The establishment media has declared U.S. President Barack Obama a failure in foreign policy. He is worse than George W. Bush, say some journalists; he is worse than Jimmy Carter, say others. In much of this criticism there is a phenomenon operating in the background that goes unmentioned: The opinion pages of the large circulation dailies in New York and Washington are either liberal internationalist or neoconservative, meaning they all have a bias for action, for doing dramatic things to make the world a better place. Realism, which has a sturdier pedigree -- going all the way back to Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War -- encapsulates how most people in government and business actually think, but it has relatively few followers in the major media. And realism counsels caution, because a bias for action can often lead to disaster. Because Obama has had until this recent Iraq crisis the opposite -- a bias for inaction -- the major media simply hate him.
So let's see how he is doing.
Though the defense budget has been cut rather dramatically, the United States under Obama still deploys its Navy and Air Force in the four corners of the world, protecting sea lines of communication as well as the balance of power in the major geographical theaters. This is doing something on an imperial scale. Nevertheless, passively accepting America's worldwide military armature is a far cry from trying to shape events, which a president is expected to do and which Obama is not doing. You can shape events without military intervention, but Obama is not even doing that.
Though Obama has not put troops in harm's way in any significant measure, he has been unusually aggressive in the use of drone warfare to hunt down and kill terrorists, in Yemen, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and elsewhere. This, too, constitutes doing something, and dramatically so. One could easily argue that Obama has been more successful in hunting down senior al Qaeda leadership than his predecessor. And don't forget, it was Obama's decision to kill Osama Bin Laden in a risky special operations forces attack.
Obama is likely doing more in Ukraine than meets the eye. Putting troops on the ground would be irresponsible given that Ukraine matters much less to the United States or even to Western Europe than it does to Russia. But how many people have noticed how much more disciplined, efficient, and methodical the Ukrainian military has become in recent months, evinced by its recent offensive? It is as though its officer corps suddenly got a crash course at Fort Leavenworth. That, I would be willing to bet, is the upshot of American military advisers dispatched to Kiev by Obama. Obama prefers quiet, lethal action -- witness the drones -- while the media often prefers noise.
True, Obama has not acted dramatically in Syria. The media narrative is that had Obama taken military action of some demonstrable sort early on, in order to aid the opponents to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, al-Assad's regime would have fallen by now and Syria would be more peaceful and stable. But given the plethora of armed groups in Syria even early on, there was no guarantee of this. Doing something in 2011 might have toppled the regime but also midwifed to power an al Qaeda state, and that's if the country had not descended into worse anarchy than it has now, with even more killing. The idea that the United States could have controlled or steered the direction of Syrian politics in a war-torn, post-Assad era is perhaps naive. The United States could barely do so in next-door Iraq with more than a hundred thousand troops on the ground.
In Iraq, meanwhile, the choice is between Sunni extremists in the northern and western parts of the country who murder and torture people -- and cleanse their territory of indigenous Christians -- and a Shiite regime in Baghdad that has murdered and tortured people, albeit on a less demonstrable scale and intensity. But non-intervention is risky, since if a radical Sunni state can take hold across parts of Syria and Iraq, that poses dangers to the United States, as well as to its Middle Eastern allies like Israel and Jordan. So Obama has now ordered limited airstrikes, using the rhetorical trigger of humanitarian action. That's doing something. Of course, one might also argue that while Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, was apparently wasting months of his time trying to establish a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, an Islamic state was coming into being right under his nose between Damascus and Baghdad.
Obama did do something in Libya, helping along the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi with air, logistics and special operations units. The result has been sheer chaos in Libya itself, the destabilization of Mali that the French military had to fix, and a dispersal of weapons throughout the Sahara region. Here is a case where Obama's doing something may have constituted doing too much.
Then there are the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Given how unpalatable military alternatives are, entering into talks with Tehran made sense. But extending the talks past the deadline for several months entails risks that might in the end determine the reputation of the Obama administration. If the negotiations collapse, and Iran marches on toward a greater nuclear capability, Obama could credibly be declared a failed foreign policy president.
This leads to Obama's fundamental problem. Actually he is not a realist, at least not in the vein of a Henry Kissinger, James Baker or Brent Scowcroft. Yes, Obama understands restraint. He rushes in with drones and advisers rather than with ground troops. But that is only the beginning of realism, not its culmination. Realism, when it works well, requires patriotism. It requires a profound loyalty to the patria -- a specific geographical ground and its storied history, which the realist feels deeply in his bones -- and whose basic interest is then pursued by the realist, often very aggressively. Baker and Scowcroft had this, and Kissinger, while an immigrant, had it as well. They all probably would have negotiated with Iran rather than pursue a military strike -- but they also would have applied brinksmanship and other means to prevent being taken to the cleaners by the Iranians. In addition to sending military advisers to Ukraine, they would have challenged Vladimir Putin's Russia in other ways. They would have declared the Baltic states hallowed NATO ground, and would not have advertised in advance that the United States would not be sending troops to Ukraine: they would understand that you never tell your adversary what you are not going to do. Let your adversary worry about what you might or might not do. In all of this, Obama and Kerry have failed.
This is all intrinsically connected with optics: America's reputation for power as perceived by its friends and enemies. To wit, the Israelis might not have liked Kissinger or Baker, but they feared them. They neither like nor fear Kerry. Though sly and deft in instances, Obama has simply not projected power in the manner of a Nixon, Reagan or the elder Bush. Thus, America risks being further humiliated around the world.
Now all this could suddenly change if, say, for example, the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine were to collapse and Putin would be revealed as weak, instead of Obama. But if the current trend continues, one has to wonder: what, for example, will the Chinese do?
So far the Chinese have elegantly asserted power in the East and South China seas through so-called salami slicing, moving forward only by single steps. But what if, say, in the final year or so of Obama's presidency they perceive the White House as so disengaged internationally that they decide to be truly bold?
Let's first see how Ukraine turns out. Let's see what the Chinese do. Let's see what happens in the Iran talks. Let's see how much this limited air campaign in Iraq can accomplish, both in a humanitarian sense and a
strategic sense. Obama's legacy is only partially written. It could get better. But it could also get worse [Stratfor]
A priest is sitting inside the church, when a bloke comes in and asks to be confessed.
"Very well, my child," says the priest, as he leads the man into the confession booth, "Tell me about your sins."
Father," says the bloke, "On Monday, I was at my girlfriend's house,
and, well... the two of us alone, the house empty... I sinned, Father."
worry, child," says the priest, "It's perfectly normal to have such
desires and share them with your partner. Nothing serious, so just say
two prayers and you will be cleansed of your sins."
continues the man, "It doesn't end there. On Tuesday, I was at
my girlfriend's house again, but she had gone out with her mates, and
the only one there was her sister, and, well... the two of us alone, the
house empty... I sinned again, Father."
"Oh, child," says the Father, "You must be strong and fight those urges! Eight prayers shall cleanse you of your sins."
Father," says the bloke again, "On Wednesday, I was at my girlfriend's
house again, and she wasn't there then either, and the only one at home
was her mum, and, well... the two of us alone, the house empty... Again I
"Good Lord," says the priest, "Child, you must think about what you do, so pray-"
Father," says the bloke, "On Thursday, I was at my girlfriend's house
again, and the whole family had gone to the shop, and the only one there
was the maid, and, well.... the two of us alone, the house empty... I
sinned yet again, Father."
The priest falls silent.
then," continues the bloke,
"On Friday, I was at her house again, and they had gone out for the
weekend and the only one there was her aunt, and , well... the two of us
alone, the house empty..."
The priest still did not answer.
on Saturday," said the bloke, "I went to her house again, and there was
nobody there except for her grandmother, and, well..."
The man awaits a reply, but upon hearing none, he exits the booth - only to find the priest up on the belfry.
"Father," he calls, "What are you doing up there? I haven't finished!"
"Like fuck I'm coming down," says the priest, "The two of us alone, the church empty... and I don't want you to sin any more."
guys in the pub were struggling to settle an argument about who was the
best lover when one suggested he had a sound measuring device and that
they should all take it in turns to record how loud their wives screamed
They all agreed, so a week later the group met in the pub to discuss their results over a pint.
"Well I did the experiment," said the first guy, "and the device measured 89 decibels, beat that."
problem," said the second guy smugly. "I did the experiment and the
device measured 98 decibels. Now, what do you say about that?"
"Not bad," the third guy replied, "but when I did the experiment the device measured in at a whopping 128
"128 decibels?" said the first bloke. "How on earth did you get your missus to scream that loud while you were having sex?"
"Easy," he replied, "she walked in while I was fucking her sister."
"You worry too much about this God shit," he said. "Always concerned in case you offend the big Pixie In The Sky." "You should do what I do," he said. "Go out and get pissed, get yourself a hot hooker & fuck the tits off
her. You'll soon forget all the religious crap."
"That's good advice Father. But can I take it you're a bit disillusioned with taking confession?"
A woman was at work when she received a phone call that her small daughter was very sick with a fever. She left work and stopped by the pharmacy to get some medication. She got back to her car and found that she had locked her keys in the car. She didn’t know what to do. She called home and told
the baby sitter what had happened. The baby sitter told her that the fever was getting worse. She said : “You might find a coat hanger and use that to open the door.” The
woman looked around and found an old rusty coat hanger that had been
left on the ground, possibly by someone else who at some time had locked
their keys in their car. She looked at the hanger and said : “I don’t know how to use this.” She bowed her head and asked God to send her HELP. Within five minutes a beat up old motorcycle pulled up . A bearded man who was wearing an old biker skull rag on his head. The woman thought : “This is what you sent to help me?” However , she was desperate . She was also very thankful ! The man got off of his cycle and asked if he could help. She said : “Yes, my daughter is very sick. I stopped to get her some medication and I‘ve locked my keys in my
car. I must get home to her. Please, can you use this hanger to unlock my car?” He said: “Sure.” He walked over to the car, and in less than a minute the car was opened. She hugged the man and through her tears she said : “Thank You SO Much! You are a very nice man.” The man replied : “Lady, I am NOT a nice man. I just got out of PRISON yesterday, I was in prison for car theft. ” The woman hugged the man again and with sobbing tears cried out loud : “Oh, thank you God! You even sent me a Professional !!”
In the year 2012, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in Buffalo and said:
"Once again, the earth has become wicked and overpopulated, and I see the end of all flesh before me."
"Build another Ark and save two of every living thing, along with a few good humans."
He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:
"You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.
"Noah!" he roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"
"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit.
"I've been arguing with the boat inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.
neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood bylaws by building
the Ark in my back garden and exceeding the height limitations. We had
to go to the local planning committee for a variance.
the local council and the electricity company demanded a shed load of
money for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead
obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move
to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they
would hear nothing of it.
"Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the Greater Spotted Barn Owl.
"I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!
I started gathering the animals, the RSPCA took me to court. They
insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They
argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was
cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.
the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that I couldn't build the Ark
until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed
still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on
how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.
"Immigration are checking the visa status of most of the people who want to work.
"The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only union workers with Ark-building experience.
make matters worse, the Inland Revenue seized all my assets, claiming
I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.
"So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."
Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky.
Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"
"No," said the Lord. "The Government beat me to it."