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Monday, November 28, 2011

Roger Cohen, "Doctrine of Silence": Foreign Policy Is Obama's "Strongest Suit"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Doctrine of Silence" (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/opinion/cohen-doctrine-of-silence.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss), Roger Cohen questions the use of unconventional methods of warfare by the Obama administration, including drone attacks, to thwart al-Qaeda and to subvert Iran's nuclear weapons development program. Always seeking a new way to "slime" Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Cohen writes:

"In general, it’s hard to resist the impression of a tilt toward the extrajudicial in U.S. foreign policy — a kind of 'Likudization' of the approach to dealing with enemies. Israel has never hesitated to kill foes with blood on their hands wherever they are.

This is a development about which no American can feel entirely comfortable."

Just to set the record straight, Ehud Olmert of the Kadima Party, who was prime minister of Israel prior to Netanyahu and who offered Abbas peace along the 1967 lines with land swaps and sharing of Jerusalem's holy places, also agreed to "targeted killings" (see, for example: http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=25722). But why should Cohen concern himself with the facts?

Cohen concludes:

"Just because it’s impossible to talk about some operations undertaken within this doctrine does not mean the entire doctrine can remain cloaked in silence.

Foreign policy has been Obama’s strongest suit. He deserves great credit for killing Osama bin Laden, acting for the liberation of Libya, getting behind the Arab quest for freedom, winding down the war in Iraq, dealing repeated blows to Al Qaeda and restoring America’s battered image.

But the doctrine of silence is a failing with links to his overarching failure on the economy: it betrays a presidential reticence, coolness and aloofness that leave Americans uncomfortable."

"Foreign policy has been Obama's strongest suit"? Given the deteriorating state of the US economy, perhaps this is true, but it is hardly a compliment.

Yes, Obama deserves credit for killing bin Laden and assassinating other al-Qaeda leaders, but how can one claim that he acted "for the liberation of Libya"? The flag of al-Qaeda is now flying over Benghazi, and as observed by Caroline Glick in her most recent Jerusalem Post column (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=246922):

"In Libya, after facilitating Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow, the US is faced with the prospect of dealing with an even more radical regime that is jihadist, empowered and already transferring arms to terror groups and proliferating nonconventional weapons. If the Obama administration and the US foreign policy establishment acknowledge the hostile nature of the new regime and refrain from supporting it, they will be forced to admit they sided with America’s enemies in taking down Gaddafi."

Obama merits praise for "getting behind the Arab quest for freedom"? Although Obama was quick to bring down US ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, he was loathesomely late in calling for the departure of Syria's president, even as Assad murdered thousands of his countrymen. This was indeed an instance where Obama "led from behind."

Re the winding down of the war in Iraq (I opposed the Second Gulf War), we have yet to see the consequences of precipitously removing all US troops at a time when Iran is aggressively threatening its neighbors and increasingly becoming involved in Iraqi affairs. Note that Iran's President Ahmadinejad is now planning to visit Iraqi Kurdistan (see: http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2011/11/state5601.htm), which in the past steadfastly supported the US.

Obama warrants our gratitude for "restoring America’s battered image"? This is truly inane. As reported by Farah Stockman of boston.com (http://www.boston.com/Boston/politicalintelligence/2011/07/obama-viewed-less-favorably-arab-world-poll-shows/yIVn6f6PueWbdhZutglhoJ/index.html):

"The United States is viewed less favorably in much of the Arab world today than it was during the final year of the Bush administration, and President Obama is less popular in the region than Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to a poll released today by the Arab American Institute, a nonpartisan research and advocacy group.

. . . .

In 2008, the final year of the Bush administration, only 9 percent of Egyptians had a favorable attitude towards the United States. A year later, after Obama took office, that number jumped to 30 percent. But now it has plummeted to just 5 percent of Egyptians who view the United States favorably.

Similar figures in Morocco, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates show that the United States is viewed less favorably now than the final year of the Bush administration."

If foreign policy is indeed Obama's "strongest suit," as Cohen would have us believe, Obama is in deep trouble.

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