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Topic: Michael Hirsh

Hillary Clinton: Errand Girl for Disastrous Foreign Policy

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures – which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

Michael Hirsh writes a lengthy piece on Hillary Clinton, confirming that she’s not much of a secretary of state. But then we knew that from the results of her handiwork — an unratifiable START treaty, a wrecked relationship with Israel, offended European allies, a Middle East “peace process” that has succeeded only in encouraging Palestinian intransigence, a failed Syrian-engagement gambit, and a dead-end Iran policy. So it’s not surprising that Hirsh focuses on her relationship with Obama — Starsky and Hutch! — and dwells on minutiae. After all, that’s what Hillary does best. The duo’s great accomplishment? Storming a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ultimately meaningless Copenhagen global-warming conference. That’s the best Hirsch can come up with.

It’s hard to hide the problem, namely that she’s really not up to the job. Hirsh writes:

“She has no real strategic vision,” says an NSC official. “But she’ll get done what she has to do. She’s the good little Methodist girl. In the end she’ll have her list of the nine or 10 things she has to do and check them off one by one.”

Associates bridle at such condescension, and so do many White House officials, including General Jones. Clinton’s former longtime policy chief, Neera Tanden, sees nothing to apologize for: “She definitely has lists. And she really feels a sense of obligation, duty, responsibility, as part of her general outlook; perhaps it is her Methodism. It’s part of who she is.” Clinton herself ridicules the criticism. “At the end of the day, have you solved the problem or haven’t you? Have you crossed it off the list or haven’t you?”

Hmm. Do you suppose “Thwart Iran’s nuclear program” is on the list? What about “Reorient administration away from Israel”? That one gets a check mark.

Outside observers concede the obvious:

Clinton’s and Obama’s various policies do not yet add up to anything like a doctrine on America’s place in the world. Much of the first year was about “rebuilding the brand, rebuilding political capital,” says one official. And blaming George W. Bush for America’s dire situation, of course. Now, however, fewer world leaders care about the mistakes made by the previous administration. Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says he doesn’t think Clinton is of the caliber of James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who was perhaps the last real superstar in the job. “She’s very smart,” he says. “She understands all these issues. You can have a good discussion with her on almost any [subject]. But she doesn’t pretend to be, nor is she, a strategist. When she goes to the National Security Council, she doesn’t bring that to the table.”

So what does she bring? It seems that Obama found the perfect errand girl for his bizarrely counterproductive strategy of cozying up to despots, shoving democracy promotion aside, dissing allies, and focusing on unilateral grand gestures – which suggests that no one in the administration has a workable strategy for promoting American interests and values. Obama imagines himself a great foreign-policy visionary, but the legacy he is creating is an America more estranged from allies and a Middle East on the tipping point of a deadly nuclear-arms race. Hillary might be just the enabler, but she’ll share in that legacy, which for now promises to be the most dismal of any American president’s since (maybe including) Jimmy Carter.

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Israel Is Not Stopping Obama from Stopping Iran

As the Obama administration begins to back away from its post-Biden-visit ultimatums to Israel about building in Jerusalem, “senior officials” are spinning away the disastrous fight they picked with the Netanyahu government. In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh allows one of these “senior officials” to give readers the “real reason” why Obama flipped out on Israel.

According to Hirsh and his highly placed source, the reason why Obama turned a minor flap about the timing of the announcement of new housing project in Jerusalem wasn’t entirely due to Biden’s injured pride or the motive that Hirsh neglects to mention: the administration’s desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather, says Hirsch and his source, it’s because Obama is terribly worried about Iran and wants Israel to be more supportive of his herculean efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In their tale, the housing dispute made Obama look weak and will detract from his all-out campaign to enact tough international sanctions on the Islamist regime. Hirsh’s confidante says: “Iran is [Obama’s] No. 1 priority, it’s the No. 2 priority, and it’s the No. 3 priority. Everything we do needs to be seen through the lens of how to stop Iran from getting nuclear capability. So they [Israel] need to keep their focus. Why would you want to do anything now to make the president look less strong or effective?” In this narrative, the slap at Biden proves that Obama cares more about stopping Iran than Netanyahu and the Israelis.

Is he serious? This is an administration that spent its first year in office pursuing appeasement and pointless and unsuccessful engagement with Iran. It was unwilling to issue strong statements condemning Iran’s stolen presidential elections and repression of its own people. The administration issued several deadlines for Iran to respond to its outreach efforts but failed to follow up. It has pointedly taken the threat of force off the table and failed to rally both its allies and other countries to support tough sanctions.  Even now, it is dithering in its efforts to enact sanctions far less than the crippling measures needed to truly impact the regime, which views Obama as a weakling who will never do what it takes to keep Iran out of the nuclear club.

Yet despite all this, we’re supposed to believe that Obama is so desperate to stop Iran that it is his first, second, and third foreign-policy priority? To judge by his actions and statements, Obama’s top worry about the issue is that Israel, the country threatened with destruction by Iran’s Islamist tyrants, will tire of waiting for the United States to take action and do something to avert the peril itself. Despite the occasional promise to make good on his campaign pledge that he would never let Iran get nuclear weapons, everything coming out of Washington in the last year has given Tehran the impression that Obama is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb.

Far from the Israelis diverting attention from the Iran issue, it was Obama who chose to blow the Biden contretemps into an international incident. Israel has been building throughout Jerusalem for over 40 years without generating tension with the United States. It was Obama who made the construction of apartments in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Israel’s capital a cause célèbre. Rather than a strategic blunder on Israel’s part, as Hirsh claims, it was Obama who chose to change the conversation about stopping Iran, preferring instead to discuss a dead-end peace process that interests neither the Palestinians nor their Arab allies.

If Obama lacks credibility on Iran, it’s because everything he has done since he took office shows that he has never been serious about stopping their nuclear program, not because the Israelis won’t be bullied on Jerusalem. Far from being frustrated by Israel’s alleged lack of focus on Iran, the recent dustup spoke volumes about the administration’s own desire to change the subject.

As the Obama administration begins to back away from its post-Biden-visit ultimatums to Israel about building in Jerusalem, “senior officials” are spinning away the disastrous fight they picked with the Netanyahu government. In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh allows one of these “senior officials” to give readers the “real reason” why Obama flipped out on Israel.

According to Hirsh and his highly placed source, the reason why Obama turned a minor flap about the timing of the announcement of new housing project in Jerusalem wasn’t entirely due to Biden’s injured pride or the motive that Hirsh neglects to mention: the administration’s desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather, says Hirsch and his source, it’s because Obama is terribly worried about Iran and wants Israel to be more supportive of his herculean efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In their tale, the housing dispute made Obama look weak and will detract from his all-out campaign to enact tough international sanctions on the Islamist regime. Hirsh’s confidante says: “Iran is [Obama’s] No. 1 priority, it’s the No. 2 priority, and it’s the No. 3 priority. Everything we do needs to be seen through the lens of how to stop Iran from getting nuclear capability. So they [Israel] need to keep their focus. Why would you want to do anything now to make the president look less strong or effective?” In this narrative, the slap at Biden proves that Obama cares more about stopping Iran than Netanyahu and the Israelis.

Is he serious? This is an administration that spent its first year in office pursuing appeasement and pointless and unsuccessful engagement with Iran. It was unwilling to issue strong statements condemning Iran’s stolen presidential elections and repression of its own people. The administration issued several deadlines for Iran to respond to its outreach efforts but failed to follow up. It has pointedly taken the threat of force off the table and failed to rally both its allies and other countries to support tough sanctions.  Even now, it is dithering in its efforts to enact sanctions far less than the crippling measures needed to truly impact the regime, which views Obama as a weakling who will never do what it takes to keep Iran out of the nuclear club.

Yet despite all this, we’re supposed to believe that Obama is so desperate to stop Iran that it is his first, second, and third foreign-policy priority? To judge by his actions and statements, Obama’s top worry about the issue is that Israel, the country threatened with destruction by Iran’s Islamist tyrants, will tire of waiting for the United States to take action and do something to avert the peril itself. Despite the occasional promise to make good on his campaign pledge that he would never let Iran get nuclear weapons, everything coming out of Washington in the last year has given Tehran the impression that Obama is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb.

Far from the Israelis diverting attention from the Iran issue, it was Obama who chose to blow the Biden contretemps into an international incident. Israel has been building throughout Jerusalem for over 40 years without generating tension with the United States. It was Obama who made the construction of apartments in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Israel’s capital a cause célèbre. Rather than a strategic blunder on Israel’s part, as Hirsh claims, it was Obama who chose to change the conversation about stopping Iran, preferring instead to discuss a dead-end peace process that interests neither the Palestinians nor their Arab allies.

If Obama lacks credibility on Iran, it’s because everything he has done since he took office shows that he has never been serious about stopping their nuclear program, not because the Israelis won’t be bullied on Jerusalem. Far from being frustrated by Israel’s alleged lack of focus on Iran, the recent dustup spoke volumes about the administration’s own desire to change the subject.

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The Unmasking of Barack Obama

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable. Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, has blamed Obama for the decline in British public support for the war in Afghanistan. According to the Telegraph:

Mr. Ainsworth took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the U.S. President and his delays in sending more troops to bolster the mission against the Taliban. A “period of hiatus” in Washington — and a lack of clear direction — had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said. Senior British Government sources have become increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama’s “dithering” on Afghanistan, the Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month, with several former British defense chiefs echoing the concerns.

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. The Economist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Times refers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. The Saudi “has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory,” according to Ajami. But “he is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.”

Indeed he has — and only Obama and his increasingly clueless administration seem unaware of this. Read More

The overseas reviews for President Obama’s foreign policy are starting to pour in — and they’re not favorable. Bob Ainsworth, the British defense secretary, has blamed Obama for the decline in British public support for the war in Afghanistan. According to the Telegraph:

Mr. Ainsworth took the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing the U.S. President and his delays in sending more troops to bolster the mission against the Taliban. A “period of hiatus” in Washington — and a lack of clear direction — had made it harder for ministers to persuade the British public to go on backing the Afghan mission in the face of a rising death toll, he said. Senior British Government sources have become increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama’s “dithering” on Afghanistan, the Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month, with several former British defense chiefs echoing the concerns.

The President is “Obama the Impotent,” according to Steven Hill of the Guardian. The Economist calls Obama the “Pacific (and pussyfooting) president.” The Financial Times refers to “relations between the U.S. and Europe, which started the year of talks as allies, near breakdown.” The German magazine Der Spiegel accuses the president of being “dishonest with Europe” on the subject of climate change. Another withering piece in Der Spiegel, titled “Obama’s Nice Guy Act Gets Him Nowhere on the World Stage,” lists the instances in which Obama is being rolled. The Jerusalem Post puts it this way: “Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it’s not just that they’re saying no, it’s also the way they’re saying no.” “He talks too much,” a Saudi academic who had once been smitten with Barack Obama tells the Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. The Saudi “has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory,” according to Ajami. But “he is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.”

Indeed he has — and only Obama and his increasingly clueless administration seem unaware of this.

On almost every front, progress is nonexistent. In many instances, things are getting worse rather than better. The enormous goodwill that Obama’s election was met with hasn’t been leveraged into anything useful and tangible. Rather, our allies are now questioning America’s will, while our adversaries are becoming increasingly emboldened. The United States looks weak and uncertain. It’s “amateur hour at the White House,” according to Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former official in the Carter administration. “Not only are things not getting fixed, they may be getting more broken,” according to Michael Hirsh at Newsweek. When even such strong Obama supporters as Gelb and Hirsh reach these conclusions, you know things must be unraveling.

It’s no mystery as to why. President Obama’s approach to international relations is simplistic and misguided. It is premised on the belief that American concessions to our adversaries will beget goodwill and concessions in return; that American self-abasement is justified; that the American decline is inevitable (and in some respects welcome); and that diplomacy and multilateralism are ends rather than means to an end.

Right now the overwhelming issue on the public’s mind is the economy, where Obama is also having serious problems. But national-security issues matter a great deal, and they remain the unique responsibility of the president. With every passing month, Barack Obama looks more and more like his Democratic predecessor Jimmy Carter: irresolute, unsteady, and overmatched. The president and members of his own party will find out soon enough, though, that Obama the Impotent isn’t what they had in mind when they elected him. We are witnessing the unmasking, and perhaps the unmaking, of Barack Obama.

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