Ruminations, September 30, 2012
Obama and the Middle East
It’s difficult to be critical of a sitting president when it comes to foreign policy. For one thing, the president is privy to more information than we are –some of it classified. For another thing, his actions may be the result of a misdirection designed to effect a political reaction of which we are unaware. Furthermore, any domestic criticism may weaken the president’s hand in dealing with American adversaries. Ideally, critics would be well-advised to be circumspect in their criticism.
This is especially true when it comes to situations in which hostile activities are taking place. President Barack Obama learned this in 2008 when he criticized sitting president George Bush’s “surge” policy in Iraq that it not only would not work but would make matters worse – and Obama was wrong.
But sometimes, criticism comes anyway.
Now, in the Middle East, we have a situation in which Obama’s foreign policy is being savaged – and not only by his domestic critics. Indeed, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed Obama’s foreign policy approval rating falling to below 50 percent for the first time since the killing of Osama bin Laden. German newspaper, Die Welt says that “US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy is in ruins. … Anti-Americanism in the Arab world has even increased to levels greater than in the Bush era.”
What has Obama done in the Middle East that we can specifically criticize? He appointed the late Richard Holbrooke, as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in spite of the fact that Holbrooke was openly critical of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the two never developed a working relationship.
He appointed Christopher Hill as ambassador to Iraq, succeeding the successful Ryan Crocker. Hill had no Middle East experience and was considered by some to be the antithesis of Crocker. With Obama’s blessing, Hill pushed hard for the selection of Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister (ironically, Iran’s choice, too). Between Hill and Obama, they failed to achieve a modification of the Status of Forces agreement leaving Iraq on its own to deal with the increasing presence of al Qaeda, Iranian pressure and the crisis in Syria.
Overall, it appears that Obama’s objective in Iraq and Afghanistan is to withdraw American troops – not to ensure that the world is safer for Americans. Is that a reasonable objective?
Obama has, by all accounts, estranged our old allies in the Middle East such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military.
In explaining the recent attacks and assassination in Benghazi, the Obama Administration has offered one conflicting story after another. Had they offered the initial explanation as “under investigation,” it would have been accepted. But their clumsy handling of the situation has contributed to a growing mistrust.
Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009 was an attempt to make America loved. It’s nice to be loved. But, when there are bad guys out there, it’s better to scare the bejesus out of them. At this point, according to the leftist German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, “America hardly has influence in the region any longer, and now sees itself confronted with anti-American sentiment … Meanwhile, forces that simultaneously exploit and spurn America are gaining influence.”
While it is difficult to be critical of a sitting president’s foreign policy, sometimes it is unavoidable.
Polls – is Romney losing it?
The Republicans seem to be in a depressed panic. Most polls show a decisive lead for President Obama and, based on those polls, some news commentators have said that the election is all over and Romney has lost.
Meanwhile, many Republicans are looking at a conspiracy of left-leaning polls misreporting or mis-sampling in order to depress Republicans. That seems unlikely – but not impossible. Remember the Journolist 400, a group of leftist journalists and bloggers whose purpose was to actively promote the 2008 Obama candidacy and disparage conservatives by sharing ideas and common story lines. And let’s not forget the University of East Anglia where an international conspiracy successfully embarked on a program to prohibit anthropogenic global-warming skeptics from publishing in peer reviewed journals.
Conspiracies do exist. Having said that, what is the likelihood that polling organizations are colluding to suppress and depress conservative voters? It’s not zero but it’s close to it. Polling organizations are for-profit companies – unlike the Jourolist 400 and the University of East Anglia. If they were colluding, and it became known, the companies would go out of business.
But there is a chance that most polling companies are taking a common and erroneous approach. In selecting the numbers to use for polling, one needs to make assumptions of how many Democrats vs. how many Republicans make up the statistical sample. Mike Flynn, writing in Breitbart.com makes this observation: “… CBS/New York Times poll . . . uses a D+13 [13 percent more Democrats than Republicans]. This is absurd. In 2008, an historic election wave for Democrats, the electorate was D+7. In 2004, when George W. Bush won reelection, the electorate was evenly split. In other words, D+0. . . . CBS does apply a Likely Voter [LV] screen to the head-to-head match up. The LV sample is D+6, similar to the make up of the ‘08 election. In that, Obama leads Romney by just 3 points, 49-46. In the RV [registered voter] sample, which more than doubles the proportion of Democrats to D+13, Obama leads by 8 points, 51-43.”
Rasmussen, the polling outfit that most closely predicted the 2008 election, has determined that there are now more registered Republicans than Democrats – in fact, 4.3 percent more as of August 31
But Rasmussen, as of the results that they released on September 30, has Obama at 48 percent and Romney at 46. In the swing states, it’s Obama 48 percent and Romney 44. And Rasmussen has the better track record.
Of course, one can argue with polls all one wants. The decisive poll is the one in November and Romney has a good chance.
Quote without comment
Niccolo Machiavelli writing in The Prince, 1517: “The answer is that one would like to be both [loved and feared]; but because it is difficult to combine them, it is far safer to be feared than loved if you cannot be both.”