- - Wednesday, April 23, 2014



How bad is President Obama’s foreign policy? So bad he sent Vice President Joseph R. Biden to Kiev to handle the Russia-Ukraine mess.

That’s right, Barack “Red Line” Obama called in the bumbling Mr. Biden, the foreign policy “expert” who once called for Iraq to be partitioned by ethnicity into three countries and opposed President Ronald Reagan’s military build-up that ended the Cold War.

Uncle Joe didn’t disappoint, saying in Kiev: “Thank you for making me feel relevant again.” He, of course, left empty-handed, and perhaps, again, feels irrelevant.

How bad is Mr. Obama’s foreign policy? He’s made Russian President Vladimir Putin look like a bleeding heart humanitarian — stepping in to save the day in Syria by agreeing to accept its chemical weapons, then lecturing the U.S. president on everything from covert surveillance to international law.

Mr. Obama, 52 and a former community organizer from Chicago who likes flip flops and golf, has been over his head from the beginning with Mr. Putin, 61 and a former KGB spook who likes judo and big snarling dogs. Mr. Putin has played him like a fiddle, most recently when he took a phone call from whistleblower Edward Snowden during a press appearance last week.

“We have strict legal regulation of the use of special services of special funds, including wiretaps and surveillance on the Internet,” Mr. Putin said. “So massive, indiscriminate surveillance, in accordance with the law, can not happen.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama, battling critics at home over a massive surveillance program that few Americans knew about, has been wildly adrift over what to do with Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. He has talked tough: Just last week he said, “They’re not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us, understanding that our conventional forces are significantly superior to the Russians.”

Not exactly diplomatic talk, and certainly not the way to deal with Mr. Putin. Mr. Obama lacks the nuance necessary to handle dicey international dilemmas, instead drawing “red lines” that box him and his administration into places from which they cannot escape — at least not without extreme embarrassment.

Like Syria. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Mr. Obama said in August 2012. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Then Syrian President Bashar Assad did all of the above; he redlined all over the place. What did Mr. Obama say? “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.” Nice try.

And guess who was paying close attention? Vladimir Putin. But that didn’t stop Team Obama from drawing another red line in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry, another Senate foreign policy “expert” like Mr. Biden, drew the line earlier this month: “I made clear today that if we are not able to see progress this weekend, then we will have no choice but to impose further costs on Russia.”

That weekend came and went, but nothing happened. Mr. Putin ignored the red line because, well, Mr. Obama ignores red lines.

An actual foreign policy “expert,” Sen. John McCain, who lost to Mr. Obama in the 2008 presidential race, said the very worst thing anyone can ever say about a president: He’s worse than Jimmy Carter.

“I was not a great fan of my fellow Naval Academy graduate, Jimmy Carter. But after the invasion of Afghanistan by Russia, Jimmy Carter — if I may use the words — got religion and got tough,” said the former POW and war hero.

Mr. McCain said the U.S. “lost its credibility” when Mr. Obama decided to ignore his own red line in Syria and let Russia step in. “The United States has to lead. And if the United States doesn’t lead, there’s a vacuum and bad people lead. This exactly has been the result,” the Arizona Republican said.

As for the Middle East, there’s been almost no movement. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t want to get her hands dirty there (it’d mess up her run for the presidency in 2016), and Mr. Kerry, despite his many efforts, is clearly over his head. While Mr. Obama vowed to make peace in the Middle East one of his top priorities, he long ago left that by the wayside, preferring to talk “income inequality” and “the war on women.”

He demanded a full freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories as a prime condition for talks, and when that didn’t happen, Mr. Obama simply threw up his hands. In a first, the president has angered both sides, mainly because his terms change continuously and his penchant for over-promising has left nearly everyone underwhelmed with what he has delivered.

Kind of like how many Americans feel.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.



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