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

Nov 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "So it could well be that, despite the faster spread of the infection, its ultimate health, social and economic impact proves negligible. We simply do not know at this point. But detecting more uncertainty than before, financial markets have reacted with panic. For example, the S&P500 tumbled 2.3% on Friday November 26 only to rise 1.1% on Monday November 29. Most markets gave up between 2% and 4%, which is a pretty substantial one-day fall."
Nov 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Momentous changes are casting a long shadow on China. The country’s political system will soon undergo a profound reform, pending final approval (a quasi-formality) at next year’s congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). President Xi Jinping, the Party chairman and the “navigator” of the country, has decided on a new course, abandoning the principle of collective leadership. Xi is leading China away from the path taken by Deng Xiaoping after the terror of the Cultural Revolution, and back toward a system of absolute rule by one person without term limits, as under Mao Zedong."
Nov 25th 2021
EXTRACTS: "”The biggest disappointment in Glasgow was the last-minute watering down of the proposed (and widely supported) agreement to “phase out” the use of coal in energy production. With India providing political cover for China in vetoing this language, the final conference proposal was to “phase down” coal”. ---- “China accounts for more than half of the world’s coal consumption, and has the largest amount of coal-fired generating capacity under construction. Pressed about why his country would not do more in Glasgow to help save the planet, China’s chief negotiator pointed to the commitments in the Communist Party of China’s current Five-Year Plan. So, our future now depends on the CPC’s program. The tragedy for the world is that the Party cannot be phased down, much less phased out, despite the fact that it is a huge threat to the future of all of us.” ------ “To save the planet, robust democratic leadership must be phased up – not phased down, let alone phased out. Rather than merely keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best, we should start by calling out the appalling behavior of dictatorships such as China and Russia.”
Nov 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The transitory inflation debate in the United States is over. The upsurge in US inflation has turned into something far worse than the Federal Reserve expected. Perpetually optimistic financial markets are taking this largely in stride. The Fed is widely presumed to have both the wisdom and the firepower to keep underlying inflation in check. That remains to be seen."
Nov 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "S&P projects that companies are planning to install 44 gigawatts of new solar in 2022. The year 2020, despite the onset of the pandemic, saw a record-breaking 19 gigawatts of new solar capacity installed in the U.S. So given the bids out there already, it appears that in 2022 solar installers will more than double their best year ever so far. The U.S. currently has 100 gigawatts of solar electricity-generating capacity, so in just one year we are poised to add nearly 50% of our current total. A gigawatt of power can provide electricity to about 750,000 homes. So the 44 new gigawatts we’ll put in next year have a nameplate capacity that would under ideal conditions allow them to power 33 million homes." ----- "Not only is there a lot of good news on the green energy front but there is good news in the bad news for fossil fuels. S&P finds that coal plants are being retired way before the utilities had expected. Some 29 gigawatts of coal retirements are expected from 2020 through 2025. "
Nov 3rd 2021
EXTRACT: "Zemmour’s way of thinking stems from a tradition going back to the French Revolution of 1789. Catholic conservatives and right-wing intellectuals, who hated the secular republic that emerged from the revolution, have long fulminated against liberals, cosmopolitans, immigrants, and other enemies of their idea of a society based on ethnic purity, obedience to the church, and family values. They were almost invariably anti-Semitic. When Jewish army Captain Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused of betraying his country in the notorious scandal of the 1890s, they were on the side of Dreyfus’s accusers. ---- Germany’s invasion of France in 1940 gave reactionaries of this kind the chance to form a French puppet-government in Vichy. Zemmour has had kind things to say about the Vichy regime. He also has expressed some doubt about the innocence of Dreyfus. ---- None of these views would be surprising if they came from a far-right agitator like Jean-Marie Le Pen. But Zemmour is the son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Algeria who lived among the Muslim Berbers."
Oct 27th 2021
EXTRACT: "performed strongly in last month’s parliamentary and regional elections. Officially, Communist Party candidates took 18.9% of the popular vote for the State Duma (parliament), compared to nearly 49.8% for the Kremlin’s United Russia party. But the Communists refused to recognize the results, insisting that the vote was rigged. And, indeed, some experts estimate that they should have gotten around 30% of the vote, with United Russia taking about 35%."
Oct 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Powell was charismatic in the true sense of the term. Nowadays, this description is too often used to indicate an ability to attract supporters or generate celebrity interest. Internet lists of those who are regarded as charismatic include characters as varied as Adolf Hitler, Bono, Donald Trump, George Clooney, and Rihanna. But the ancient Greeks and Saint Paul used “charisma” to describe values-based leadership infused with a charm capable of inspiring devotion. The Greeks believed that this quality was a gift of grace, while Christian theology regarded it as a power given by the Holy Spirit."
Oct 17th 2021
EXTRACTS: "But property-sector woes are not the only economic danger China faces in 2021-22. The Chinese government’s mounting crackdown on the country’s burgeoning tech sector may pose an even greater threat." ---- "According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the share of Chinese urban employment supported by private enterprises more than quadrupled between 1995 and 2018, from just 18% to 87%. The share of exports generated by the private sector more than doubled over the same period, from 34% to 88%. And private-sector fixed-asset investment jumped from 42% to 65% of the total. The message in the data is clear: clamping down on the private sector and threatening innovators is not the way to ensure sustained rapid growth. Chinese entrepreneurs can read the writing on the wall. They understand that their political and regulatory room to maneuver is shrinking, and that the balance has shifted in favor of state-owned firms and public officials. And they understand that this uneasy atmosphere is likely to persist."
Oct 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "We designed a programme that incorporated data from over 300 million buildings and analysed 130 million km² of land – almost the entire land surface area of the planet. This estimated how much energy could be produced from the 0.2 million km² of rooftops present on that land, an area roughly the same size as the UK."
Oct 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "Britain in the 1950s was wedded to the US, acting as a partner rather than leading the charge. Now, while the UK continues to support the US, the influence it has seems negligible. While it may bring comfort to the UK to feel it is a partner to a superpower, being its stooge or subordinate is an unpleasant place to be, no matter how much you tell yourself it values your opinion."
Oct 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "That was then. Now, the Chinese government has doubled down, with President Xi Jinping throwing the full force of his power into a “common prosperity” campaign aimed at addressing inequalities of income and wealth. Moreover, the regulatory net has been broadened, not just to ban cryptocurrencies, but also to become an instrument of social engineering, with the government adding e-cigarettes, business drinking, and celebrity fan culture to its ever-lengthening list of bad social habits. All this only compounds the concerns I raised two months ago. The new dual thrust of Chinese policy – redistribution plus re-regulation – strikes at the heart of the market-based “reform and opening up” that have underpinned China’s growth miracle since the days of Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. It will subdue the entrepreneurial activity that has been so important in powering China’s dynamic private sector, with lasting consequences for the next, innovations-driven, phase of Chinese economic development. Without animal spirits, the case for indigenous innovation is in tatters."
Oct 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Wartime nostalgia plays an important part in Britain’s instinctive fondness for the special relationship. Like former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, some British politicians might believe that the United Kingdom is the only European country with serious armed forces and the political will to use them. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, like Blair before him, seems to fancy himself a modern-day Churchill. Unfortunately (or not), Britain’s military power is insignificant compared to what Churchill could command in 1944. Wartime nostalgia has drawn Britain into several foolish American wars, which other European countries were wise to avoid."
Sep 24th 2021
EXTRACTS: "We have found that 47 million American adults – nearly 1 in 5 – agree with the statement that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” Of those, 21 million also agree that “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.” Our survey found that many of these 21 million people with insurrectionist sentiments have the capacity for violent mobilization. At least 7 million of them already own a gun, and at least 3 million have served in the U.S. military and so have lethal skills. Of those 21 million, 6 million said they supported right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million said they are themselves or personally know a member of such a group, including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys." ----- "..... the Jan. 6 insurrection represents a far more mainstream movement than earlier instances of right-wing extremism across the country. Those events, mostly limited to white supremacist and militia groups, saw more than 100 individuals arrested from 2015 to 2020. But just 14% of those arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 are members of those groups. More than half are business owners or middle-aged white-collar professionals, and only 7% are unemployed."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "That long path, though, has from the start had within it one fundamental flaw. If we are to make sense of wider global trends in insecurity, we have to recognise that in all the analysis around the 9/11 anniversary there lies the belief that the main security concern must be with an extreme version of Islam. It may seem a reasonable mistake, given the impact of the wars, but it still misses the point. The war on terror is better seen as one part of a global trend which goes well beyond a single religious tradition – a slow but steady move towards revolts from the margins."
Sep 11th 2021
EXTRACTS: "Is it not extraordinary that in a country that claims to be as enlightened and advanced as ours, the combined wealth of three individuals – Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett – exceeds the total wealth of the bottom half of Americans? One has to return to the days of the pharaohs of Egypt to find a parallel to the extreme wealth inequality that we see in in America today." ...... "The top tax rate remained above 90 percent through the 1950s and did not dip below 70 percent until 1981. At no point during the decades that saw America’s greatest economic growth did the tax on the wealthy drop below 70 percent. Today it is somewhere around 37 percent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would increase the top tax rate to 39.6 percent – a fairly modest alteration, albeit in the right direction. It is true that there was a time when the top marginal tax was even lower than it is today: in the years leading up to the Great Depression it hovered around 25 percent."
Sep 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "But Biden can’t be blamed for the rise of the Taliban, or the fragile state of a country that has seen far too many wars and invasions. The US should not have been there in the first place, but that is a lesson that great powers never seem to learn."
Sep 4th 2021
EXTRACT: "The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century." ----- "AI will reorganize the world and change the course of human history. The democratic world must lead that process."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Although the Fed is considering tapering its quantitative easing (QE), it will likely remain dovish and behind the curve overall. Like most central banks, it has been lured into a “debt trap” by the surge in private and public liabilities (as a share of GDP) in recent years. Even if inflation stays higher than targeted, exiting QE too soon could cause bond, credit, and stock markets to crash. That would subject the economy to a hard landing, potentially forcing the Fed to reverse itself and resume QE." ---- "After all, that is what happened between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, following the Fed’s previous attempt to raise rates and roll back QE."
Sep 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Today’s economic challenges are certainly solvable, and there is no reason why inflation should have to spike."