Obama mugged by the realities of foreign policy
Barack Obama’s foreign policy disasters are about what one might expect from a leftist community organizer elected to be leader of the free world. So many of the countries this administration has touched — Ukraine, Libya, Iraq — have descended into acute civil war on Obama’s watch. It’s worth asking why, exactly, this has been the case.
It’s not quite as simple as “the left sucks at war.” French Socialist President Francois Hollande, for example, isn’t too bad at it. He’s been successfully running a series of ongoing foreign interventions in Africa.
So what does a French Socialist have that Obama doesn’t? Two things: a French public that’s relatively pragmatic in its views of military interventionism, particularly within their nation’s sphere of influence; and an above-board public coupling of military and business interests, to the point where the French public fully accepts that there is no daylight between the two sectors. If France stages a military intervention, the president doesn’t need to perform political gymnastics to justify subsequent corporate involvement. This clearly isn’t the case in America.
It’s childishly naive to think that conflict and interventionism are avoidable when you’re a superpower. Especially in a time of economic crisis, the pressure is always on to enlarge your nation’s slice of the global pie.
The problem is that leftists can’t handle this reality, nor can they digest the idea that it’s natural for humans to fight over the planet’s limited resources. Unfortunately for Obama, leftists elected him and likely still comprise whatever is left of his support base. They thought they were electing a magic unicorn who would woo the world with hope, change and rainbows, because he didn’t seem to have any oil, gas, and defense contractor friends.
But then the community organizer was mugged by reality. Not by “the military-industrial complex” or any other shady conspiracy entity; just plain reality.
Rather than be up front with the public about the cold hard facts of global competition, leftists like Obama feel compelled to get sneaky and invoke pretext to triangulate their non-interventionism with the real world. Ultimately, it doesn’t work, because this is the era of social media and extreme transparency. The only pretext that can be employed discreetly is the initial one. For example, a president can convince the public that intervention is strictly based on humanitarian grounds, but other motivations — notably economic ones — will eventually come to light.
The inevitable transition from pretext to more enduring reality is what vexes this administration. Take the current events in Ukraine, for instance. The entire conflict was predicated on the notion that now-deposed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was too pro-Russian. For that to be a problem that merits intervention to the level of coup d’etat, Russian President Vladimir Putin had to be perceived as the devil incarnate. To maintain support for ongoing intervention in Ukraine and any related spending, that image of Putin would require persistent maintenance.
Ergo, if Russian troops are guarding their own border, they have to be portrayed as being on the verge of imminent invasion. Yet if rogue separatists fire a missile at a passenger jet, then Russia must be blamed for not having secured the breakaway region by sending in troops.
Within the same week, the U.S. State Department blamed Russia for the surface-to-air missile attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and U.S. intelligence officials said there was no evidence of direct Russian involvement. Still, Russia was hit with more sanctions soon after the crash.
The leap from pretext to reality is so gargantuan that poor execution can often yield comical results. Western sanctions have targeted figures such as the director of Russia’s FSB domestic spy agency, Alexander Bortnikov, and his SVR foreign intelligence counterpart, Mikhail Fradkov. Does anyone really believe that these intelligence chiefs are losing sleep over having one of their unlimited number of identities subjected to restrictions?
Iraq and Libya have been left to disintegrate because the Obama administration hasn’t figured out how to run headlong into a massive failstorm without having to actually be seen fighting. It managed to pull that off exactly once, with Syria. But only because Russia took care of the situation — right before being kicked in the teeth.
Obfuscation and narrative maintenance seem like so much more work than just being honest with the public. Maybe we should just elect leaders who don’t have to waste so much effort bridging the gap between convenient untruths and reality. Unless, of course, we’re into that sort of thing.
(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris. She appears frequently on TV and in publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website can be found at: http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)