Saturday, July 3, 2010


     The Palin/Biden Prize is given periodically to editorialists, columnists, commentators, and bloggers who produce articles which are especially factually or intellectually challenged; lack coherence; reflect an obvious ideological purpose; upon sober reflection by the author, are likely to cause a queasy feeling of embarrassment and the desire for retraction; or are just plain dumb.

     A wise man once said: "Your point of view depends on where you stand."

      Robert Kagan must have been standing just outside the door to the Oval Office when he imagined "Obama's Five Foreign Policy Victories", the subject of his recent commentary in the Washington Post.

     These "victories" supposedly all occurred in the month of June and thus, according to Kagan, "deserve recognition", although he doesn't explain why. When one thinks of foreign policy victories a list might include Truman's success in getting the young United Nations to authorize a response to the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950. Or Eisenhower's successful negotiation of the armistice that ended hostilities in that conflict three years later. Kennedy's successful resolution of the Cuban missile crisis in 1960 comes to mind. Nixon's China initiatives; Carter's Camp David Accords in 1979 which resulted in the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel; the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union during the Reagan Administration all deserve the accolade of "foreign policy victory".

     OK, so let's take a look at Obama's "victories" which somehow didn't get the recognition they deserve.

     First, according to Kagan there was "Obama's biggest move", naming General David Petraeus to be the new commander in Afghanistan. Uh.? . . . . . . . .(dramatic pause signaling incredulity). This foreign policy "victory" was a hastily contrived fall back position after the existing Afghanistan commander and his senior staff were exposed as having little if any, respect for Obama, the Vice President, the Ambassador to Afghanistan, the National Security Advisor and the Obama's Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was a smart choice but being ridiculed by one your top commanders in the field and being forced to make a change in the midst of an interminable war hardly describes a foreign policy victory. It sounds more like putting a band-aid on a wounded pride and an attempt to make the pubic forget the underlying problem.

     But of course there's always number two on the list: the "UN Security Council resolution on Iran." Well, Russia and China did cooperate by not vetoing the resolution which imposed a sort of economic sanctions against that recalcitrant state. But Russian and China signed on for a reason. The sanctions impose no real discomfort on Iran , do not seriously disrupt on-going Chinese and Russian financial and military dealings with Iran and Russian leaders quickly said that attempts to impose stronger sanctions would cause Russia to abandon cooperation on the current sanctions. Iran dismissed the sanctions resolution as meaningless. More punishing sanctions might come from U.S. and European Union cooperation but without Russian and Chinese cooperation even these will have limited effect. Imposing real sanctions that hurt i.e. an embargo on refined petroleum into Iran, are dismissed as being"too painful" for the Iranian people, which of course is the reason for sanctions in the first place. So this might be a "victory" in relative terms, compared to previous failures but in actual objective reality not much was accomplished and Iran continues its nuclear weapons program.

     Maybe "victory" number three is better.

     There has been an ongoing dispute with the government of Japan over a U.S. Marine air base located in an urban area of the island of Okinawa. The citizens of the area are concerned with the noise, safety issues and a sad history of U.S. military personnel committing crimes against Japanese females. Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama promised to close the base but negotiations and commitments by previous Japanese administrations stood in the way. Sensitive to failure, and as is the Japanese custom, Hatoyama resigned. This then is Obama's third "foreign policy victory". Kagan goes on to say that this victory resulted in "Japanese reaffirmation of its commitment to the U.S. alliance." But then he admits that: "This has more to do with Japan's fear of China than anything else, but the administration deserves credit for helping steer it in the right direction."

     In truth, Japanese dependence and acceptance of the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the U.S. was never in doubt and credit should be given to the nuclear armed nut case in North Korea whose behavior is as strange as his hair style. Too bad about Hatoyama, but great victories have their price.

     Let’s hold our relief and exultation while we examine foreign policy victory number four.

     “. . . .President Obama signaled a new determination to achieve a free-trade agreement with South Korea. After many hollow claims by administration officials that the United States "is back" in Asia, this would be the first actual evidence.”

     Exaggerated praise for what hasn’t happend yet makes one wonder if Kagan had a vote for the Nobel Peace Prize which was handed to Obama with fingers crossed by a committee of confused Norwegians back in December, 2009. Kagan mentions that the main opposition to the South Korea Free Trade Pact will come from union protecting Democrats in Congress so this victory may have to wait for a Republican majority.

     Stand by for the checkered flag.Victory number Five is a real stunner.

     The "White House declared that the "Obama Administration continues to have serious disagreements with the Russian government over Georgia." And?

     " We continue to call for Russia to end its occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

     Kagan's "victory" interpretation: "The word 'occupation' is a clear sign that the administration has not swept this issue under the rug. Maybe Obama understands that the 'reset' (with Russia) will never be a success so long as Russian troops continue to occupy their neighbors' territories."

     So "continued disagreements" are now "victories? That makes the Obama Administration a virtual "victory garden" with sprouts popping up like dead voters in Chicago. There are "victories" in Israel, Mexico, Syria, etc. etc. Kagan must be positively giddy with Obama's success at disagreeing with the world's governments.

     Anyway, June was quite a month alright. First Obama climbed the foreign policy mountain and planted his flag in General McChrystal’s foot which was firmly stuck in his mouth and then demoted General Petreaus from Commander of Central Command to NATO Commander in Afghanistan. Then he succeeded on getting the UN Security Council to approve toothless sanctions against Iran; caused a change of government in Japan while maintaining the status quo with a Marine base; announced “new determination” to achieve a free trade pact with South Korea; and “made clear signs to Russia” over their occupation of parts of Georgia.

     Stand by for even more victories in months to come.

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