January 22, 2010

Obama's Time

As recorded earlier, President Obama nominated former CNN CEO and Time managing editor Walter Isaacson to the Board of Broadcasting Governors. So when Joe Klein of Time softballs a Q & A minus the Q, to Obama we know exactly what’s going on. It’s not Klein up to his usual tricks - the connection goes to the top.

On the plus side, Klein epitomizes the demise of foreign policy discourse.

At the bottom of the 5th page of a 6 page transcript, Klein complements, “Let me ask you one foreign policy question. My sense is that - just my own personal sense, but also from people I talk to - the overall conception of your foreign policy has been absolutely right. Necessary, corrective. Subtle, comprehensive.”

“We have a good team,” replies Obama.

The conversation turn more confusing when Klein states, “But there have been some problems in execution.”

“Well, I would not deny that,” Obama initially concedes, “but let me say that given what's on our plate - and you know the list. I don't need to tick them off.”

Klein cracks a joke: “I've been to most of them in the past year.”

To which Obama responds - after “not denying” problems in execution - “I actually think that our execution has been sound as well.” Joe Klein blinks and stares off to the side. Luckily Obama holds himself slightly more accountable and actually obliges those of us wondering what he’s talking about.

“I'll give you the examples of where I think our foreign policy team has gotten the right strategy and has executed well even though the outcomes are still uncertain - because these are tough problems that aren't subject to easy solutions.”

He starts by citing Iraq as his success, without mentioning opposition to the surge or that Iraq’s government demanded America withdraw. Turning to Afghanistan, Obama says it was the “toughest decision that I’ve made,” and reassures us his surge is on pace.

As if this were the reason his voters are worried.

Obama claims, “We are probably ahead of schedule so far in terms of recruiting and training Afghans,” when they’re behind schedule according to Senator Carl Levin. He also reinforces, “we should set very modest expectations of what's sustainable to transfer to an Afghan government.”

This is his definition of correct strategy and execution - making the war longer and ignoring that Afghanistan has no government in place. Today Karzai told the BBC, "Unfortunately our election was very seriously mistreated by our Western allies."

Obama then calls Iran, “one of our trickiest foreign policy challenges, we have held the international community together, both in our engagement strategy, but also now as we move into a dual-track approach. Which is, If they don't accept the open hand, we've got to make sure they understand there are consequences for breaking international rules.”

Assuming one track is peace, the other is war. Success, then, is moving the international community onto the war track.

He mentions North Korea: “everybody was skeptical at the beginning of this year that we could get serious sanctions. Not only have we gotten serious sanctions, but they've actually been implemented.”

Do sanctions have a goal though? Are they supposed to disarm North Korea’s nuclear program or to bring it back to Six Party talks? Or just starve North Koreans by starving their leaders. Fulfilling economic promises might work better.

But Obama saves his haymakers for the end.

He informs us in Voice of America style, as if we didn’t know, “when it comes to counterterrorism, this Administration has taken out more al-Qaeda high-level operatives, has been more aggressive in pinning them down, not just in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also working with our international partners in places like Yemen and Somalia, than a lot of what's taken place previously.”

Obama is actually boasting of his drone score nearing 60. As his voters lament a foreign policy no different than Bush's, he's hearing a compliment.

But conflicts in Yemen and Somalia have widened, not contracted, after assassinating al-Qaeda operatives. He’s really admitting to a single-minded, counter-terrorism response. A lack of political, economic, and social strategy - Obama’s strategy is the opposite of “comprehensive.”

Military aid to Yemen doubled, non-military aid did not. US forces are targeting several Yemeni clerics deemed “global terrorists,” in addition to being political and tribal leaders, which could cause revolts. al-Qaeda is already moving on.

Pakistan still has hang-ups with the Kerry-Lugar bill, military reimbursements, and trade issues. A true carrot and stick policy, freezing Islamabad’s aid until it does more. Defense Secretary Robert Gates just passed through Pakistan without lightening US airport security.

US weapons are falling into al-Shabab’s hands.

All of this is apparently irrelevant because Obama finds only two faults in his foreign policy. One is Umar Abdulmutallab, failed Christmas bomber.

“The other area which I think is worth noting is that the Middle East peace process has not moved forward. And I think it's fair to say that for all our efforts at early engagement, it is not where I want it to be.”

Finally Klein decides to wake up and ask his question: “Why is that? My sense of it is that Mitchell spent a number of months negotiating a settlement deal and saw some progress from the Israelis and kind of got blinded by that, because he didn't see that it wasn't sufficient progress for the Palestinians.”

“I'll be honest with you,” Obama assures us.

“A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get.”

“B) Both sides - the Israelis and the Palestinians - have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that.”

He gives no C), besides Hamas. Insisting he put all his effort into early engagement, he blames, “I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.” This from someone said to be impatient with any process.

Obama stays true to presidential form, taking no responsibility for his own actions by using bad English.

“And so what we're going to have to do - I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.”

Sounds like Obama is blaming the Palestinians, and to a lesser extent Israel, for raising his expectations and for him raising our expectations. It’s Israeli and Palestinian politics, not US politics, spoiling negotiations. Right.

Suffice to say, we’ll be diving deeper into Obama’s testimonial since Time won’t. The show is over when headlines read, US envoy starts Mideast tour amid Obama pessimism.


  1. Here are SOME of the Neocons, Zionists, and Israel Firsters that are running Obama Time.


  2. We're always monitoring CNAS - it's the new American Enterprise Institute. They've got a creepy little circle going there don't they, and the Aspen Institute is the same deal.

  3. Cheney's black/ops basement is still in full swing. Their playground is getting bigger.

  4. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aMC_MBypG18c&pos=9

  5. OFF topic; My wife is a naturalized American citizen, and so am I. She was born in S/Korea. I was born in Germany. We are planning on moving to S/Korea in 2-3 years. What is your take on the S/K N/K situation?

  6. That’s two hard questions combined. Nothing from North Korea should stop you from living and South Korea sounds like a great place to relocate, more or less outside the world’s problems. Except NK of course.

    It’s strange because there’s no apparent reason not to live in SK, but the situation with NK is clearly worsening. Obama has decided squeeze NK just like his predecessors and we have scarce faith in sanctions and arms embargoes. Unrealistic as it seems, we’re sticking with true diplomacy, either bilateral NK-US or six-party talks, to resolve the core issues of NK economic incentives and regional hostility. It’s pointless to try and out-hawk NK and we don’t expect peaceful progress in the coming years.

    Now will a war break out? The only way that seems possible is aggression on America’s part. NK is trying to bait us, so we assume it’s waiting for us to attack to justify retaliation and profit politically at home. We’re assuming US officials know this too, meaning they need to have a big reason to provoke NK. We can think of two.

    One is NK getting caught while transferring nuclear technology to Iran or Myanmar. America may then attempt to turn NK into its new scapegoat and make it an example by toppling and de-nuking the regime. The same failed logic assumed the Iraq war would scare off Iran’s nuclear ambition, but it’s created by the second scenario.

    In three years, if Obama doesn’t correct destructive course, we could see a real Neocon back in power, open and eager to attack NK, either clandestinely or with an “international alliance.” So your question hinges on what happens in the 2012 election, and that situation isn’t looking good.

  7. Thanks, much appreciated.
    I have the same feelings. China is the question, and the answer. I believe China will reintroduce N/K back into the world. After all, it is all about saving face. And N/S/Korea and China are cousins.
    Even Japan is now having second thoughts about leaning toward the West.
    LOL,re: "real Neocons" ya, they just push the pedal to the metal a lot harder. At this rate they will be back in 2012.
    The Asian Pacific rim is drastically changing. IMO: Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, etc, are all looking toward China not the U.S.A. This is China's century. ASEAN, SCO, and others are on the move. N/Korea has been a Geopolitical ping pong ball, the same as other pawns in the grand game. But, in the end it will be China that rides in on the white horse, not U.S.A. America has never understood the value of saving face. Most importantly they do not accept the circle of life.

  8. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/LA23Dg01.html

  9. I do not know if you are familiar with this site. Some good info in here. Let me know what you think.