Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript to Caroline Glick’s lecture at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 West Coast Retreat. The event was held April 8-10 at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, CA.
Actually, I was saying to my nephew, who’s here visiting from Claremont McKenna with us, that Victor Davis Hanson took 40 percent of my speech, which is fine because that means that I get to speak more briefly and take more questions. But he spoke about the phenomenon that is Donald Trump. I actually want to say that I see the rise of Trump on the one hand and Cruz on the other as a reason for optimism from the perspective that I look at things, which is foreign policy and particularly foreign policy as it relates to my neighborhood, which is the Middle East.
Our experience progressively with the U.S. foreign policy elite, and particularly over the past 10 years, has been that the foreign policy establishment in the United States on both sides of the partisan divide have increasingly become irrational in saying self-defeating and deeply, deeply dangerous things, not only to U.S. foreign policy, but to all of America’s allies, particularly in the Middle East. I think that in a very profound sense the foreign policy establishment, such as it is, that has so ill-served America and the cause of international security over the past 10 years or so, if not longer, is getting its head handed to it on a platter. I think that that’s something that could have — not necessarily, but it could have — an ameliorative, long-term impact on international security, on American national security, and on the security of America’s allies. And I think that’s a good thing.
Now that I’ve lambasted everybody that we’ve turned to for answers for foreign policy questions for the past generation, let me just explain why it is I say what I say, and explain why I take a measure of solace from the rise, on the one hand, of a populace and, on the other hand, of an anti-establishment conservative in the form of Ted Cruz.
During his 7 ½ years now in office, Obama has implemented fully three foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East. He’s moved towards implementation of other policies divesting America of its alliance with Israel, but that hasn’t been implemented to the full extent. There are three policies that he’s fully implemented.
He’s enabling Iran to acquire nuclear weapons through the nuclear deal, enabling Iran to rise to the level of regional hegemon, and reinstate or rebuild Iran’s economic prowess with the sanctions relief. That’s the first one. The second one is support for the overthrow of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The third one that was fully implemented was the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
These three policies that Obama has implemented fully have all had cataclysmic impacts on the Middle East and on global security as a whole. I am not going to talk too much, or I’m not going to talk at all about Iran, actually, because I think the problems with the nuclear deal that he negotiated and finalized with the Mullahs last summer are clear, and for the first time, being seriously debated now that it’s too late apparently. The two other polices, the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi have not really been properly discussed. What’s notable about these two policies is that unlike the Iran deal, these policies enjoyed bipartisan support. These were not simply policies of the Obama White House. They were policies of the entire foreign policy establishment such as it in the United States. Therefore, I want to specifically look at these two policies.
When we look at the rise of Islamic State, the rise of ISIS, we have to understand that the rise of these Nazi-like Islamic Jihadists was facilitated by these two policies, the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, that were supported by the American foreign policy establishment, including both sides of the establishment, the Republicans and the Democrats. They were supported for various reasons, but I’m just going to briefly explain how this facilitated the rise of ISIS.
First of all, as the Israelis from across the political spectrum warned in a unique and rare consensus that we’ve almost never seen in Israel on any issue, when the Americans were pushing forward for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, we warned as one that the overthrow of Mubarak was going to lead to the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that this was going to transform Egypt from the anchor of the American alliance structure in the Arab world into a Jihadist state, and a country more dangerous in many ways than Iran to global security, to the global economy, to Israel, to Jordan, and to America itself. We weren’t listened to. We weren’t listened to, and we were right. With Gaddafi, it happened so quickly. Many people just sort of raised their eyebrows. Why would America overthrow Gaddafi? After all, in 2004 he voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons, and he’s been providing invaluable intelligence to the United States about Al Qaeda. Moreover, the focal point of the insurrection against Muammar Gaddafi was in the place with the largest number of members of Al Qaeda. The largest numbers of returnees who had served in Al Qaeda in Iraq came back to Libya. Of course, Al Qaeda in Iraq was the precursor of Islamic state.
Why is the United States rushing to overthrow this toothless lie? In fact, it’s not even a toothless lie, it’s a lie with teeth that’s biting America’s enemies. Why would they do this? That was more of a puzzlement with Hosni Mubarak. It was simply a state where we could not, for the life of us in Israel, figure out why anybody in the United States, let alone everybody in the United States, would wish to overthrow Mubarak on the lines that he was oppressing human rights, that he was anti-democracy, as if there was some alternative that didn’t involve Jihad. There wasn’t. But instead of accepting that either have you an American supporting tyrant or you have a Jihad state that supports the elimination of the United States and the establishment of a global caliphate — these were the two options. Why are you pretending that there’s a third? Well, to pretend that there was a third option we, of course, had the director of national intelligence saying to Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular welfare organization. This is a Jihadist organization, the father of Sunni Jihad in the modern era, a progenitor of Islamic Jihad in Egypt. The organization that both assassinated Anwar Sadat in 1981 was the precursor of Al Qaeda, the precursor or the progenitor of Hamas, of AlQaeda, and of every major Sunni Jihadist organization prior to Islamic state. This is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Now the Americans are saying — Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said it’s a mainly secular organization in complete denial about the nature of Muslin brotherhood, what they mean, what their implications are for Jihad in the West, and in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Americans created an alternative reality in which the devil was an angel and all would be well. Anybody who said otherwise, meaning every single person in Israel for instance, was a party pooper and a meanie and anti-democratic. And how dare you stupid Israelis say such things? Of course, we care about the peace between Egypt and Israel. Why would anybody ever endanger them? As for Libya, they invented a new international legal theory of the responsibility to protect. They refused to look at the nature of the opposition to Muammar Gaddafi; ignored it as if irrelevant to the fact that the opposition to Muammar Gaddafi was clearly Jihadist, clearly aligned with Al Qaeda from the get go, did not want to hear it, told everybody who opposed the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi that they were for genocide, which he was no enacting. As a result of these two policies, we have the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt for a year. In strategic alliance with Hamas, enabling the establishment of Islamic State in the Sinai, which they were allied and with which they were assisting. In Libya, the overthrow of Gaddafi opened up massive quantities of advanced weaponry that were then able to transit Egypt into Syria, into the Sinai, into Iraq, transformed Islamic State. When we look at the downed Syrian aircraft, the Sequoia bomber that was just downed by ISIS this past week in Syria; when we look at the Egyptian airliner that was downed a couple of months ago over the Sinai, these were anti-aircraft missiles that in all likelihood originated in Libya that were transferred to ISIS militants during the year that the Muslim Brotherhood was in charge of Egypt. On the ground, the rise of ISIS was facilitated by the overthrown of Hosni Mubarak because Egypt became a transit point for advanced weaponry leaving Libya. That weaponry was able to leave Libya in massive quantities because the United Stated overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.
In both of these cases, this bipartisan-supported policy expanded the reach of ISIS, transformed the Syrian civil war into a focal point of the international Jihad empowering and then inspiring Jihadist throughout the Western world, whose results we found in San Bernardino, here in Brussels just now, Paris, and so on and so forth. That was Obama’s foreign policy that received bipartisan support. Then, the other impact of these policies, again, that were fully implemented with bipartisan support by the Obama administration is demoralization of American allies, empowerment of America’s worst enemies. The United States completely wrecked its reputation as a credible actor in the Middle East. Everybody from the Saudis to the Israelis, the UAE, and to ISIS, and to Hamas, Qatar, and so on and so forth, Yemen, recognized that the United States was now in bed with its worst enemies against its best allies, meaning that the United States, if Obama was essentially a commander of a tank and he was in a pitch tank battle, it would have been as if he simply turned around, crossed the lines, started turning his weapons on his own people and shooting. That was essentially the impact, not only of the Iran deal, but also of the two others, the overthrow of Mubarak and the overthrow of Gaddafi. The psychological makeup of America’s allies, how America is perceived in the world — utterly and completely wrecked the reputation of the United State, particularly given that these polices were support as well by Republicans, which meant that from the perspective of American’s allies, the United States had gone stark raving mad; could not be trusted by anybody ever again. I’m not sure people understand just how devastating this has been for America, first and foremost, not to be trusted by anyone anymore. This is very, very bad for America, and it’s obviously debilitating for America’s allies. Knowing that America is in your corner and being perceived as having America in your corner is no longer a source of serious deterrents for America’s allies. Everybody now recognizes that America is not trustworthy.
Now, this brings us back to why I’m optimistic. And so again, I just want to for one second do sort of a categorization of American foreign policy schools. Because for the past several generations, there have essentially been three schools of American foreign policies and all of them have discredited themselves, for various reasons. So, the first foreign policy school that I’ll mention is the liberal interventionist school, which today is sort of led by Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. The idea is that America doesn’t go into the international community with its armed forces in order to necessarily expand American interests or build on American interests. But rather, they go in to be do-gooders, right? It was wrong not to go into Rwanda because America didn’t prevent a genocide. What was the vital national interest at stake? Well, you could argue that it was America’s reputation as a do-gooder that was at stake. You could make all kinds of different theoretical arguments about the American role in Africa in the post-colonialist era, and there could be something to that. But it’s very hard to find what the overwhelming national security interest was at stake. So, from a liberal interventionist perspective, it was a blight on America that America didn’t prevent the Rwandan genocide. So that’s sort of liberal interventionism is that you use American military power. You saw it also in the intervention in Bosnia. You use it in order to prevent the eradication of people. You use it in order to be a force for good in the world. You do it to preserve, protect human rights and so on and so forth. And so the liberal interventionists Samantha Power, Susan Rice and to a different degree, for different reasons, Hillary Clinton, were pushing for the overthrow of Gaddafi, under the claim that was specious from the outset, that he was committing genocide against his people. So that was the liberal interventionists.
And you had the neo-conservatives. And the neo-conservatives supported the overthrow of Gaddafi. Today, they’re continuing. They are doubling down, calling on Obama to abandon support for Sisi because they claim that he is not respecting human rights. They just published an open letter to Obama two weeks ago that was picked up by the New York Times and became an editorial for the New York Times on March 25th calling for the United States to abrogate its alliance with Egypt, because Sisi isn’t being nice to human rights activists working for NGOs, some of which are funded by the United States in Cairo. So as Attorney General McCasey said yesterday, Sisi is in a death struggle with jihad. He’s trying to reform Islam through the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar University and he is fighting a total war against ISIS in the Sinai and yet, because an Italian graduate student was killed, purportedly by Egyptian security forces recently, the same neo-conservatives that supported the overthrown of Mubarak on human rights grounds are now saying that the United States should end its financial and military support for Egypt under Sisi because they’re not being nice to human rights activists. And again, this has been picked up by the New York Times as a policy that the United States should adopt and abrogate America’s alliance with Sisi. So they haven’t learned anything. They’re not interested in learning anything. And from a neo-conservative perspective, the important thing is democracy; that the way to ensure international peace, international security, is by expanding the writ of democratic rule throughout the world. Democratic, liberal democratic principles, in their view, are universal principles. The natural state of mankind is a liberal democracy. I’m sure that Hobbes had some issues with them, and even John Locke did, but nonetheless, apparently, it’s impossible to reason with them, because anybody who doubles down on the calamitous position that you should overthrow a U.S.-allied government in Egypt when you’re facing a revolutionary leader like Sisi, is apparently impermeable to fact and to reason. And that is where, apparently, the neo-conservatives stand today; that they are doubling down on their view that democracy, democratic elections, open elections, popular election of leaders, is going to somehow or another advance America’s national security and national interests.
And then you have the realists. Now, the realists don’t naturally fall into line with these kinds of things because they say morality be damned. The purpose of American foreign policy is to maximize America’s national interests. It’s to expand America’s strengths. And whether he’s an SOB or not is not the question; it’s whether he’s our SOB or the other guy’s SOB, and that’s how we’re going to determine what American foreign policy is. Obviously, the outstanding champion of realism was Henry Kissinger with détente and other initiatives and the opening to China. These were realist positions that were implemented by the Nixon administration for better or for worse, but certainly it’s a credible intellectual argument to be made.
And really, for the past century, these three kinds of meta foreign policy schools have been able to coexist in suspense and in competition with one another and to a large degree, the United States was better off for having these three positions, because they were fine. And then I, I would argue, that what happened that caused them to go mad is political correctness. Because then, particularly the neo-conservatives and the liberal internationalists, they could no longer explain that this was good for America. Because to say that this was good for America was suddenly not acceptable because PC says that anything that you do on behalf of the United States is somehow or another immoral or wrong or chauvinist or whatever. And the realists, we saw they were hijacked in 2007 by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt with the publication of “The Israel Lobby.” When they transformed the realist foreign policy school into an Israel-bashing school, which has no basis in reality, no basis in national interests, and actually turns the entire realist policy on its head, and says that really, what it means to be a realist is to seek to cut down, undermine the national security of America’s closest ally in the Middle East in order to advance the fortunes of America’s worst enemies in the Middle East, the terrorists.
So we have this very strange mix of insanity that’s come over the American foreign policy establishment, great and large, and this brings me back to where we are today. And where we are today is that you see that those who are championing these policies are really being creamed at the polls in the Republican Party. I know that this is probably not a popular position here, but I actually considered Marco Rubio to be a greater threat than Donald Trump because Marco Rubio did not understand just how calamitous it has become to be advancing this idea of democracy and democratization in areas where you don’t have any of the basic amino acids of liberalism and democratic rule that is the Islamic world. And Trump, on the other hand, he is, as Victor said rightly, a demagogue, and all he’s able to do is provoke, and he hasn’t provided any solutions. But he’s raising the real issues that are ignored in the gestalt of feel-good foreign policy — we’re doing it for democracy, we’re doing it for human rights. Or the realists, they’ve become delusional — we’re doing it because the Jewish state is bad. And all of the sort of pandering to the PC crowds in academia. So I think, I fear Trump because he hasn’t thought through any of these things clearly. But I also see Ted Cruz, and I’m very heartened by his success at the polls. Because Ted Cruz, from what I’ve gathered from meeting with him several times in Washington, is somebody who recognizes that the thing that has gotten lost in all of this is the question of, what’s good for America? And his basic notion of foreign policy, I have to admit, is my basic notion of foreign policy, which is that if you want to do well in the world, you have to do two things. You have to be good to your allies and bad to your enemies. Because then people will want to be your allies and they won’t want to be your enemies. And as a result, the central notion of his foreign policy is first of all, let’s support Israel and oppose Iran, and then we’re going to support other allied governments. And I think that that is fantastic. I think it’s fantastic for America. I think it’s fantastic for the Middle East. And I personally think that really the only way for America to rebuild any credibility in the Middle East is by doing what he says, which is what I’ve been arguing for, for over a decade and a half.
Now the last thing that I’m going to say is two years ago, I came here right after my book, “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East,” came out. And the basic argument there is that the Palestinian state is antithetical to American interests, not to mention Israeli interests. And yet, and when you look at it as I did in my book, you recognize that it harms every major and national security interest of the United States in the Middle East. And yet, this policy, which, when it is actually scrutinized, shows itself to be rational on every level. It was one of the rare policies that has been receiving bipartisan support, wall to wall support from both sides of the aisle, enthusiastic support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. So two years on, I was asked, where do we stand now? Well, in a way, we’re in a worse position because Obama intends to use the last nine months of his presidency in order to stick it to Israel again and again at the U.N. Security Council and in other areas. The BDS movement has become even more strong and empowered than it was two years ago. Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat was just shouted down by a mob at San Francisco State University. Columbia University’s Hillel’s hosting these BDS organizations. These are just from the last week, and I’ve been traveling here from Israel, so I haven’t even been paying attention. So every day, we see that university campuses have become less and less safe for Jews and for any discussion, any open discourse about the Middle East.
But I also think that we’ve gotten to a point of reductio ad absurdum. That is, that Obama supports Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, to a certain degree also Hamas through his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. And Abbas is now in the 11th year of his four-year term of office. His own Fatah party wants to overthrow him. The PA is on the verge of collapse. And so I think we’re facing a situation where when the next president is inaugurated, he’s going to be faced with the difficult question of what to do with these Palestinians because they have collapsed by the time that he has reached office. And I think for the first time, because of the discussion that we’re having as a result of this sort of rebellion that we’re seeing, particularly among GOP voters towards the foreign policy establishment, that I’m guardedly optimistic that when that discussion occurs, even if it’s a Democrat in office, because of the cold shower that the Republicans have been forced to take over and over and over again since last summer, that we may see the beginning of a serious, rational discussion about whether or not America’s interests are really served by the establishment of a Palestinian state. And I think that once that question, if that question finally becomes scrutinized, we’re going to see that the proposition is roundly rejected as completely irrational and antithetical to national security interests of the United States of America. And so, perhaps I’m wrong. On this I wouldn’t bet the farm, although I would bet something because the implications and the consequences of the implementation, particularly of the overthrow of Mubarak and of Gaddafi by the Americans, have been so disastrous for America and its allies in the Middle East that we may finally be at the precipice. And again, the rise of Ted Cruz and to a degree as well, Donald Trump, is an indication of that — that the precipice has been passed, that we may see, finally, a serious revisitation of the madness that has taken over America’s foreign policy elites. We will have a serious discussion about it, about what the proper role of foreign policy is for the United States; what is there to go out into the international arena in order to achieve. And I look forward to having that debate very, very much. So, thank you very much.