Thursday, February 14, 2013

Arlene Kushner on Two Critiques of Foreign In Obama's State of the Union Address

From Arlene Kushner:
February 14, 2013

Downs and Ups

Update on my update: Little Zakkai has had a tough time since last I wrote -- as, unquestionably, have his parents. 
On Monday he successfully came through surgery to remove growing tumor nodules on his spine.  Following the surgery, he was given what was supposed to be a routine MRI to be sure all was well.  But it was discovered that in spite of the diligence of the two surgeons who worked on him with great care, a nodule on the spine was missed.  The doctors recommended re-opening the incision, which had not yet healed. And so, yesterday, this 2-1/2 year old went under the knife for the second time in 48 hours.
But the upbeat news now is that he's doing beautifully and will probably be moved out of ICU today and discharged before long.
Please G-d, Zakkai, after five surgeries, is now tumor-free and will recover quickly. (This picture of him is not from now -- he's not recovering that fast.)
Picture of Zakkai 
President Obama has delivered his State of the Union address, and Barry Rubin, a very savvy commentator, has now taken it apart in "Careful Phrasing Conceals Disasters." 
Rubin provides multiple examples of ways in which Obama distorts the situation (offers untruthful pictures), or implies something that isn't true while taking care to not quite lie.  A few examples follow (emphasis added).
There is the Obama statement that:
"For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country."
Calling it a "strange phrase," Rubin identifies it as a reworking of the Obama theme of the great victory achieved in taking out bin Laden, 
"while hinting that al-Qaida is not a threat to the United States. Well, as Benghazi shows, al-Qaida is still a threat but wording the sentence the way Obama did implies otherwise without saying so and looking foolish at making an obviously false claim."
On a similar note, Obama declared that:
"Most of al Qaida’s top lieutenants have been defeated." 
A strange formulation, says Rubin, that again, implies that al Qaeda has been soundly weakened.
"The looking for something that gets in bin Laden's assassination and that of other al-Qaida leaders (al-Qaida has been decapitated) [thus] hinting that al-Qaida has been defeated.

"Of course, all of this glosses over the fact that al-Qaida hasn’t been defeated. It is on the march in Mali, the Gaza Strip, Somalia, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Yemen, and other places."
This is not nit-picking by Rubin.  Not an attempt to make Obama look bad by focusing on unimportant phrasing.  Obama's phrasing is very important indeed.  For he seeks to convince the nation that under his leadership "the" enemy of the US, al-Qaida, has been so significantly weakened it is no longer a major threat.  But to deny the threat that al-Qaeda continues to present is to do the nation a severe disservice.
Obama also said:
"A year ago, Gadhafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators, a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone."
Rubin observes:
"Hm, someone in Libya with 'American blood on his hands'? Glad there’s nobody like that around anymore!"
To Obama's statement that:
"And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change cannot be reversed and that human dignity cannot be denied."
Rubin comments:
"Oh, I’ll bet that a lot of Syrians are going to learn that human dignity can be denied in the face of ethnic massacres and a new regime where the Muslim Brotherhood rules and Salafists run around free to do as they please."
About US leadership and the American relationship with Israel, Obama said:
"The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment — and I mean iron-clad — to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history."
Retorts Rubin:
"Really? That’s not what I hear from people all over the world. It is the absence of American leadership they feel, sometimes to their great cost. Ask the Poles, and the Czechs, and the Saudis, and the democratic oppositionists in Iran and Syria, and so on. Ask the Peruvians and the Colombians if they feel American leadership is protecting them from Venezuela and other radical forces in the region.

"It is true that military cooperation with Israel is good—which is to say, normal not the greatest in history—but what Israeli leader believes that Obama can be relied on?  The ones I speak to usually say something like this: 'I never thought I’d see the day when we couldn’t depend on America.'

"... let’s be frank here: Since Obama believes he knows better what Israel security needs are than do its leaders then anything he does is 'pro-Israel' even if it is against Israel’s will."
How cheap words are, especially in the mouth of Obama.  I've included a solid part of this piece because the analysis is important for anyone who thinks seriously about the big issues. I could go on, but you can read the full article for yourself:

Read: State of the Union Address on Foreign Policy: Careful Phrasing Conceals Disasters
There are, of course, other rebuttals to the Obama claim of "the renewal of American leadership."  I share this one, by Walter Russell Mead: As America's Credibility Wanes, Iran Upgrades Its Nuclear Capacity. (Emphasis added)
"Iran can sometimes be very hard to read, but the announcement that even as talks approach it is installing advanced and more capable centrifuges at its nuclear facility in Natanz doesn’t need much interpreting: Iran isn’t afraid of Barack Obama. The Ayatollahs have looked at the clues, added up the numbers, and come to the conclusion that the President will not use military force as Iran presses forward with its nuclear plans.

"One of the clues that lead them to this conclusion is the U.S. decision to cut back the number of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf region. If Washington were serious, the Iranians believe, we would be building up our naval presence, not drawing it back....

"President Obama’s choice of one of the most prominent 'Iran doves' in American public life as his new Defense Secretary is also being read in Tehran as a sign of the President’s thinking...

"The announcement of more troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in last night’s SOTU will confirm the already widespread view in Tehran that the U.S. is in retreat and that if Iran hangs tough it can get what it wants.

"From Iran’s point of view the Administration also seems to be standing down in Syria. A year ago Washington was full of tough talk: demands that Assad relinquish power, unambiguous statements that he “must go.” America was huffing and puffing—but folded like a cheap suit when it came time to back words with deeds. From an Iranian point of view this sends two very clear signals. First, don’t worry about threats and rhetoric from this White House. When they utter threats, they are just making noise. Assad 'must go,' Iran 'must stop' its nuclear program. This is just chit-chat; it won’t be followed up by anything other than diplomatic notes.

"...the fact that the President didn’t make the confrontation with Iran a centerpiece of his State of the Union message will be read in Iran as yet another signal. Their nuclear program isn’t a high enough priority for this President to lead to war.

"...Iran needs to fear the United States. The signs right now are that it doesn’t."
Of course Iran doesn't fear the US.  Obama doesn't do "fear."  He's into dialogue. 
This situation, says the author, makes war more likely.  Which, my friends, is precisely what Prime Minister Netanyahu has been saying for a long time.
And now, we're being told, Obama is coming here to convince Netanyahu to trust him to handle Iran.  How's that again?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.

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