Foreign Policy

Obama’s foreign-policy trap

The focus of the next year for President Obama will be the economy: He told reporters at his first post-election press conference today that his “No. 1 concern” would be to restore jobs and reduce the deficit. The middle classes now know that he feels their pain.

He certainly never mentioned foreign policy goals among his priorities, and no White House reporter asked him about them. Foreign policy was not among the voters’ concerns during the campaign.

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‘Entangling alliances with none’

If you recall, our Founding Fathers gave us advice as our country looked to the future. George Washington’s farewell address urged us to stay away from the affairs of Europe. He recommended our ties be commercial, not political. Thomas Jefferson remarked, “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

Fast-forward over 200 years and we cannot say we have followed any of that guidance. This is no more evident example than the never-ending “War on Terror.”

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Obama's Middle-East blind side?

President Obama has been frightfully consistent embracing high-profile issues that make him look like the liberal king of the world. Often this forces pragmatism to take a back seat to glorious politics. The promotion of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations while arrogantly ignoring nuclear Iran is one such situation.
 
If President Obama were to achieve world peace, he would be permanently romanticized in history among the greats. What better start than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? After all, this war illustrates the greater conflict between the modern West and the Muslim world. If his administration could find a resolution to this historical conflict, it could nullify larger future battles.  
 
Consequently, Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations are high-profile events. However, when put in proper perspective, it’s a fairly low impact war; the conflict is just contained between the two.
 
These pointless negotiations are burning precious American resources and robbing us of the time our president should be spending vigilantly protecting America — namely from Iran. President Obama's apathy out of arrogance, or perhaps empathy, toward a nuclear Iran has to be the most astounding thing I have witnessed in recent memory.
 
A nuclear Iran is far more threatening than Palestinians to both Israel and America. Yet, it’s not high profile enough for our president to give this issue his necessary attention.
 
What must happen to jog this administration's common sense for them to have a revelation moment before this complex matter truly erupts? A suicide bomber strapped with nukes blowing away half of Tel Aviv or Baghdad? We need leadership that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty to get the job done.
 
Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook- www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.



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Mideast peace: Just do it

The announcement of next week’s direct talks in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been greeted with buckets of cynicism. It’s a perfectly understandable reaction given the lack of progress toward a Middle East settlement since Mr. Netanyahu returned to office with the ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister.

Less attention, however has focused on the “why now?” question, whose equally predictable answer has been that the decision to convene the summit was driven by the domestic U.S. political agenda, with President Obama looking for a foreign policy victory before the November mid-term elections.

So, I have a nagging feeling the summit might yet turn into a game-changer. Why else would King Abdullah of Jordan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fly to Washington for dinner? I can’t believe President Obama invited them simply to thank them for delivering the Palestinians to the meeting.

As George Mitchell put it last week, when painting a house, it takes a frustrating amount of time to prime the building. But once that is done, the painting itself can be over very quickly. If you look at the language used by both Hillary Clinton and Mitchell last week, they both seemed quietly confident it is right to set a year’s deadline to solve the most intractable “final status” issues: the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

President Obama not only has the years of Mitchell’s Middle East experience to draw on — he is the author of the 2001 Mitchell report, which even then called on the Israeli government to freeze settlement expansion — but also that of Bill Clinton at Camp David. It would be irresponsible if the Obama administration had not already had some kind of understanding from the Israelis on the extension of the settlement freeze, which runs out on Sep. 26 and is key to the Palestinian participation in the talks.

Overcoming the Hamas problem in the context of a future Palestinian state looks insurmountable. It would also seem farfetched to suggest Prime Minister Netanyahu has changed. Yet, Mitchell says both the Israeli PM and President Abbas believe they can strike a peace deal in a year. Mr. Netanyahu seems to have convinced President Obama of his sincerity when they met in Washington last month.

One thing President Obama has tried to inject into political life is hope over cynicism — the latter never in short supply in the Middle East. We shall see next week if he can prove the doomsayers wrong.

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Iraq, Bush and the upcoming campaign

I was talking to my good friend Alex Mistri, a man who spent a year working for the military and the State Department in Iraq, and I asked him what he thought about departure of combat troops from that beleaguered country.

He told me he was deeply ambivalent. He wished that the president had a just a little more patience to give the Iraqis a chance to get their coalition government together. On the one hand, he was happy to see that our policies over there have worked and that many of our troops are coming home knowing that they did a good job. On the other hand, he is deeply apprehensive that the cake isn’t ready yet, and by leaving, we give extremists a chance to destabilize the country.

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Hillary's dark double

“America is wherever we look, wherever we’re going to be.” — Don Draper

When will our two-party system, each party featuring strategies of world domination via image, economy or the gun, be seen to be what it is: totalitarian?

When will citizens of the smaller place, the natural state and the normal life — New England, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Utah, Rick Perry’s Texas or Jerry Brown’s California — find the courage to collectively deny the neurotic abstractions of these mad leviathans who commandeer our fate like George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton? When will the horde mentality of Marx and Keynes yield to real citizenship and true statehood?

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On Afghanistan, Steele is (gasp!) right

As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. So it’s no surprise Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele finally got something right — on Afghanistan.

Speaking to a Republican fundraiser in Connecticut last week, Steele blasted the war in Afghanistan. “This was a war of Obama’s choosing,” said the ever-colorful and controversial RNC chairman. “This is not something the United States prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

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'Too cute by half'?

And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) thought he had had the worst week in Washington, D.C. Seems Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele came to Boehner's rescue with a blunder so amazing — well, to borrow some of Boehner's metaphor, it is kind of like comparing a nuclear weapon to an ant.
 
Last night Steele was caught on camera claiming that Afghanistan was a war of President Obama's choosing, not something the United States wanted to engage in, and that the one thing you don't do, if you are a student of history, is to "engage in a land war in Afghanistan." According to an account in The Hill, Steele even went so far as to say President Obama was trying to be "too cute by half" in demonizing the war in Iraq while deeming Afghanistan the right war.

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