By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
It’s been a gradual process, but we welcome former New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb to the realization that President Barack Obama’s leadership has been disastrous for this country. Last October Gelb wrote, “While Obama inherited rather than caused many of the world’s current crises, his habitual complacency and passivity prevent him from mitigating or resolving them.”
By November, Gelb had scathing criticism for Obama, writing for The Daily Beast that “The leak suggests that Mr. Obama remains blind to the principal cause of his foreign policy woes… he is the person most responsible for the absence of a U.S. foreign policy strategy, for policy zigs and zags, and for the loss of credibility and power. The essential fault lies not with the stars around him, however dim, but with himself.”
The failure to send a high-ranking member of the Obama administration to Paris for the so-called unity rally was the last straw for Mr. Gelb, whose impeccable establishment credentials include board senior fellow and president emeritus at the Council on Foreign Relations. He even acknowledges it in The Daily Beast title: “This Is Obama’s Last Foreign Policy Chance.”
Gelb said that failing to go to Paris or to send the vice president was more than a “horrible gaffe,” adding that it “demonstrated beyond argument that the Obama team lacks the basic instincts and judgment necessary to conduct U.S. national security policy in the next two years. It’s simply too dangerous to let Mr. Obama continue as is—with his current team and his way of making decisions. America, its allies, and friends could be heading into one of the most dangerous periods since the height of the Cold War.”
But unfortunately, this wasn’t Obama’s last foreign policy chance. Gelb recommends that Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Denis McDonough, and Valerie Jarrett should go. There is no doubt that these four have helped make an utter mess of American foreign policy, but largely at the direction of their boss.
Gelb suggests that President Obama add establishment Republican Thomas Pickering, who is soft on Iran and also complicit in the Benghazi cover-up as the Chair of the discredited Accountability Review Board (ARB), the State Department creation that didn’t even interview then-Secretary of State Clinton, and informed Mrs. Clinton through her aide, Cheryl Mills, when the vice chair of the ARB became concerned about the testimony of one of the witnesses.
“Pickering has personally explored opening relations with Hamas; pushed peace talks with the Taliban; argued for getting rid of, or removing to the U.S., all tactical nuclear weapons in Europe (and moving Russia’s to east of the Urals); and promoted bilateral talks with Iran without preconditions,” wrote Andy McCarthy. These are the credentials to pull our country out of its foreign policy disasters?
Actually, we may not even agree with Gelb’s belief that the President should replace his current team, or whether that even matters. And that is because of another point he makes: “In the end, making the national security system work comes down to one factor, one man—Barack Obama. He’s the key problem, and he’s the only one who can bring about a solution.”
What Gelb’s column fails to recognize is that this isn’t a problem of President Obama receiving bad advice. It is that he is ideologically driven, and his agenda is clearly antithetical to America’s national security needs and interests. This has been apparent since before the President took office, but it was laid bare in his first year in office. It is just that virtually everyone at The New York Times and other foreign policy establishment institutions either didn’t recognize it, or thought his presidency would be a great antidote to the “cowboy” foreign policy, as they saw it, of the George W. Bush era.
Consider these following presidential actions:
- President Obama’s Cairo speech in his first months, where he invited the Muslim Brotherhood, and didn’t invite the then-president of Egypt to attend;
- His hands-off approach to the green revolution in Iran that possibly could have overthrown that dangerous, terrorist sponsoring, corrupt regime;
- The unilateral removal of our missile defense system from Poland and the Czech Republic;
- His ongoing pledge to shut down Guantanamo Bay;
- His immediate demands on Israel that proved both wrong and counterproductive for what he was hoping to achieve;
- The unnecessary war in Libya, and the ensuing Islamic terrorist attack on our Special Mission Compound and CIA Annex in Benghazi, and the obvious lies and dereliction of duty that went along with it;
- The current phony war against ISIS, with a plan to defeat them that would be absurd if it wasn’t so tragic;
- His lies and distortions about the nature of the threat in today’s world, which include the West’s failure to confront Islamist, jihadist terrorism and growing influence of the caliphate.
Thursday’s Wall Street Journal had an article about the Iraqis’ growing impatience with how the U.S. and its coalition are carrying out the war against the Islamic State (IS), with whom we’re supposedly in a years-long process of degrading and destroying. “The swelling disapproval reflects Iraqi impatience at the U.S.-led mission’s multiyear strategy against Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Many Iraqis see the insurgents as an immediate threat pulling their country apart amid immense suffering,” reports the Journal. “Some Iraqis even believe the coalition is aiding the extremists by airdropping weapons into the third of the country they control.”
It has put us in the position of coordinating with Iran, and the Iranian backed militias are doing much of the fighting on the ground. At the same time, we are supposedly attempting to defeat ISIS in Syria, where we are doing some of the dirty work for Syrian president Basher al Assad, another Iranian proxy.
Mr. Gelb, we’ve just outlined how President Obama’s foreign policy team has been mishandling the hard questions—since day one—and Paris was, unfortunately, just a flash in the pan that momentarily illuminated the President’s perverse ideological strategic vision. He wasn’t there, nor did he send Vice President Biden, because he doesn’t stand in solidarity with the views of the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, who said in the aftermath of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris that left a total of 17 dead, “We’re at war, but not at war against a religion, not against a civilization, but at war to defend our values, which are universal.” He added, “It is a war against terrorism and radical Islam, against everything aimed at breaking solidarity, liberty and fraternity.”
The problem is not a lack of policy, or rearranging the circle of advisers—it’s Obama’s ideology and actual policies themselves that have us in this mess that Leslie Gelb has come to recognize.