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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thomas Friedman, "Barack Kissinger Obama": More Poppycock

In his NYT op-ed of today's date, "Barack Kissinger Obama" (, Thomas Friedman engages in a dialogue with himself. Friedman asks:

"But while Obama has been deft at implementing Bush’s antiterrorism policy, he has been less successful with his own foreign policy. His Arab-Israeli diplomacy has been a mess. His hopes of engaging Iran foundered on the rocks of, well, Iran. He’s made little effort to pull together a multilateral coalition to buttress the Arab Awakening, in places like Egypt, to handle the postrevolution challenges. His ill-considered decision to double down on Afghanistan could prove fatal. He is in a war of words with Pakistan. His global climate policy is an invisible embarrassment. And the coolly calculating Chinese and Russians, while occasionally throwing him a bone, pursue their interests with scant regard to Obama’s preferences. Why is that?"

Friedman answers himself:

"The reason: the world has gotten messier and America has lost leverage. When Kissinger was negotiating in the Middle East in the 1970s, he had to persuade just three people to make a deal: an all-powerful Syrian dictator, Hafez al-Assad; an Egyptian pharaoh, Anwar Sadat; and an Israeli prime minister with an overwhelming majority, Golda Meir.

To make history, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by contrast, need to extract a deal from a crumbling Syrian regime, a crumbled Egyptian regime, a fractious and weak Israeli coalition and a Palestinian movement broken into two parts."

This is pure nonsense. If you see that the timing for a deal is not right, you walk away from the table. But this is not the only reason that Obama's Middle East policy, for example, has been such a frightening failure.

Obama sought to coddle tyrannical regimes such as Iran and Syria, and was convinced that his personal charm and outreach would bring them into the fold. Obama was wrong, and this has had dangerous repercussions: Iran is on the verge of building nuclear weapons, and for too long Obama silently sat on the sidelines as Syria's Assad murdered his own people.

Egypt? Obama helped force American ally Mubarak out of power, thereby alienating Saudi Arabia. The ultimate results of this action remain to be seen, particularly given that we have yet to witness elections in Egypt -- which could bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

Libya? We have yet to see the fruits, if any, of "leading from behind" in this tribal conflict. Democracy in Tripoli and Benghazi? No way. Something better than Qaddafi? Let's hope.

Obama came into office convinced that Israel was the source of all tensions in the Middle East, but is only beginning to learn about the extent of the enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Incompetence and misconceptions have characterized Obama's foreign policy in this corner of the world, which have little to do with the personages with whom Obama has been forced to contend. Rather, his failures are the product of his own myopic visions and misplaced confidence in his magical powers of persuasion.


  1. His biggest mistake was the person he selected as his Secretary of State - Ghoullary Clintoon.

  2. I have lived in Israel for two years now and I am frankly frightened by what I am seeing. Among other things, it is always remarkable to me how those defenders of the Israeli right want to have it both ways -- they cry for American engagement when it suits their interests and curse the White House when they pursue policies that seek to undermine the long-term interests of the U.S. The current government is needs to stop being a fair weather friend and begin in some meaningful way to pursue policies that are not only in its interests but also in the interests of its allies. The ongoing construction of settlements in the West Bank, the embarrassing and profane treatment of the Vice President during his visit, the total ineptitude in dealing with Turkey, the utter inability to take advantage of the Arab Spring in order to foster a dialogue of fairness and peace make the country weaker, not stronger. It has the added value of placing the United States in a position of having to defend the actions of a Netanyahu government that behaves like a spoiled brat.

    Israelis need to face facts. Neither the Obama administration or any US government cannot solve its problems for them especially when it is busy undermining its ally with generally inept diplomacy.

  3. Jeffrey, can you address Krugman's blog. The guy is unhinged. He dismisses any critique of antisemitimism at OWS as partisan and ignorant.