Monday, May 04, 2009

Mike Williams' Obama Watch - May 5, 2009

Today’s blogs focus mainly on foreign affairs.

First up – Michael Rubin, writing at The Weekly Standard:

So what should the Obama administration learn from the Taliban's tactical victory [in Pakistan]? First, soft power and economic development are irrelevant to this situation unless they are enabled by hard power.

Second, engagement is no panacea. Not all our adversaries share Obama's good faith. The Taliban--or, for that matter, the Iranian leadership--are motivated not by earthly desires, but by a religious ideology, one that brands any government unwilling to bow to their demands as illegitimate and Satanic. To them, negotiations can be useful only for gaining immediate advantage: The Taliban might gain safe haven; Tehran might gain time.

While it would be unfair to suggest that Obama himself has sought to engage the Taliban, senior officials surrounding the president do urge talks. (The Clinton administration, it should be remembered, actually sent an emissary to meet with the Taliban in 1997, and even after 9/11 Secretary of State Colin Powell counseled reaching out to the "moderate Taliban.")

Further, it is clear that the president does not appreciate the dangers of granting Islamists a safe haven. Weak condemnations of Zardari for doing this are meaningless, especially when the administration simultaneously pursues policies that will provide terrorists and their supporters safe haven in Iraq and Gaza.

Indeed, unless the president and the secretary of state understand that soft power and accommodation are about as effective at countering Islamism as lollipops are at curing cancer, the march to Buner may become the symbol of the Obama presidency, played out repeatedly, from Baghdad to Basra to Beirut.

Amir Taheri, writing at the WSJ Online:

Tehran plays a patient game. Wherever possible, it is determined to pursue its goals through open political means, including elections. With pro-American and other democratic groups disheartened by the perceived weakness of the Obama administration, Tehran hopes its allies will win all the elections planned for this year in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

"There is this perception that the new U.S. administration is not interested in the democratization strategy," a senior Lebanese political leader told me. That perception only grows as President Obama calls for an "exit strategy" from Afghanistan and Iraq. Power abhors a vacuum, which the Islamic Republic of Iran is only too happy to fill.

Newt Gingrich, writing in The Jerusalem Post:

"They [the Obama administration] are systematically setting up the most decisive confrontation that we've ever seen," the leading Republican politician told The Jerusalem Post, referring to news reports about the administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There's almost an eagerness to take on the Israeli government to make a point with the Arab world," he said, speaking to the Post ahead of his speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference….

And Bill Katz at Urgent Affairs:

Recently, the administration handed Iran two gifts: [Secretary of Defense] Gates himself essentially took the military option off the table, a major strategic blunder, in my view. It wasn't necessary and wasn't called for. And the State Department announced that it wasn't placing any time limit on talks with Iran, something that key members of Congress had recommended that it do. Again, that was neither necessary nor called for.

So Iran now knows that the military pressure is off and that, officially at least, we're not watching the clock. If you were Tehran, what would you do? I suggest that extending the slightly open fist would be the wise strategy - talk, smile a bit, and concede nothing. [Katz is referring here to Obama’s opened hand/closed fist analogy.]

The Persians are known, historically, as superb negotiators. I suspect they're about to prove it once more, at our expense.

Slightly off today's foreign affairs focus but on an very important story is Ed Morrissey's post at Hot Air:

There are two Americas after all. In one, people pay off mistresses with their own money, while in the other, the very wealthy ironically use other people’s money to do it. Federal investigators have begun probing John Edwards’ campaign records to see whether he broke the law in paying off Rielle Hunter, the mistress and apparently the mother of his youngest child….

Over the last few years, Edwards helped promote political populism, but he was always an unlikely banner-carrier for that effort. He make [sic] hundreds of millions of dollars for himself first as a personal-injury lawyer, and then later working for a hedge fund, one of the big class-warfare targets of the Left.

He railed about “two Americas” while he built a 28,000-square-foot mansion for himself. And he preached about universal health care, exploiting his wife’s illness on the campaign trail, while betraying her with one of his aides.

His wife Elizabeth continues to fight cancer, and in her memoir recalls that she threw up when Edwards told her of his betrayal — and predictably lied about the extent of the affair.

The rest of Edwards’ supporters should be throwing up as well, if the investigation concludes that Edwards paid off Hunter with campaign funds. The rest of us found ambulance-chasing populism nauseating from the beginning.


If you only have time to read only a few of the articles I've linked to here, I suggest Amir Taheri's and Ed Morrissey's.