Obama Regroups on Foreign Policy

Barack Obama, evidently stung by the fact that his statements on foreign policy have come across as naive at best, ignorant at worst, has gone looking for reinforcements in the form of a new team of national security advisers. The new team includes thirteen members, not counting the 41 retired admirals and generals with whom he also met today. Obama’s media availability featuring the announcement of his “new team” took place before a backdrop of 17 American flags. That must be Obama’s famous “nuance” at work.

Obama needed some new national security advisers, since he has had to distance himself from several of the original group. There are some good people among the thirteen–Sam Nunn, notably–but it is heavy on Clinton administration retreads and people with no foreign policy expertise at all, as far as I know, like Eric Holder.

The presence of the Clintonistas may account, in part, for Obama’s determination to return to the failed policy of fighting terrorism with lawyers. Obama’s most telling comment today was this:

Now, my approach is guided by a simple premise. I have confidence that our system of justice and that our traditions of rule of law are strong enough to deal with terrorists.

I have confidence that our system of justice is strong enough to indict terrorists, as we indicted Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and others. That’s a far different matter from apprehending and punishing them, however, and–the important point–even when we succeed in punishing terrorists after the fact, law enforcement techniques are insufficient to prevent them from killing thousands of Americans. This isn’t an opinion, it’s fact proven by experience, as the September 11 Commission found.

Obama’s prepared remarks consisted of a tirade against the “Bush/McCain” approach to counter-terrorism:

The people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice. They’re Osama bin Laden, Al Qaida, and their sponsors, the Taliban.

This is a strange thing to say. A number of those responsible for September 11 have been captured or killed, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed Atef, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and others. Beyond that, the majority of al Qaeda’s leadership has been killed or captured. As for the Taliban, they no longer control Afghanistan, and many hundreds or thousands of their fighters have been killed. So Obama, once again, has a very odd sense of what constitutes being “brought to justice.” He appears to think that unless a terrorist has appeared before an American jury, he has gotten off scot-free.

Obama’s conclusion was the usual refrain:

[T]he record shows that George Bush and John McCain have been weak on terrorism. Their approach has failed. Because of their policies, we are less safe….

This is simply ignorant. As we argued here, it can’t be denied that the Bush administration’s policies have brought about a remarkable reduction in terrorist attacks against the United States. One can debate which of the administration’s policies have been most instrumental in that success, but it can’t be denied that, whether Obama and his new team of advisers like it or not, successful they have been.

It’s going to take more than a photo-op with the likes of Madeleine Albright, a handful of retired military officers and seventeen flags to make Obama into a credible leader on foreign policy.

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