May 8th 2013

Why GOP Attacks on Obama Foreign Policy Are Shameless

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
On CBS’s Face the Nation this week, GOP Congressman Darrel Issa held forth once again on the Obama Administration’s “failures” surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya last October.   Later this week his Congressional Committee will open hearings.
 
Other Republicans pontificated about the President’s failure to “move decisively” to intervene in the civil war in Syria. 
 
It is increasingly clear that some in the GOP have decided to launch a frontal assault on the Obama Administration’s conduct of foreign policy. 
 
Their behavior pretty much defines the term shameless since it comes from the Party whose ideologically-driven agenda very recently created some of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history. 
 
Why are these attacks so brazen and outrageous?
 
Let’s take Issa’s revival of the Benghazi “scandal.” 
 
The original Republican narrative about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was premised on the assumption that President Obama failed to recognize that the attack involved “terrorism.”   This charge is still being made today despite the fact that the President himself – several days after the event – referred to the event as “act of terror.”
 
GOP critics persist in this criticism, not withstanding the fact that the issue was at the center of one of the most memorable moments in one of last year’s Presidential debates when Mitt Romney made a major gaff by arguing that the President had failed to recognize the attack as “terrorism” and was then corrected by moderator Candy Crowley who pointed out that the President’s account of events was correct.
 
The GOP critics persist in criticizing UN Ambassador Susan Rice for delivering “talking points” on the Sunday talk shows immediately following the attack that concluded the attacks had resulted from a spontaneous demonstration rather than a planned assault.  But those critics continue to ignore that at the time, that was the conclusion of the intelligence community – a conclusion that was later changed based on more complete information.
 
All you need to do is look at the changing contemporary accounts of the Boston Marathon bombings or the Newtown shootings to understand how first reports concerning violent events often change.
 
But more to the point, what benefit would the Administration have gained by lying about the circumstances surrounding the events anyway? 
 
Now Congressman Issa seems intent on arguing that the Administration failed to properly secure the Benghazi compound from attack.  Of course there is little question that the compound did not have enough security, since several of its occupants were killed.  And there are certainly operational lessons that can be learned from these events.  But the Republicans conveniently ignore that they had been the authors of cuts in the State Department’s security budget – and that the person ultimately in charge of decisions involving the diplomatic mission to Libya was the Ambassador who himself was killed.
 
What possible reason would the Obama Administration have to intentionally provide too little security to its own Ambassador? 
 
You have to assume that by continuing to pursue the Benghazi “scandal” story the GOP is trying to imply that President Obama is “soft on terrorism,” when in fact he has done more to destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist network than the Neo-Cons who surrounded George W. Bush could ever have dreamed – including the demise of Osama Bin Laden. 
 
And Syria? Every day you hear some new GOP spokesman attacking the President for being “indecisive.”  But as Cokie Roberts pointed out on ABC last Sunday, the moment you ask them what they propose to do, they start dancing around anything specific.
 
The problem is that there are no great options in Syria.  The war in Syria is a battle between the Alawite Shia minority of President Assad and various factions of the Sunni majority. It is also a multi-polar proxy war between Iran and its ally Hezbollah – the Gulf State monarchies –the Muslim Brotherhood political parties that have come to power in Egypt – the moderate Islamic Party that rules Turkey – the Russians – and the United States and its European allies.
 
In fact, the polling shows that most Americans are thrilled that President Obama has not precipitously thrust America into another war in the Middle East. 
 
America certainly does have an interest in helping to prevent the conflict in Syria from spinning further out of control – and to protect any more innocent civilians from being killed or made into refugees.   But all you need to do is look at the unforeseen consequences of previous interventions in the Middle East to understand why the President should be very deliberate in his choice of options.
 
You can go all the way back to the “brilliant” CIA sponsored coup against Iran’s progressive democratically-elected Prime Minister Mosoddegh.  That coup restored the monarchy – the Shah of Iran – whose oppressive rule ultimately gave us all the Ayatollah Khomeini and the theocracy in Iran.
 
Or there was the completely unnecessary, elective War in Iraq that drained our economy of trillions of dollars, cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives, made millions refugees and put an Iranian ally in power in Baghdad.
 
And it would probably be a bad idea to repeat the Reagan Administration’s ill-advised intervention in Afghanistan to support the Mujahedeen fighting the Soviet-backed secular government.  By arming the insurgents with Stinger missiles that could down Soviet helicopters we certainly did help hasten the fall of the Afghan government and the withdrawal of the Soviet troops that were backing it.  But at the same time we helped to create the Taliban that provided safe haven to Al Qaeda, that not too many years later attacked the United States on 9/11 – and with whom we have been at war ever since.
 
The United States has no interest in providing arms to factions of the Syrian insurrection that may one day be turned against us, or our allies.
 
There is some evidence that the secular, democratic forces within the insurgency have become better organized and have begun to consolidate in the Syrian Free Army.  And you can bet, that the Administration will pursue additional policy options as a result of the reported use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces. But Al Nusra – an affiliate of the Al Qaeda in Iraq – is still a major presence.  The Administration wants to assure that any military aide intended to hasten the departure of Assad increases the likelihood that after Assad’s departure, Syria has a chance at becoming a peaceful, democratic society instead of a failed state or hotbed of Radical Islam.  That’s not “indecisive,” that’s smart.
 
Is this President decisive?  Just ask the late Osama Bin Laden.   Or, speaking of Benghazi, ask the former dictator of Libya, Muammar Qadhafi, what happened when he threatened to annihilate that city’s entire population.
 
In fact, this President has shown himself to be precisely the kind of decisive, smart, cool-under fire  leader that you want when the stakes are really high.  He has rejected the kind of bull in the china closet bluster that led America into the War in Iraq – and provided a better recruiting poster for terrorists than they could ever have created on their own. Instead, he has focused on developing true multi-national coalitions to accomplish critical missions.   And in addition, he understands that the last thing America wants or needs is another war.
 
There are certainly elements of this Administration’s foreign policy that should be changed.  But most of those, like following through on his commitment to close the Guantanamo prison, are not the targets of Republican criticism.  Rather they result from obstacles erected by Republicans themselves.
 
In the end, recent Republican attacks on President Obama’s foreign policy may be brazen, outrageous and infuriating.  But they will have very little lasting political effect.  In fact, try as they might, the Neo-Cons who still dominate Republican foreign policy are swimming upstream against a very strong current of public opinion that opposes more wars.
 
In the last election – for the first time in a generation – Democrats had the political high-ground on foreign policy – both because of the dismal failures of the Bush years, and because of the crisp, decisive and effective performance of President Obama, Hillary Clinton and their foreign policy team during the Administration’s first four years.
 
The next time you see Darrel Issa or Lindsey Graham or Liz Cheney on television attacking Obama Administration foreign policy, ask yourself if we confronted a major international crisis in the Middle East, or Korea, or somewhere we have never dreamed about – who would you rather have responding to that 3AM phone call – George Bush, Dick Cheney and their gang -- or Barack Obama?
 
 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "