Is the administration's foreign policy on autopilot?
The latest Wikileaks document dump has revealed many things, but few are more daunting than the Obama administration’s determination to cling to assumptions about worldwide terror and its perpetrators, as opposed to dealing with the reality of what’s actually occurring. In fairness to Mr. Obama, some of these assumptions long pre-date his term in office. For example, it is no secret that several previous administrations have been involved in a Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” that has resulted abundance of process and precious little in the way of peace. Yet this current release reveals that Mr. Obama is either incredibly naive, or, more likely, the victim of one of the oldest self-inflicted political “diseases” in existence: the triumph of ideology over reality.
Underscoring this view of the president is his reaction to the Wikileaks fiasco itself. "While I was concerned the exposure of sensitive information from the battlefield that can endanger people and operations, the fact is that these documents do not reveal any interest not yet been exposed during a public debate about the war in Afghanistan,” said president Obama–back in July, before the current trove of documents was made public.
With regard to this latest release, the president has been conspicuously silent regarding the new documents. Perhaps he thought Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assertion that “this disclosure is not just an attack on America, it’s an attack on the international community” was sufficient. Or perhaps, as former U.N Ambassador John Bolton asserts, “this sustained, collective inaction exemplifies the Obama administration’s all-too-common attitude towards threats to America’s international interests. The president, unlike the long line of his predecessors since Franklin Roosevelt, simply does not put national security at the centre of his political priorities.”
What do the documents reveal? First and foremost, might be the idea that the definition of word “ally” has been stretched to its breaking point. A classified memo written by Hillary Clinton revealed that with respect to our “ally” Saudi Arabia, terrorist donors in that country ”constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” That would be the same Saudi Arabia, which according to testimony by Undersecretary of the Treasury for Financial and Terrorism Intelligence, Stuart Levey on October 6, 2009 before Senate Banking Committee, is sending terrorist funding “to Iraq, to South-East Asia and to any other place where there are terrorists…”
It is also the same Saudi Arabia with whom this administration is currently negotiating a $60 billion arms sale.
Our other major “ally” in the Middle East? Pakistan. Yet the nation which harbors the likely command-and-control center of al Qaeda in its North Waziristan region is reportedly unmoved, as the cables reveal, by the United States’ “deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” This ever-increasing nuclear stockpile could be obtained by terrorists taking advantage of what the cables characterized as an “increasingly unstable” country. In an interview with the BBC, Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, claimed that such weapons ”are the dearest assets that we have and we’ll not allow anything to fall into any adventurer’s hands.” In October, president Obama approved another $7.5 billion dollars in aid to Paksitan, tripling the previous level. It also committed itself to an additional five years of aid which co-author of the bill, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), claimed would ”build a relationship with the people to show that what we want is a relationship that meets their interests and needs.”
Perhaps Mr. Kerry should be more concerned with a relationship that meets our interests and needs.
Another prominent assumption which takes a hit is the Obama administration’s continuing determination to pin the hopes of undermining the advance of Islamic terror on securing a “two-state solution” between the Israelis and the Palestinians. To be fair, such an assumption has been around far longer than Mr. Obama’s term in office. Several previous administrations have bought into the idea that the “peace process” is an all-purpose panacea for defusing terrorist ambitions.
Yet the ongoing friction between the Israelis and the Palestinians can hardly explain the proliferation of terrorist groups far beyond the scope of the Middle East. As Yoram Ettinger reveals in a column for Ynetnews.com, the Wikileak documents reveal that “Muslim terrorists operate along the joint border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as in San Paulo, Foz do Iguacu and Parana, Brazil. Independent of Israel’s policies and existence, the Lashkar-E-Taiba, Jaish-E-Mohammed and other Islamic terrorist organizations –operating with the backing of Pakistan–target India. Moreover, Lashkar-E-Taiba expands its presence in Pakistan–where it collaborates with the Inter Services Intelligence–Sri Lanka and Nepal in order to intensify terrorism in India.”
One would be hard-pressed to conclude that such organizations would turn their jihadist swords into plowshares if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved.
Such a naive assumption is underscored by perhaps the most important revelation of the Wikileaks release: the Arabian Peninsula’s contempt and fear of Israel apparently pales in comparison to that which is engendered by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. Leaders there, notably Saudi King Abdullah and King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa of Bahrain, have privately begged the Untied State to take military action against the nation they consider the primary threat to their well-being. London-based Arabic newspaper, Elaph, highlighted the concerns of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, much of which centers around Iranian attempts to penetrate their security and intelligence agencies, as well as their ongoing suspicion as to the true nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Yet at a recently concluded summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Abu Dhabi, the public facade was re-erected: the closing statement of the meeting “reiterated Arab support for Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program.”
One can only wonder how the Obama administration would consider a two-state solution the antidote to the increasing aggression of Iran against its Arab neighbors.
Another unfounded assumption the president makes regarding Islamic terror was revealed in a June 4 speech in Cairo, Egypt where he said that “the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.” This harkens back to the idea that, because an advanced society is considered “hostile,” Muslim terrorists are largely primitive.
Such an assessment does not remotely square with the facts. Many terrorists have come from wealthy families, have studied at Western Universities and have exploited many aspects of modern technology: the use of popular websites to spread their jihadist ideology; the manufacture of remote-controlled IEDs that kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan; the use computers to identify and analyze possible terror targets; and most recently, a collaboration between terrorist bomb-makers and terrorist surgeons in the attempt to create internal cavity explosive devices which elude even the most sophisticated detection devices at airports around the world. Hardly the picture of discontented cave-dwelling primitives the Obama administration portrays as the chief perpetrators of Muslim terror.
Yet in fairness to the president, there is one fundamental aspect of modernity Muslims do indeed reject: they reject government based on reason, science and individualism, in favor of one where divine revelation interpreted by the religious ruling elites demands collective adherence to Koranic scripture. Such is the essence of Sharia Law, and one suspects that such a worldview is favored by far more Muslims than those merely associated with terror. What percentage of Muslims? Perhaps the ultimate question that should be posed to so-called moderate Muslims is this:
If a Muslim Caliphate could be imposed upon the entire word without terrorism, would you be in favor of such a development, or not?
The Obama administration–and again in fairness, the Bush administration as well–have done their utmost to make sure such a question never gets asked. This effort is underscored by the determination of both administrations to expunge certain expressions from the government lexicon regarding Islamic terror. With respect to the Bush administration, United Press international reported on May 6, 2008 that ”U.S. officials are being advised in internal government documents to avoid referring publicly to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups as Islamic or Muslim, and not to use terms like jihad or mujahedin, which ‘unintentionally legitimize’ terrorism.” With respect to the Obama administration, Fox News reported on April 7, 2010 that “President Barack Obama’s advisers will remove religious terms such as ‘Islamic extremism’ from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism.”
Thus, both administrations have sought to placate what they view as the “great middle” of the Islamic world–without ever finding out if that great middle actually exists in anything other than the hopeful minds of Western government officials.
Certainly most Western nations would prefer to believe that we are engaged in a limited conflict with a relatively small group disgruntled malcontents, rather than a “clash of civilizations” with an entire religion. Yet isn’t the essence of national security to hope for the best–even as we prepare for the worst case scenario? One would like to think that behind the Obama administration’s public facade of accommodation and outreach towards the Muslim world, there exists are far more jaundiced view of radical and not-so-racial Islam, necessitated by those national security considerations. Unfortunately the information contained in Wikileaks release reveals a decided lack of circumspection by this administration.
How that accrues to American interests is beyond this writer’s comprehension.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.