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From Warren Christopher to John Kerry — Slow learners about weak horses in the Middle East

From Warren Christopher to John Kerry — Slow learners about weak horses in the Middle East

Seventeen years ago, Charles Lane wrote A Man of Good Intentions about then Secretary of State Warren Christopher being kept waiting by Hafez al-Assad, father of the current Syrian President:

And Assad went out of his way to humiliate Christopher, the American messenger of land-for-peace, when he flew to the region to broker a cease-fire. The Syrian dictator forced Christopher to wait two hours while he met the Russian foreign minister, then stood him up completely for another appointment. Was this all the diplomatic capital the Clinton administration’s most skilled negotiator had earned in two dozen missions to Damascus, the capital of a state designated by the U.S. as a sponsor of international terrorism?

A month ago Secretary of State John Kerry experienced similar treatment at the hands of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps because the atmospherics of Kerry’s recent visit to Moscow were meant to show that his hosts were under no illusions as to who was the more desperate and bowed party. First, Kerry’s motorcade sat in Moscow traffic for a half hour because of a military parade rehearsal for Victory Day, which celebrates the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin kept Kerry waiting for three hours before granting him an audience, upon which he fiddled with his pen and more resembled a man indulging a long-ago scheduled visit from the cultural attaché of Papua New Guinea than participating in an urgent summit with America’s top diplomat.

When you show such deference to thugs, it doesn’t earn you anything. These are the wages of a foreign policy defined by “apology tours.”

Furthermore, as Charles Krauthammer points out today in Message from the ruins of Qusayr, not many look to a weakling for support.

Just to make sure Kerry understood his place, Putin kept him waiting outside his office for three hours. The Russians know how to send messages. And the one from Qusair is this. You’re fighting for your life. You have your choice of allies: Obama bearing “international legitimacy” and a risible White House statement that “Hezbollah and Iran should immediately withdraw their fighters from Syria” or Putin bearing Russian naval protection, Iranian arms shipments and thousands of Hezbollah fighters. Which do you choose?

But the American foreign policy problems are more problematic than just projecting weakness. They are also based in a failure to identify who are friends are. Barry Rubin writes:

American interests are with the rebels of Turkey and Iran; the moderate Muslim-Christian opposition in Lebanon, with Israel and the Kurds; with the real moderates in Egypt; with Jordan’s kingdom which small amounts of money would help enormously; and, yes, often even with the Gulf Arab states (except Qatar) if only given the American leadership they are begging for.

Western and American interests are not with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria; not with the stealth Islamist regime in Turkey for which the Obama Administration just renewed a waiver on sanctions against Iran (!); not with the rejectionist Palestinian Authority, not with some “moderate Islamist” faction of the Iranian regime.

It is past time that this be recognized. But it is a task requiring a Churchill, not the churlish.

Needless to say, President Obama’s latest foreign policy team gives no confidence that this reality will be recognized. The foreign policy disasters of this administration are arguably more damaging long-term than its unwarranted domestic power grabs. But for anything to change, it will require a harder look at the consequences of Obama’s failed foreign policy.


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Chris Matthews is baffled by opposition to President Obama as he faces a series of scandals, especially because the president has “never done anything wrong in his life.”

“His whole life has been crystal clear, and clean as a whistle, and transparent,” Matthews said on his show earlier this week. “He’s never done anything wrong in his life — legally, ethically, whatever.”

I doubt it will ever dawn on these intellectual midgets that life is far from a land with unicorns.

    Insufficiently Sensitive in reply to Neo. | June 7, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    “His whole life has been crystal clear, and clean as a whistle, and transparent,” Matthews said on his show earlier this week. “He’s never done anything wrong in his life — legally, ethically, whatever.”

    Matthews works inside the MSM. The Order of the Day for him and his groupthinker cronies went out in 2007: Thou Shalt Turn Over No Stones near Obama.

    So neither Matthews nor his comrades ever learned nor told us squat about Obama’s upbringing, his associates, his (sealed) academic record, his twenty years with ‘Pastor’ Wright, his political influences, his ‘community organizing’ activism, his diversion of Annenberg funds away from education to leftist activists, his closeness to the Chicago mob nor his criminal cronies such as Bill Ayers.

    And Matthews thinks that because none of that was reported, none of us should acknowledge knowing of it, and by that intellectual contortion seeks to dishonestly whitewash the crook in the White House.

    Mathews is too much of a putz to waste any time one.

Uncle Samuel | June 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Obama’s foreign policy failed?

Not failed, intentionally destructive.

His are the actions of a hijacker, kidnapper, thief.

This sort of criminal doesn’t care about taking care of the car or the rights of the owner. He didn’t earn the auto, didn’t read the owners manual, didn’t even buy the gas, doesn’t plan on taking care of it.

A high percentage of stolen cars are trashed and if hijacked, the owners are killed. The thief resents the system that designed, built, sold and licensed the auto, built the roads…he just wants power without effort.

This is Obama.

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Of course, Obama is planning to take the ‘auto’ to a chop-shop to completely dismantle it and sell it to a foreign dealer- make it into the 58th or so, OIC Islamic model.

David, while I must admit to being biased towards Israel, I had to chuckle when I saw your headline tag, “Slow learners about weak horses”. I am completely fed up with this administration in almost every aspect. I am just wondering how long it will take Kerry to “Swift Boat” our Middle East policy over the past 4 decades, and leave our nation to pick up the pieces of his folly.

BannedbytheGuardian | June 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I have no problem with David being Israel centric – I lived next to Lebanese in the civil war of 83 & got the lucky dip of Croats during the Balkans wars of 92. I lived through each victory & defeat per side knowing that things roll on independent of us.

Without even looking at a map I suspected Quasyr would be held. I saw some footage from the first crew into Quasyr – not much left of the place but it was a definite defeat . There were Syrian soldiers in high spirits & across town regiments of Hizbollah leaving . bTW Hizbollah are beginning to get the look of a well drilled outfit rather than the more scrappy earlier sightings. Their demeanour spelt confidence.

Some news in The Golan . Dutch UN forces are packing up & leaving & the UN forces are down to just over 300 . From the list of nations left – it is not looking promising.

I think Russia has quite a weak hand but they are playing it better .

In reading around comments sections I have not seen any support for western intervention by ordinary citizens. Most leaders are struggling politically themselves .

BannedbytheGuardian | June 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm

BTW- a cultural attaché from NewGuinea would be immensely interesting . Not only do they exist next to the most populous Islamic nation & have been profiled as having the most natural survival intelligence of people’s on earth , but PNG has vast resources.

Also they are pretty mean headhunters & cannibals. I ‘d be picking them up very promptly .

Of course Kerry is being treated like a weak bitch over there. Because he is a weak bitch.

    redc1c4 in reply to Paul. | June 8, 2013 at 1:25 am

    that’s an insult to weak bitches everywhere.

    Estragon in reply to Paul. | June 8, 2013 at 1:57 am

    If Putin had ever seen the photo of Kerry in his wind-surfing suit, he probably would have just beat him up and spit on him, so Kerry should be pleased with his reception.

Kerry wasn’t insulted because he is weak, or because he is a buffoonish gigolo. He was insulted because he represents a man who is weak, and who presents his country as weak.

Be clear on the point: Putin wasn’t insulting Kerry, he was insulting Obama and establishing himself and Russia as an at least equal power. That Russia wields but a fraction of the power of the old Soviet Empire, and an even smaller fraction of American power, is irrelevant if America cannot and will not use her power in her own interest.

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