Obama’s WikiLeaks Wake Up Call

November 30th, 2010 at 5:05 am | 12 Comments |

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This is a pivotal moment in the larger foreign policy debate. During Bush’s second term, realists (i.e. Baker/Hamilton) and leftists (Obama’s crew) joined forces and presented what seemed like a coherent critique of Bush foreign policy and neoconservatism. Cheney’s influence was replaced with Condi’s. The realists/leftists agreed that we needed to negotiate with Iran and Syria, leave Iraq, and focus on creating a Palestinian state. Then Obama was elected and turned this agenda into policy.

On the peace process, Obama made these ideas the basis of his approach. He got tough with Israel and made settlements the centerpiece of the conflict while refusing to ever criticize or pressure the Palestinians.

So the peace process has quickly fallen apart, and now, just as this reality is setting in — that Obama mishandled it from day one, in thrall to bad ideas — we get Wikileaks, which is quickly obliterating the Gulf-side Middle East worldview of the leftist-realists.

They said the Palestinians are the key to pleasing the Arabs — but in private, we now know that the Arabs barely ever mention Palestine. They said that the Israelis manipulate our foreign policy — but we now know that the Arabs were the ones openly calling for the U.S. to start a war with Iran. They said that America’s closeness with Israel alienates the Arabs — but we now know that what’s really alienating the Arabs is America’s reluctance to use its power to confront Iran and enforce a security architecture in which Israel is America’s most capable client.

In both halves of the Middle East — Levant and Gulf — the realist-leftists have gotten their way for the past few years. And the collapse of the peace process plus Wikileaks shows that their way is a fantasy that is scaring the daylights out of our allies and risking catastrophe.

As I see it, the meaning of Wikileaks is that we are at a moment when a bookend is being placed on a brief period of ascendancy for the realist-leftist foreign policy movement. It’s going to be a bruising downhill ride for these guys from here on out. (I hope.)

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    This is really a poorly written article, reflecting the authors basic biases, and trying to use the Wikilinks to buttress them, rather than looking logically at the Wikilinks and trying to build conclusions from them. As such, he has some massive holes in his thinking, peppered with gaping falsehoods.

    He (Obama) got tough with Israel and made settlements the centerpiece of the conflict while refusing to ever criticize or pressure the Palestinians.

    Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. … violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

    Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    Barack Obama, Cairo, June 4, 2009

    Would the author care to modify his claim that Obama has been “refusing to ever criticize or pressure the Palestinians”? Because if he doesn’t, despite the contents of Obama’s most direct and prominent speech to the Arab world on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s clear he is a propogandist, and not an honest commentator.

    They said the Palestinians are the key to pleasing the Arabs — but in private, we now know that the Arabs barely ever mention Palestine.

    The Wikileaks are about our diplomatic conversations with leaders, and representatives of the leaders of other countries – and not about what actually drives the people in those countries to join up with terrorists. It’s long been known that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays to the advantage of some Arab states, since they can point to it as a way of diverting their people’s attention from internal problems.

    They said that the Israelis manipulate our foreign policy — but we now know that the Arabs were the ones openly calling for the U.S. to start a war with Iran.

    If the Arabs were “openly” calling for war … we wouldn’t have had to find it out via Wikileaks, would we?

    That’s the problem – the Arabs were NOT “openly” calling for war, and were we to attack Iran they could publicly denounce the Americans attack on another Muslim nation with the narrative that we were “openly prodded by Israel” (given that Israel actually has been “openly” calling for war).

    They said that America’s closeness with Israel alienates the Arabs — but we now know that what’s really alienating the Arabs is America’s reluctance to use its power to confront Iran and enforce a security architecture in which Israel is America’s most capable client.

    Is the author really that unable to distinguish between the Arabic people, and their governments? Arabic governments (outside of Syria, perhaps) are not “aliented” from the US … it is their people where any alienation resides. And Wikilinks doesn’t say a thing about how the Arab peoples would respond to a US attack on Iran … particularly since for the most part the revealed diplomatic conversations are with representatives of oligarchies, rather than representatives of the people.

    And the collapse of the peace process plus Wikileaks shows that their way is a fantasy that is scaring the daylights out of our allies and risking catastrophe.

    If our Arab allies are “scared”, it’s time for them to put their own skin in the game and publicly call for the US to militarily do something about Iran, and to commit to supporting our actions diplomatically, militarily, and financially. We’ve sold the Saudi Air Force some pretty cool hardware – how about any attacks on Iran having Saudi Jets be the first to enter Iranian airspace at the front of the formation? How about the next trillion we spend in a Middle Eastern war being financed by petrodollars, rather than US taxpayers?

  • Derek

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Frum is still a reactionary, in spite of his pretensions to reasonableness.

  • SteveMetz

    Even by Internet standards, this is absolutely bizarre and surreal logic. “…what’s really alienating the Arabs is America’s reluctance to use its power to confront Iran and enforce a security architecture in which Israel is America’s most capable client.” Yea, right–the Arabs are “alienated” by America’s unwillingness to embrace Israel.

    Beyond that, even if Arab leaders (or an Arab leader) advocate a military strike on Iran, that does not make it a good idea. Any strategic benefits which could be expected would be FAR outweighed by the strategic costs in terms of supporting AQ’s narrative and reinforcing the idea that the US has total disregard for international law and its treaty oblibations (i.e. the Charter).

    Finally, the idea that the leaking information validated the “neoconservative” component of the Bush policy is bizarre. That policy was based on building partnerships and promoting democracy. The leaks demonstrate that was a flawed idea from the start.

  • mainwayne

    Actually, Wikileaks shows that the obama administration has managed to get the chinese on the coalition against iran by getting the saudis to guarantee their oil supply. and that it has managed to stop the russians from selling the iranians s-300 missiles. building peace in palestine could have been a basis for finally getting arab leaders to really OPENLY call out Iran. Which so far, they don’t.
    But sure, you can also argue, that the US is absolutely ready to invade any country any time, can control it, and will never be overstretched, as reality shows. oh, wait. it doesn’t.

  • sinz54

    balconesfault: The Wikileaks are about our diplomatic conversations with leaders, and representatives of the leaders of other countries – and not about what actually drives the people in those countries to join up with terrorists.
    “What really drives the people in those countries to join up with terrorists” is Islamic extremism, a contagion that unfortunately exists everywhere, in varying quantities.

    Those 7/7 London bombers were British citizens. They grew up living in, and enjoying the fruits of, the world’s most successful democracy. Some of them were affluent professionals. Yet despite the democracy and the economic success, they became terrorists anyway. They were sucked in by radical imams and radical teachers, which democracies tolerate in their midst.

    I agree with you that military force against Iran won’t change that dynamic. But peaceful diplomacy won’t either. What will change that dynamic is a recognition by all countries that they are going to have to do a better job reaching out to their youth–before their youth are corrupted by Islamist poison.

  • lessadoabouteverything

    balcone, good points. This was a disaster of an article. Beyond this, does Noah actually think West Bank Settlement expansions are a good thing? They will only make a final agreement even more difficult and in the end you would likely see the wrenching drama of settlements being bulldozed or the prospect of there never being peace. Can’t Noah imagine that you simply can’t have good faith peace talks resolving land disputes when one side is taking more and more land.
    What is Noah’s solution, send all the Palestinians to Jordan?
    Look, Obama had to give it a shot to have good faith negotiations, whether they are possible is a different matter. The most he could do is get them to the table, from them on it is up to the 2 sides. Pollack is essentially saying don’t bother, let the Palestinians remain an occupied people with no state forever and somehow everything will be wonderful

    “During Bush’s second term, realists (i.e. Baker/Hamilton) and leftists (Obama’s crew) joined forces and presented what seemed like a coherent critique of Bush foreign policy and neoconservatism.” So Noah is now claiming that these criticisms weren’t valid, that neoconservatism actually worked smashingly well and that liberals don’t see just how wonderful it all was?

  • balconesfault

    What will change that dynamic is a recognition by all countries that they are going to have to do a better job reaching out to their youth–before their youth are corrupted by Islamist poison.

    Sinz and I find convergence on a security issue. Nice!

    Although I believe that military force against Iran will actually channel more of those affluent, educated Muslims living in the West into the arms of the radical imams and radical teachers. We may look at it as just taking on another nation that is dangerous and irresponsible – the Muslim world will view it as another attack on a Muslim nation.

  • The Daily Talking Points « LobeLog.com

    [...] FrumForum: Executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), Noah Pollak, writes that this WikiLeaks release is “obliterating the Gulf-side Middle East” worldview of leftists and realists that had promoted negotiations with Iran and Syria, a withdrawal from Iraq and a policy of pressuring Israel to stop settlement construction. Pollak, attacking the “linkage” argument, blogs that Washington’s Arab allies are not alienated by the close U.S.-Israel relationship. Instead, “we now know that what’s really alienating the Arabs is America’s reluctance to use its power to confront Iran and enforce a security architecture in which Israel is America’s most capable client.” [...]

  • armstp

    Everything is classified “secret” these days. Governments keep too many secrets from the public and voters. I am a full supporter of Wikileaks. And yes there is an element to the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks. Daniel Ellsberg is a huge supporter of Wikileaks. If the government has nothing to hide, then what are the afraid of and if their diplomats cannot be more diplomatic then who needs them.

    I am with Glenn Greenwald on this one:

    “Simply put, there are few countries in the world with citizenries and especially media outlets more devoted to serving, protecting and venerating government authorities than the U.S. Indeed, I don’t quite recall any entity producing as much bipartisan contempt across the American political spectrum as WikiLeaks has: as usual, for authoritarian minds, those who expose secrets are far more hated than those in power who commit heinous acts using secrecy as their principal weapon.”

    ” There was Sarah Palin on on Twitter illiterately accusing WikiLeaks — a stateless group run by an Australian citizen — of “treason”; she thereafter took to her Facebook page to object that Julian Assange was “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders” (she also lied by stating that he has “blood on his hands”: a claim which even the Pentagon admits is untrue). ”

    ” one’s reaction to Wikileaks is largely shaped by whether or not one, on balance, supports what the U.S. has been covertly doing in the world by virtue of operating in the dark.”

    “The central goal of WikiLeaks is to prevent the world’s most powerful factions — including the sprawling, imperial U.S. Government — from continuing to operate in the dark and without restraints. Most of the institutions which are supposed to perform that function — beginning with the U.S. Congress and the American media — not only fail to do so, but are active participants in maintaining the veil of secrecy. WikiLeaks, for whatever its flaws, is one of the very few entities shining a vitally needed light on all of this. It’s hardly surprising, then, that those factions — and their hordes of spokespeople, followers and enablers — see WikiLeaks as a force for evil. That’s evidence of how much good they are doing.”

    Read this piece:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/11/30/wikileaks/index.html

  • armstp

    “My personal feeling is that any allegedly democratic government that is so hubristic that it will lie blatantly to the entire world in order to invade a country it has long wanted to invade probably needs a self-correcting mechanism. There are times when it’s necessary that the powerful be shown that there are checks on its behavior, particularly when the systems normally designed to do that are breaking down. Now is one of those times.

    I also think that all the sturm und drang about leaks is fairly bizarre considering that the technology to transfer large amounts of secret information has been out there for some time and has shown its capability in many facets of our lives already. Privacy and secrecy are very abstract concepts in this age. I would have expected the government to have anticipated this kind of document transfer in advance and guarded against it.

    As for the substance of the revelations, I don’t know what the results will be. But in the world of diplomacy, embarrassment is meaningful and I’m not sure that it’s a bad thing for all these people to be embarrassed right now. Puncturing a certain kind of self-importance — especially national self-importance — may be the most worthwhile thing they do. A little humility is long overdue.”

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/wikileak-fall-out.html

    “The careerists scattered about the world in America’s intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America’s unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.”

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2010/11/overseeing_state_secrecy

  • politicalfan

    Noah,
    1. Who are behind the leaks?
    2. Caution to those that point a big finger forward, there may be several pointing back.
    3. When all is said and done. The laughing may soon be crying.
    4. I do not wish a leak on a R or D administration.
    5. A repeat of number (2) “The door swings both ways, be careful it might swing back and hit the critics the a _ _!!!”

  • Nanotek

    Pollak, Israel seems to have one of two choices ultimately: become a democracy and lose its Jewish majority or help facilitate a two-state solution.

    Losing the lives of American soldiers on behalf of other nations may seem like a good idea to you but it’s not from my point of view. If Arabian countries or Israel want to pick a fight with Iran … that’s their call.

    That said, I will give you this: the Wikileaks showed the powerless peoples of the world how badly we’re lied to and manipulated 24/7 by our own governments.