September 22, 2011 | Faster, Please!
The Shuttered White House and Its Fantasies
September 22, 2011 | Faster, Please!
The Shuttered White House and Its Fantasies
I know exactly what is going on inside the Obama White House; the outside world has been banned and only the true believers are welcome.
This has very little to do with the many unique features of this administration. It is typical of any administration under siege, and it is as understandable and inevitable as it is unfortunate and even dangerous. I know it well, having seen it with my own eyes during the Iran-Contra siege of the Reagan White House 25 years ago, when the president’s men and women concentrated all their energies and all their passions on “saving” the president from what many of them believed was the return of Watergate. I don’t know if the Obama faithful have an historical template for the current crisis, but their behavior, like Obama’s, is altogether familiar. The White House is hermetically sealed to reality and the president simply repeats his mantras and tries to look unconcerned, even confident and feisty.
That there is little room for reality at the highest levels of the administration is all too obvious. The president’s public statements are repeatedly off key, responding to imaginary events rather than real ones, and sometimes totally dissonant, as when he gave a speech about jobs at a company that was closing down, or in his increasingly odd and incoherent efforts in foreign policy. For example, consider these amazing lines from a story by Helene Cooper in the New York Times, concerning administration planning for Syria after the now-anticipated fall of Bashar Assad:
…the Obama administration has begun to make plans for American policy in the region after he exits.
In coordination with Turkey, the United States has been exploring how to deal with the possibility of a civil war among Syria’s Alawite, Druse, Christian and Sunni sects, a conflict that could quickly ignite other tensions in an already volatile region.
As Ms. Cooper explains, these explorations are driven by a desire to avoid repetition of the Bush administration’s errors in Iraq, where the United States did not adequately prepare for what came after the successful invasion of the country. A laudable goal, although the description of what happened in Iraq is typically misguided (there was no civil war; Syria and Iran supported a guerrilla war against the allied coalition), and the list of potential fighters in Syria surprisingly omits the Kurds, arguably the most important of all because they are a major factor in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. But it is the four words “in coordination with Turkey” that demonstrate the extent to which wishful thinking has trumped reality in the Obama White House, for the Turks are hardly ideal allies in the Middle East these days — they are seeking to establish their own hegemony — and as long as he is in that dangerous frame of mind, Erdogan is a totally unsuitable partner. Listen to our own Barry Rubin sum it up:
Turkey’s Islamist regime subverted and then opposed sanctions against Iran. That regime also declared Iran and Syria, Hamas and Hizballah to be its friends. It also sponsored a terrorist group (the IHH) to provoke Israel into an international incident that would generate Islamist martyrs and dead Israeli soldiers. Now, rejecting Israeli conciliation attempts (regrets; donations to families of jihadists who got killed trying to kill Israelis), the Turkish regime escalated to the verge of war.
Worse yet, Obama isn’t actively trying to help the victims of the mass murder in Syria, let alone bring down Assad, despite his proclamation that “Assad must go.” He is simply reading tea leaves, trying to avoid looking like an imperialist, and hoping to be able to take credit if anything good should happen.
But what if nothing good does happen? What if Assad wins? Ms. Cooper knows it’s possible, but the folks talking to her have a strange way of discussing it:
To be sure, Mr. Assad may yet prove as immovable as his father, Hafez al-Assad, was before him. Many foreign policy analysts say that the longer Mr. Assad remains in power, the more violent the country will become. And that violence, they say, could unintentionally serve Mr. Assad’s interests by allowing him to use it to justify a continuing crackdown.
As if there weren’t already a “continuing crackdown”? As if Assad weren’t already ordering the slaughter of his citizens — sometimes randomly, as when his artillery lobs shells into cities full of protesters? His violence is quite intentional, and he doesn’t “use it” to justify the slaughter. It’s what he does, as his father before him.
Let’s put it in simple English: Assad is slaughtering the Syrians who are challenging him. The longer he stays, the more he slaughters. And he may win. Then what? There’s no answer to this obvious question, because the White House is planning its moves after the happy moment when Assad falls and Obama takes credit for it and Erdogan calls the White House to get his orders.
Not so long ago, the White House was telling journalists that there was a new “Obama Doctrine,” driven by the three Valkyries (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power), according to which the United States is obliged to rally to the side of people protesting for their freedom against regimes killing them because of their courage. That’s why, we were told, Obama authorized the American Air Force to bomb the Libyan armed forces.
That was clearly a hoax, wasn’t it? For the Syrian and Iranian regimes have murdered more of their own than Qadaffi ever did, and they kill Americans too. So if it was right to support Qadaffi’s opposition, it’s even more right to support Assad’s and Khamenei’s. Forget it. Instead, our most dangerous enemies — who turn out to be the most bloodthirsty killers in the region — are more often than not treated as if they were potential allies who have temporarily gone astray. Take the Taliban, for example.
Just as LBJ was forever trying to apply just the right amount of violence in order to get the North Vietnamese to “reason together” at the negotiating table, so we are forever organizing (or, at a minimum, supporting) peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The result: the chief negotiator gets blown up by a terrorist with a bomb in his turban (as in the famous Danish cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his own turban that was judged so insulting to the “Muslim world” [another fantasy] that it was used as an excuse for riots in Copenhagen and all over the Middle East). And it seems, at least from a distance, that Taliban attacks are increasing, not diminishing.
Or take Iran. Nowhere is the administration’s incoherence more dramatic. The regime is conducting a widespread war against Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as slaughtering its own. From time to time the administration, including the president himself, puts out information confirming it all. But not only is there no support for the Iranian people — who have long since demonstrated their hatred of the regime and their willingness to risk life and limb to challenge it — the president steadfastly refuses to call for regime change in Tehran. In his speech to the United Nations today, he warned that if Iran does not clean up its act, it will suffer greater “isolation.”
Meanwhile, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad unleash mass murder against us and the Iranian people, and race towards acquisition of nuclear devices with which they can kill far more of us and our allies. And what are we planning to do in response to their acts of war? Perhaps more sanctions (which are welcome but will not bring down the regime or force the mullahs to change their policy), and certainly more negotiations, which have been ongoing since Obama’s 2008 campaign. It’s obvious that the hostage release was negotiated, for example. One will get you five that the White House arranged the million dollar ransom, and the odds are that there were additional concessions as well. This sort of incoherence is contagious, and spreads to the minds of people who ought to know better. It seems that military planners are pondering the creation of a “hot line” to Tehran, to avoid “accidental war.”
But war is already under way, and it’s no accident. This is more fantasyland. Just listen to what the Wall Street Journal’s reporters have to say and you’ll see a masterpiece of blithering:
At least initially, defense officials are most enthusiastic about expanding navy-to-navy contacts with Iran to prevent miscalculations. But they remain wary of any direct engagement with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, due to its deep ties to Middle East militant groups the U.S. has designated terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
At the same time, U.S. officials acknowledge that most of these near-altercations with Iran have involved the IRGC, making its command central to resolving many disputes.
So, by the administration’s own standards, it’s a non-starter. And that’s the least of it. For unless you believe that the Iranians will use the hot line to avoid conflict, its creation offers them a golden opportunity to deceive us, to delay our response to their attacks, and to put even more Americans at risk.
It ought to be obvious. But then, it should have been obvious a long time ago that Syria and Iran were foes, not friends, that they want our defeat and destruction, and that our only real choice is between defeating them or losing to them.
Hard to win when everyone around the president tells him he’s a genius.