Caroline Glick says, the most obvious no-risk move for the U.S. would be to embrace Israel as America’s most vital and only trustworthy ally in the region.

    I cannot think of any recent American president, including Obama, that hasn’t claimed his administration embraces Israel as a vital American ally. I cannot think of any American president since the 1967 Six Day War that has not been dedicated to wresting land from Israel, thereby giving it to Israel’s enemies. Obama is the MOST dedicated yet. It seems to me these two principles are antagonistic to one another.

  • Jacob

    As a liberal pacifist; I think I have a unique
    perspective on a way for the Israelis to deal with
    Obama’s foreign policy. Walk away. Why? That seems
    harsh, but, it, in fact, is the smartest thing the
    Israelis could ever do. Obama, came into power
    on a progressive platform. Progressives are not
    liberals. Jews, have a liberal bent,
    so the last thing “progressives” in the black
    community want is to be in dialogue with liberal
    Jews (telling the blacks how to govern), in
    Israel; or the US..or even with liberals, in general.

    Back, in the 60s liberals could write, and
    meet with Kennedy to negotiate everything from civil
    rights, too, and end to the Vietnam
    War; but those days are over.

    In fact, it can only help the progressive
    blacks, that voted him him into power…by walking
    away….I’m guessing they voted for him because,
    they felt he was too big to fail, regardless, of his
    experience to be president. He is not experienced
    enough to speak with the Israelis, his administration,
    is plagued with tribal (progressive) survival needs on their mind
    , anything the Israelis say, goes in one ear and out
    the other. Even if he was qualified to be president,
    walking away would be wise. And, with his inexperience,
    he will basically have no idea what the Israelis are
    talking about when they negotiate with him.

    Walk away, from the negotiation table, with Obama.

  • Tom Moddy

    Extrajudicial Killings through Drone Attacks.

  • Brown

    US decided to End War against Al-Qaeda?

  • Brown

    Benghazi Attack was planned at Secret CIA Prison.

  • Brown

    Afghanistan: hope, fantasy and failure!

  • VHG1

    Just being inept, inexperienced and in over his head wasn’t enough for Obama, he had to be incompetent as well! A real quadruple threat!

  • rabbit2277

    why should the united states of america become involved again and bear the brunt of world criticism… people forget the power of the US… think about that next time you use Apple, eat BK or KFC or even Google!

    • ziggy zoggy

      Real Americans don’t use any of the crappy products, companies or services you mentioned – because they all suck.

  • Watermelonbeast

    I would use a new term “total shambilization” rather than Obama’s term of “fundamental transformation” to describe the effects of Obama’s foreign policy.

  • Anamah

    The malignant plan has been put in place and now reactivated…

    This is the progressive gaining terrain.

  • madmemere

    We could begin that fundamental transformation immediately, if we would remove obama-soetoro and his entire cabal.

  • ReyR

    The Syrian government did not use chemical weapons, and there is only one reason why: use of chemical weapons would be against the Syrian government’s interests under the circumstances. Chemical gas was used by the opposition force.
    “Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of Obama’s pledge that the US would seek the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime if Assad used chemical weapons against his opponents.”
    This is exactly why gas was used by the Islamists gassing their own people (not the first time either, they are dong the same in Egypt now), to give Obama a chance to start an open war in Syria.
    As long as the American nation does nothing to prevent such policies abroad, they cannot expect our sympathy. Blowback is in order.

  • Texas Patriot

    1. It was a mistake to pledge to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, if indeed that is what the Obama administration has done. More than likely Obama has articulated a policy of “standing aside” with respect to the ongoing cultural civil wars going on throughout the middle east, and that is probably the correct approach so long as the strategic economic or military interests of the United States are not at risk. The bottom line is that a policy of “regime change” or “nation-building” in any part of the world is always a mistake for America. In the first place, it’s always a sure way to make enemies of the losers of the political fight, and in the second place, it is totally contrary to America’s core belief that the people of any given region of the world are entitled to choose their own government.

    2. If Obama has made a mistake in his dealings with the reality of the emerging worldwide Islamic hegemony, it has probably been the naive assumption that “moderate Muslims” can be trusted as democratic partners. Perhaps it is true that there are “secular Muslims” who do not wish to live under the total domination of Sharia law but rather would prefer to live with Western style Individual Freedom and Constitutional Democracy. But it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is not such a group, and any thought of trusting them as a reliable partner for bringing democracy, human rights, and individual freedom to Egypt was seriously miscalculated.

    3. Ms. Glick is correct that the time has come for a new strategic vision for America’s middle eastern foreign policy with israel at its center. In that regard, the U.S. should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward the development of a nuclear weapon by Iran. Since the takeover by the followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Revolutionary Islamic Party of Iran has shown time and time again that it cannot be trusted with a slingshot, much less a nuclear weapon. Giving Israel the green light to destroy the Iranian nuclear weapons facilities in much the same way that Israel previously destroyed the nuclear weapons facilities of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq should be the first order of business, and there is a high degree of likelihood that has already been done. Ms. Glick is also correct that the U.S. should stand up for Israel’s right as a free and sovereign nation to defend itself and demand the forfeiture of lands and property of those who choose to attack Israel. In that way, either the attacks against Israel would eventually stop, or Israel would eventually reacquire all of the land of the middle east from which such attacks originated.