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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Friday question

By Jennifer Rubin

Obama and his secretary of state came into office determined to practice "smart diplomacy." Europe and Israel are estranged. Iran has grown more influential in the region and refuses to renounce its nuclear ambitions. Russia has become more oppressive and China more aggressive. Our influence in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is arguably at an all time low. What went wrong?

Remember, all answers must be in by 6:00 p.m. ET.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 11, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Friday question  
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Comments

Hubris, fecklessness, ignorance, arrogance. And sycophants.

Posted by: ateitz1 | February 11, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Hubris is the word that comes to mind once again to describe Obama and many in his administration.

In the past, Obama was regularly been rewarded for just showing up. So-so grades at Occidental College somehow allowed him to get into Harvard Law. Gradauting from HL allowed him to get and KEEP a faculty appointment at U o Chicago Law School without publishing scholarly work. (I wouldn't have been rewarded tenure at Berkeley without publishing a lot and a lot of quality material.) Then a book deal, and slow deliverly on his promises there. On and on, till an opportunity to receive the Democratic nomination for president because he gave an oratorical speech in 2004 and then showed up in 2012. Despite the fact that more experienced people were available. And how about a Nobel Peace Prize "on spec"?

Constant rewards, received because he just showed up, have bred a hubris that is now, like chickens coming home to roost, is leading to gaffe, mis-step and ultimately a diminished America.

The lesson? We need leaders that can actually perform not just give a good speech. Hopefully America will elect someone who can actually deliver results in 2012, not just promise them.

Posted by: DrBerkeley | February 11, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Answers must be in at 6 pm because the people as WP dot com came in after looking at this post here

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/right-turn/2011/02/one_can_scarcely_imagine_how.html#comments

and told Jen that is just isn't working out, so maybe she could take her talents somewhere else. I hear Glen Beck needs someone to erase his chalkboard right about now.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | February 11, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Obama faces a series of tough decisions. These decisions are difficult for two primary reasons: limited information and limited options.

Within that reality a leader will base decisions on some underlying philosophy and world view. What is Obama's underlying philosophy? Is he driven by evangelical motivations like his predecessor? Or is he a skilled and calculating political professional like Mr Clinton?

It seems that Mr Obama's underlying philosophy is some ill defined notion of "social justice" that we've come to call liberalism. The liberal dogma seeks to explain everything but it can't. No dogma can.

So Mr Obama may hold his choices up to the light of liberalism and not obtain clarity, just more confusion. Couple that with a lack of serious political skills borne of his relative inexperience and it is easy to see the potential for failure.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 11, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

For starters, "smart diplomacy" is a euphemism for a combination of "fecklessness" and "appeasement." Its cousin, "nuanced diplomacy" is a euphemism for "vague and unprincipled."

The best presidents when it comes to foreign policy are those who are considered to stand up for principled American values and are always bullish on America (FDR, Truman, Reagan and in my opinion, given time, Bush 43).

The Democratic left, embodied by Obama, is more likely to emphasize and be ashamed of our past "sins" and mostly ignores our great achievements. And therefore is "un-bullish" on America.

When presidents unabashedly support those who share our principles and oppose those who find them anathema, they are respected and generally are regarded well by history.

When presidents hem and haw and are unsure of what to do and don't have a consistent principled vision, they tend to not be respected and are regarded poorly when it comes to foreign policy.

Obama has been hemming and hawing for the past two years. It also doesn't help that his default position seems to be that whoever is friendly to the US must be treated poorly.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 11, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Not to be flippant, but more or less everything has gone wrong. Obama's apology tour, his "re-set button", and his Peace Prize for nothing set the tone. He doesn't see his role as promoting America's national interests. He doesn't understand how dangerous the world is or the implacable nature of our enemies. His post-national approach is intended to reduce American power and influence, and it's been successful on its terms. But instead of international institutions filling the void, it's the jihadists and Chinese. Even tin-pots like Hugo Chavez aren't afraid of us at all. Weakness is always provocative.

Posted by: eoniii | February 11, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

And Bush's "dumb diplomacy" did what? Estranged Europe, strengthened Iran and China, caused Russia to become more oppressive, coincided with massive instability in the middle East. In fact, I can think of two things dramatically different between now and then - many fewer innocent civilians are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel's hand has been weakened. So which of those things does JR disagree with? Answer due by 6pm.

Posted by: willows1 | February 11, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Influence in Egypt at an all-time low? Mubarak resigned and the US position had nothing to do with it? I suggest you try reading your employer’s newspaper from time to time. It might help you to be better informed.

Posted by: jwyzalek | February 11, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

jwyzalek - No, no. That's way too complicated. What you do is wait until Obama does something and then you figure out why it was the wrong thing to do. If Obama doesn't do anything for about six hours, you criticize him for not doing anything.

Except on the weekends. Weekends are for martinis.

Posted by: willows1 | February 11, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

We lost influence in the Arab world with Iraq. We lost influence with Israel when we elected someone that had a Muslim father. We will gain influence the Arab world by being a neutral party in Israeli-Palestinian relations. We can improve relations with Israel by electing another "friend of Israel" (ie. Islamaphobe).
I can't believe you are trying to pin blame on Obama for Isreael's abysmal relations with the rest of the civilized world. They need to look in a mirror for the answer to that problem. If they keep up the barbarity, maybe they can ask China to take the US's place as their sugar daddy.

Posted by: billyvw | February 11, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Answer to Friday question:
I guess they're just not that smart after all

Posted by: mikem23 | February 11, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, each of your opinions on the state of affairs in the world can be disputed. But to answer the question, invading a sovereign nation over fraudulent evidence might cause our diplomats a few headaches in foreign relations. Also, our former president admitting he is a war criminal and being unable to travel abroad hasn't helped us. Ya think?

Posted by: danw1 | February 11, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

this is just too funny:
===========
And Bush's "dumb diplomacy" did what? Estranged Europe, strengthened Iran and China, caused Russia to become more oppressive, coincided with massive instability in the middle East. In fact, I can think of two things dramatically different between now and then - many fewer innocent civilians are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel's hand has been weakened. So which of those things does JR disagree with? Answer due by 6pm.

=========

yeah, it is vital to America's national interest that lazy european socialists like us. Why? Of what value are they as allies? Simple answer: none.

The Mullahs face a restive population. They are hanging people at an alarming rate. They face a tried and successful US military on two of their longest borders. Thank you Mr Bush.

china's crony communism is generating money for the ruling class. Yet the demographic disaster that resulted from their one child policy has yet to have full effect. We were sagely told by libs that the soviets, the Germans, the Japanese and now the Chinese will take over. Yawn.

Stability in the ME that results in attacks on US and Israel citizens is not worth having. Bush understood where 9/11 came from and we attacked the heart of it.

yeah, the pace at which the muslims are killing each other in Iraq has slowed somewhat. But Islam can still be relied to display its inherent brutality on a regular basis. Fear not.

Yeah, Israel is sooo weak that the arabs still won't mount a formal military challenge to her. Instead we get the cowardice of unguided rockets and children as suicide bombers. Such a nobel culture those arabs, no?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 11, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

"Our influence in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is arguably at an all time low. What went wrong?"...Perhaps that's a good thing.

~ Halli Casser-Jayne

Posted by: PolitiHAL | February 11, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

What could possibly go wrong with a President who the MSM treats as if he were Moses, Plato and Gandhi rolled into one, and he starts to believe it? If you elect a President because he symbolizes to the world a moral breakthrough in America, it may be a great symbol, but it does not mean that the individual in question is competent. The rest of the world appreciated the symbolism, but then asked: where's the substance? There is no substance with Obama, merely posturing. And the world, particularly our adversaries, is taking advantage of it.

Posted by: dfooter | February 11, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Here's a report on another revolution that won't get off the ground:

"In the Gaza Strip, a Friday protest inspired by the Egypt demonstrations--and organized on Facebook--against Hamas rule in the Palestinian territory attracted virtually no supporters.

Hamas security personnel in uniform and plainclothes were deployed around the areas where the protests, organized by supporters of the rival Fatah, were to take place. Police briefly detained two youths who were seen filming with a cell phone camera."


Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB has a different idea about individual rights than we do. In their view all law comes from God and man's role is to submit. Democracy is illegitimate because the final law was dictated to the Prophet in the Quran. Anyone who opposes God and his followers deserves death.

Obama's indifference to democracy movements that threaten our enemies while embracing movements that threaten our allies is both morally and strategically indefensible.

Posted by: eoniii | February 11, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer Rubin declares that “our influence in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is arguably at an all time low” and asks, “what went wrong?” It is hard to take this seriously.

The ascendency of Iran is, obviously, directly related to the fraudulent war on Iraq, which effectively destroyed the balance of power in the region. Meantime, the Obama Administration has succeeded in playing events Egypt exactly right – so far.

Why Jennifer Rubin is blind to these realities?

Posted by: J_B_A | February 11, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Jwyzalek wrote:
Influence in Egypt at an all-time low? Mubarak resigned and the US position had nothing to do with it? I suggest you try reading your employer’s newspaper from time to time. It might help you to be better informed.
__________________
Exactly right

Posted by: J_B_A | February 11, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

What went wrong? Obviously, the Presidential election of 2008. The US elected a man of style, but no competence or substance. What he believes in, we don't know. What drives him, besides ego, we don't know. What true ideals he has, we don't know. What he learns on the job, at the expense of the US and the free world, we don't know, but it doesn't seem to be much. We had an election in 2010, the essence of which was this: Please save us from Obama! He's an empty suit, surrounded by nincompoops. Maybe we should follow the lead of the Egyptians and gather on the Mall, demanding his resignation. Oh, wait .... there's Biden ... well, never mind.

Posted by: carldahlman | February 11, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

It is not self-evident that any of these trends could have been materially affected by any U.S. policy other than a capricious and unwise use of military force.

More importantly, (and my main criterion for judging any administration's foreign policy) is whether I fell more or less safe. In that regard, I have been pleasantly surprised by Obama's continuity of Bush's aggressive use of force in fighting islamic terrorism.

I think the criticism that is baked in to your question is unwarranted.

Posted by: gilliesproust | February 11, 2011 7:23 PM | Report abuse

J_B_A wrote:

"Jennifer Rubin declares that “our influence in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is arguably at an all time low” and asks, “what went wrong?” It is hard to take this seriously.

The ascendency of Iran is, obviously, directly related to the fraudulent war on Iraq, which effectively destroyed the balance of power in the region. Meantime, the Obama Administration has succeeded in playing events Egypt exactly right – so far.

Why is Jennifer Rubin blind to these realities?"

****************

Neocon goggles?

Posted by: Mannie_Davis | February 11, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I'm shocked that a president having the formidable experience of a few years as a junior senator and as a self-described community organizer would be such a failure at diplomacy.

Shocked!

Posted by: HughJassPhD | February 12, 2011 3:10 AM | Report abuse

Let the authors pontificate. An excerpt from The Day of the Scorpion (p 297 The Raj Quartet). No idea of its significance, but isn't it pretty?

'In a way that's impossible. The ideas, without the enactment, lose their significance. He said that if people would enact a situation they would understand its significance. He said history was a sum of situations whose significance was never seen until long afterwards because people had been afraid to act them out. They couldn't face up to their responsibility for them. They preferred to think of the situations they found themselves in as part of a general drift of events they had no control over, which meant they never really understood those situations, and so in a curious way the situations did become part of a general drift of events. He didn't think he could go so far as to say you could change the course of events by acting out situations you found yourself in, but that at least you'd understand better what that situation was and take what steps you could to stop things drifting in the wrong direction, or an unreal direction.'

Posted by: aardunza | February 12, 2011 3:37 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: eoniii | February 11, 2011 5:39 PM
"Obama's indifference to democracy movements that threaten our enemies while embracing movements that threaten our allies is both morally and strategically indefensible."

adding that the irresponsible Bush43 tax cuts plus increased spending plus wrong strategy of War on Terror by invading Iraq with a fantasy plan so weakened America economically.

I am reading Harry S. Truman's memoirs. Reading his recording of his 1945 dealings with Stalin makes me weep over what America has lost with the first transnational multi-culturalist apologist (that is Obama) as Commander in Chief and conductor of foreign relations.

If only Bush43 had been Bush41, the anti-war left would never have been able to propel Obama into the Oval Office in 2008.

Posted by: K2K2 | February 12, 2011 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Those who can't do . . . write opinion pieces for the Washington Post.

Rubin is as inept as they come. Having read her columns I assume that her law career was a complete disaster. Imagine the legal briefs she would produce, and if her writing is any indication, the oral presentations must have been torturous.

Posted by: russellglee | February 12, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Slogans proclaiming policies as "smart" are religious icons of the statist Left. "Smart growth", for instance, is top-down land use planning, where the exercise of the diverse American dreams of creative property ownership is reserved for the unelected aristocracy of the planning bureaucracy.

"Smart diplomacy" per the Obama administration is simply the yielding of control of US foreign policy to leftists who, as students, absorbed the anti-Americanism of the revolutionaries of the 60s, and who now wish to realign the US as a cash cow subservient to the multicultural bureaucrats of the United Nations and the EU. It is roughly the reverse of the principles of the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Posted by: InsufficientlySensitive | February 12, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer,

There is no easy answer to this. No Black and White response.

The diplomacy of the Obama administration has followed this pattern:
There is no such thing as an enemy; just those people who misunderstand us, or people who we misunderstand.
There is no such thing as a friend; just those people who have common goals as us and we can boss around or use, or people who have common goals with us and we can't boss around but we can possibly use.


It's sad to say this. But the Obama administration does not treat their friends well, and does not believe anyone is your enemy. Perhaps that's a 1960s notion, love your neighbor, and everyone else is misunderstood.
Indeed, it's this naivete of "If you follow my lead then we can all just get along" that messes up this process.


The Cynical me really asks, "How long before they take credit for the changes in Egypt? How long before the President states that he pushed hard for change in Egypt and less than 2 years after his big speech there, the people there responded?"

Posted by: scsiegel | February 12, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

“What went wrong?”

Pride and arrogance. Clinton and Obama, both of whom are extremely proud and arrogant all on their very own, have been thoroughly confirmed in their self-confidence by all the adulation and hosannas heaped upon them by the love-blind liberal media. Obama in particular consistently feels that his rhetorical skills (cum teleprompter) are all that is needed to address any political situation. Hillary is merely an extra mouthpiece for him. They have been slapped by reality again and again, but their apologists have worked overtime to prevent their feelings from getting hurt.

We should all be thankful that events Friday turned out the way they did; but a lot will happen in the months to come. In all cases what transpires has much more to do with events on the ground than whatever America does, but of course we can help or hinder events for better or for worse. In any case watch for Obama to not accept responsibility or blame Bush for bad outcomes and to accept credit for good outcomes, with plenty of help from his liberal media myrmidons.

After all, Obama in his interview with O’Reilly assured us that he is “still the same guy.”

The correct question should be a forlorn “What could possibly go wrong?”

“Our influence in Egypt and throughout the Middle East is arguably at an all-time low.” At the moment that I write this our standing may actually be up some (from earlier last week). But standby. With what passes for leadership nowadays we could all see it go lower, possibly a lot lower. (I will stop here; my expectations for 2012 would probably get me excommunicated from this site.)

Posted by: nvjma | February 12, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Skip said:
"Stability in the ME that results in attacks on US and Israel citizens is not worth having. Bush understood where 9/11 came from and we attacked the heart of it."

True, Saddam was at the heart of 9/11. Oops, maybe not. Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians attacked us. Bush HELD HANDS with Saudis after the attacks.

Bush listened to the neocons and lost over 4,000 Americans spreading the religion of democracy. So far, 0 American deaths at the beginning of Egypt's change.

Funny (not) how the true conservatives such as Buchanan were right and the neocons were wrong.

Thanks to Bush & skip, Al Sadr has power in Iraq and it looks like it's going to be a Shiite Sharia state aligned with Iran. Worth the 4,000 American sons and daughters I suppose. Well at least Bush smoked Bin Laden out and caught him while striking at "the heart" of the enemy in Iraq.

So how is it that necons continue to earn while being wrong? Good thing Rubin isn't a doctor. She'd be broke from malpractice lawsuits.

C'mon Skip, leave the dark side and come back to true conservatism.

Posted by: mfray | February 12, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

The CPAC straw poll results are in.

And the winner is: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a pol not really on Ms. Rubin's radar, at 30%. Mitt Romney came in 2nd, at 23%. No one else polled over 7%.

I look forward to how Ms. Rubin spins these results.

Posted by: MsJS | February 12, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

russellglee wrote: Those who can't do . . . write opinion pieces for the Washington Post.

Rubin is as inept as they come. Having read her columns I assume that her law career was a complete disaster. Imagine the legal briefs she would produce, and if her writing is any indication, the oral presentations must have been torturous.

______________

You nailed it precisely.

Posted by: J_B_A | February 12, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

"...Oh, for the good old days of American power, when the likes of Jimmy Carter still had the will and means to cut America's friends off at the knee! Obama's ability to inflict damage is limited by the contempt which the world displays for American policy. ..."

actually one of the least important insights to the 'What went wrong?' questions, since the collapse of Egypt's economy and China's drought-induced wheat shortfall may well lead to 40 million Egyptians (and even more Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) fighting for bread by summer. Anyone realistic enough to know you can not eat "democracy":

"Chinese weather on Tahrir Square"
By Spengler Feb 10, 2011

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MB10Ak02.html


Posted by: K2K2 | February 13, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Scsiegel, very true, but a bit wordy. Someone summed it up as: "If you're our enemy, we're sorry. If you're our friend, you're sorry."

I like to observe the fact-immune memes of the left. Much on display here is the ridiculous "whatever goes wrong, anywhere, anytime, it's because of Bush's fraudulent war." Oh, and of course the Jews. Lefties never forget to blame the Jews.

Posted by: Larry3435 | February 13, 2011 8:16 AM | Report abuse

The short answer to what went wrong is Obama's tin ear to America's identity as a world power. This is not to say that most Americans are hawks or seek for the US to remain the world's policeman, but the bowing (literally) and apologizing and odd mixture of moral equivalence and relativism runs counter to the American ethos. (We have 25 million active servicemen/women and veterans of military service.) Obama immersed himself in the blame America first crowd while in the Ivy Leagues and the University of Chicago (not to mention 20 years of Rev. Wright).

It seemed right to him and his Democratic Party allies to address adversaries in a penitential posture and this posture of America they believed would be welcomed by a skeptical world as transformational and cathartic. Russia, China, North Korea and Iran viewed this, however, as weakness and thus, acted accordingly.

The penitent posture not only exhibited itself rhetorically (apology tour), but when it “engaged” diplomatically with Iran, North Korea, China and Russia as well. Our allies wonder to this day if America will ever have their backs while Obama is President.

Bush policies may have made most Americans wary of an assertive and muscular foreign policy, but it does not mean it wants its foreign policy to be exemplified by weakness, appeasement or indecisiveness.

Even in executing the two front war on terror, Obama, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, showed he wanted to have an exit strategy rather than a winning one. This was particularly music to the ears of the Taliban, who must believe the US officially and constantly reminds them we're short timers.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | February 13, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

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