Archive for Smart Power

John Kerry Gets One Right

Hey, even a stopped clock finds a nut once in a while:

Though it went entirely unnoticed in the Western press, all major Russian news outlets – RIA Novosti, Sputnik, RT, and others – were only too happy to report on what US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in private: “Just ignore Obama’s statements.”

According to Mr. Lavrov, John Kerry advised him not to pay too much attention to the US President’s harsh rhetoric directed toward his state. As recently as September, during his speech to the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Mr. Obama puzzled and shocked Mr. Lavrov by placing “Russian aggression in Europe” in second place among the world’s threats, behind only the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, resigning to third place the “brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq.” “Aggressive Russia” again was included in Mr. Obama’s world top-danger list during November’s G20 Summit in Australia.

According to a translation commissioned by the Observer, Mr. Kerry advised Mr. Lavrov to “just ignore Obama’s statements.” Google translator phrases the nuance slightly differently: “Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says US Secretary of State John Kerry called on him to ‘pay no mind’ to a statement by President Obama.” But the take-home message is clearly the same.

“Talking to John Kerry,” said Mr. Lavrov in his speech to the State Duma assembly, “I asked him, what did it mean. He said to me: ‘Just ignore it.’ You understand, if this is so serious, then, of course, it is very sad. And he said ‘just ignore it’ because he wanted at that moment to discuss how we were going to co-ordinate our approaches on solving Iran’s nuclear program and on the situation on the Korean peninsula.”

Actually, Kerry was accurate but premature. We will be able to ignore Jumbo-ears soon enough, just not yet.

It’s no secret that the country is in the hands of a bunch of rodeo clowns (hence the presence of so much bullsh*t, so many horse’s asses). Watching their press conferences is like watching the freaks who audition for American Idol.

But it is a secret to our press barons and anyone who reads their rags. How can any election be valid if the public is not informed?

PS: Now that I think about it, didn’t Chuck Hagel get fired for ignoring Obama? How is that fair?

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Xi Who Must Be Obeyed

What must China think of us?

Scratch that: what must China think of Obama and Kerry?

We’re the biggest badasses in the history of the world (though that title might be history now, too), and we’ve got a list of legitimate grievances against China, ranging from copyright piracy to hacking and spying to playing the regional bully to human rights violations.

China might have feared that Obama was performing his vaunted “pivot to Asia” to find out “whose ass to kick”. They would have feared in vain.

Captain James T. Jerk came to surrender:

President Obama’s trip to China has been quite a show. First, he managed to alienate the entire population by walking around with gum in his mouth, a breach of decorum severe enough to get him referred to as a “rapper” and an “idler” on Chinese social media. Yes, mainstream media Obama cheerleaders, the Chinese just called him lazy. Good luck browbeating them into apologizing by accusing them of racism.

I doubt you’d be seeing those comments on China’s “social media” without the approval of the communist regime, which sized Obama up as accurately as Vladimir Putin, the mullahs of Tehran, and every other bad actor in the world. They saw a delusional ideologue ripe for a shakedown, because he was desperate to bring something, anything back home from Beijing to prove he was relevant.

That paragraph fits him perfectly—a hell of a lot better than that stupid Romulan smoking jacket. What an utter embarrassment of a president. Come back, Jimmy, all is forgiven.

But I get him. I get him completely. He was raised to believe, as I was, that America was what wrong with the world. Never mind those flowery words written centuries ago by dead white men—dead white, slave-owning white men—this nation needed cutting down a notch or seven. Take us out of the equation, and peace and justice would reign. Obama believes in American exceptionalism, all right, only in our exceptional capacity to sow evil.

Which leads to this:

China’s rulers must have been cackling with glee when Obama gave them everything they could have dreamed of, and more, by announcing a big “climate change” deal. It’s the sort of “deal” where one side gives up the store today, and the other side vaguely promises to think about doing something in thirty years or so. No prizes for guessing who emerged from the negotiations wearing a barrel.

A barrel. Funny. You don’t see barrel imagery much anymore.

China plays games like this all the time; they’re currently in violation of the last vague promise they made to cut back on their carbon emissions, supposedly because their economy boomed beyond expectations. They know how to play the Greens like fiddles, and they understand how much Western politicians love to use global-warming theology as an excuse to expand their own personal power. The Politburo doesn’t need to worry about disguising its appetite for power, and they certainly aren’t going to cripple their economy to meet any “climate change” goals, but they love watching their global competitors agree to do so.

There’s so much more, but I want to come back to the question of what must China be thinking. Putin’s on the march, the Muslim world is in flames, his own people voted him to all but oblivion, and Obama shows up in Beijing bearing the crown jewels and enough Nicorette gum to numb a herd of pandas (unless they’re solitary).

Even those Godless communists must believe in a higher power when providence smiles this broadly on them.


Clinton was right. You should be getting me coffee.

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Amateur Hour

Have you heard the good news?

Turkey has agreed to allow the U.S.-led coalition to use its military bases for the fight against the Islamic State and to use Turkish territory as part of a training program for Syrian opposition fighters, Obama administration officials said Sunday.

“That’s a new commitment and one that we very much welcome,” Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Or we would…if it were true:

Turkey denied Monday that it has reached any “new agreement” with the United States to allow the use of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey for attacks on the Islamic State militant group, despite suggestions from the Obama administration that a deal had been reached.

A statement issued by the office of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said talks are continuing between Ankara and Washington over whether to permit U.S. forces to use Incirlik in the fight against the Islamic State, a radical al-Qaeda offshoot that has captured parts of Syria and Iraq. However, “there is no new agreement on the Incirlik issue,” the statement said.

You can understand why the regime would send out Susan Rice of a Sunday morning to spread a false narrative. It worked so well last time.

I was just culling the list of categories we link to our posts. Who cares about Mohamed Morsi anymore? Gone. Same with Barney Frank, even Ted Kennedy. But I stumbled a category we created called Amateur Hour. I debated keeping it, but we use it so rarely…I deleted it. I am so sad now.

The rest of the world must be looking at us and thinking this administrated is peopled by humiliated rejects from American Idol. Is the “She Bangs” guy free for Secretary of State?


Apology Tour

Not Obama’s (this time), Biden’s:

US Vice-President Joe Biden has apologised to the United Arab Emirates after suggesting it had fuelled the rise of extremist groups in Syria.

The White House confirmed the call to the UAE, a day after Mr Biden offered a similar apology to Turkey.

Mr Biden told the Harvard students on Thursday that Turkey, the UAE and Saudi Arabia had extended “billions of dollars and tens of thousands of tonnes of weapons” to Sunni fighters battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

He called the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on Sunday to offer his apologies, following a request from the UAE authorities for “a formal clarification” of the comments.

His remarks were “amazing and ignore the role of the Emirates in the fight against extremism and terrorism,” UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Mohammad Gargash said, quoted by state-run WAM news agency.

In the telephone call, Mr Biden said that his remarks “regarding the early stages of the conflict in Syria were not meant to imply that the UAE had facilitated or supported IS, al-Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria”.

It is the second time in two days that he has had to call a key coalition partner to clarify his remarks.

On Saturday, he rang Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he reacted angrily to the comments, saying that if “Mr Biden used such language, that would make him a man of the past for me”.

It is not unusual for Joe Biden to speak his mind but recently he has found himself back-pedalling fast multiple times, says the BBC’s Tom Esslemont in Washington.

It’s hardly news that Biden is a knucklehead. But this episode reminds us of the fiction that he was supposed to be Obama’s sage counsel on world affairs. Obama thinks he’s a sager counsel than his sage counsels anyway (in the case of Biden, he’s not wrong).

I don’t see Biden’s offensive comments in his prepared remarks, so we have to go to the news media:

“Our allies in the region were our largest problem with Syria,” he said. “The Turks, who are great friends… the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar Al Assad] and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shiite war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of weapons into anyone who would fight against Al Assad.

“Except that the people who were being supplied were [Jabhat] Al Nusra and Al Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” he added, naming Syria’s Al Qaida affiliate.

I don’t know, is Biden wrong? If he didn’t say this in his prepared remarks, was this his unfiltered view? What the hell is the matter with us if the vile, awful, antisemitic Turks are our “great friends”? If diplomacy is the art of disguising what you think, Biden is not your man. If you want a peek inside the mind (to be generous) of this administration, there’s no one better.


B Kind 2 Barack

What do you want from the guy?

The world is a hot mess. Pro-Russian separatists shot down a passenger jet over Ukraine. Iraq is under siege from Islamic radicals, the Taliban is rebounding in Afghanistan and civil war grinds on in Syria.

Israel is fighting in Gaza. Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program have come up empty. China is bullying its neighbors.

When trouble flares up around the world, U.S. presidents get blamed. The latest polls show that only about 36 percent of Americans approve of Barack Obama’s handling of foreign affairs — down from 51 percent in May, 2011, after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Republicans have not been reluctant to place responsibility on him. “Obama has presided over a recent string of disasters that make even (Jimmy) Carter look competent,” wrote Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. “The world is on fire — and Obama’s foreign policy legacy is in tatters.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged that “his policies are failing across the globe.”

The indictment implies that had the administration been tougher or smarter, Ukraine would be intact, Syria’s dictator would be gone, Iraq would be stable, Hamas would surrender, China would be a gentle lamb and Iran would give up its nukes.

Conservatives say Obama thinks he’s king. But they seem to confuse him with God.

Silly conservatives. Where’d they get that idea?

But if Obama doesn’t deserve his 36% approval rating now (and he doesn’t, it’s way too high), he didn’t deserve the 51% approval when SEAL Team Six greased Osama bin Laden (while Obama watched from the corner of the room in a golf jacket).

But yeah, I’ll go along with the idea that if this administration had been tougher and smarter, some or all of the world’s hot spots today would be at least a little less hot. Who fears or respects us? Who can even determine what it is we want, much less what we demand? Obama’s much-derided “apology tour” in his early days presaged these days of dithering. The US had too often thrown its weight around, he lamented: more Mr. Nice Guy.

And note that by acknowledging anti-Americanism, he hasn’t made America any more popular. I’d prefer respect, and accept fear, but they don’t even like us. They don’t like him, either, not anymore.

[T]he belief persists that the difference between a bad outcome and a good outcome is a willingness by the U.S. government to exercise leadership or show toughness or otherwise get involved. In practice, our interventions often exact a terribly high price for a dismal result. If there are two ways to get a dismal result, maybe we should choose the one that doesn’t cost us thousands of lives or billions of dollars.

See Syria, for example. Or Iraq. Or Libya. Or Gaza. Or Ukraine. Or “our girls” in Nigeria. Or the Rio Grande. Or Chicago. Dismal results, all, and all free of charge and with no lives lost.

Oh wait…


Our Friends, the Russians

Okay, so maybe Hillary’s embarrassing Reset Button gag went over like a lead balloon:

Nothing cements relations like mutual derision:

Russia is somewhat obsessed with Jen Psaki.

The State Department spokeswoman has turned into Russia’s boogeyman (boogey-woman?) and favorite punching bag as relations with the United States have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine.

She is demonized on television. Her gaffes are celebrated widely as internet memes on Russian social media. A popular radio morning show even mocked her in a song set to a popular children’s tune.

“There is nobody more competent than Psaki, nobody more pretty, or smarter,” sang the chorus, sarcastically. The song accused her of peddling “nonsense” to journalists and urged her to “keep it up, we want to laugh more.”

In April, Psaki was taunted by Russian media for using the hashtags #RussiaIsolated and #UnitedforUkraine on Twitter, including sending a photo of herself holding a #UnitedforUkraine sign with a thumbs up. (The Obama administration’s social media campaign on Ukraine, led by Psaki, was ridiculed by some at home as well, including the New York Post and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.)

ABC News calls this an “obsession”. But can you blame Russia? Psaki is pure comedy gold.


Not just hashtags; sometimes there are bracelets:


And perhaps the pansiest response of all:


Those aren’t pansies? Sorry.

Anyway, if the French can love us for Jerry Lewis, why can’t Russia love us for Jen Psaki? She’s funnier.


About Those Sanctions

So, Obama employed the old axiom “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”.

How’d that work out?

President Obama thought he was taking a hard line when he issued sanctions against Russian officials following the Crimean vote to leave Ukraine.

But Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin thinks the sanctions are hilarious.

Rogozin was one of 11 Russian and Ukranian officials hit with economic sanctions today, and responded on Twitter calling whoever drafted the list a ‘prankster’.

In his tweets, Rogozin asks ‘Comrade @BarackObama’ how the sanctions will affect him since he doesn’t have ‘accounts or property abroad’.

Vladislav Surkov, one of President Vladimir Putin’s top aides, was also included on the list and just as ambivalent about his new restrictions.

‘It’s a big honor for me,’ he told a Russian newspaper. ‘I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.’

They’re all dead. What’s he saying?

I’m almost tempted to say they can’t talk about our president that way. But we do, every day.

Carry on!


Dipsomanic Immunity

A minor story, perhaps, given the chaos, mayhem, and catastrophe we have to cover, but no less enjoyable:

Recently, a colleague of mine from the Foreign Service told me about a former U.S. ambassador to Sweden who, some years ago, had passed out in the snow, too drunk to get up. He had been partying hard during an outing in the countryside. Fortunately, an embassy officer found him in time to save his life. America’s boozy man in Stockholm was a non-career political appointee—no surprise. The fellow who saved him was a professional diplomat. And the roles the two men played that night is emblematic of a familiar routine.

That was the thought I had earlier this week when word came that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had approved nominations of President Barack Obama’s latest batch of ambassadorial picks—including a couple of first-time diplomats whose cringeworthy performances during their testimony suggested they’ll need to rely heavily on their Foreign Service staff to keep from embarrassing the United States.

When hotel magnate George Tsunis, Obama’s nominee for Oslo, met with the Senate last month, he made clear that he didn’t know that Norway was a constitutional monarchy and wrongly stated that one of the ruling coalition political parties was a hate-spewing “fringe element.” Another of the president’s picks, Colleen Bell, who is headed to Budapest, could not answer questions about the United States’ strategic interests in Hungary. But could the president really expect that she’d be an expert on the region? Her previous gig was as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She stumbled through responses to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) like, well, a soap opera star, expounding on world peace. When the whole awkward exchange concluded, the senator grinned. “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees,” McCain said sarcastically.

For the purposes of comparison, Norway’s ambassador to the Washington is a 31-year Foreign Ministry veteran. Hungary’s ambassador is an economist who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 27 years.

Obama’s bundler’s and hacks are hardly the first of their kind to put on the striped pants and waistcoats of the diplomatic service. But they are clearly no better. It looks like his extended hand of friendship is expecting its palm to be greased.

The reason a hotelier and a television producer, for instance, might be appealing choices is blindingly obvious: money. Bell raised $2,101,635 for President Obama’s re-election efforts. Tsunis, who flipped his affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2009, embraced his new party with gusto, raising $988,550 for the president’s 2012 bid.

Among the ambassadors serving in 10 of the choicest cities in Europe and the Caribbean, the average amount raised per posting in the last election was $1.79 million, according to the Guardian newspaper. And the cost for a plush post in a city like Rome, Paris, Stockholm or Canberra seems to be going up. The Guardian reported that appointees to these embassies raised a total of $5 million in 2012, up from $3.3 million in 2008, $1.3 million in 2004 and $800,000 in 2000.

We were expecting so much more from Obama—at least for the Paris posting. He’s selling himself cheap.

Another champ:

And then there’s the recent case of Cynthia Stroum, Obama’s pick to serve in Luxembourg—a Rhode Island-sized NATO ally that has always been a convenient spot to stick political friends and donors. Over the years, real estate moguls, socialites and car salesmen have all washed up in the Ardennes. Stroum, a wealthy Seattle investor, was dispatched there in 2009 after raising half a million bucks to put Obama in the White House (or, $1 for every citizen of Luxembourg). She abruptly resigned in early 2011 after a blistering report from the State Department’s inspector general noted that her embassy “has underperformed for the entirety of the current ambassador’s tenure.” The ambassador’s managerial style, the report claimed, engendered personality conflicts and the embassy was fraught with verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel and booze. “At present, due to internal problems, [the embassy] plays no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting,” the report noted, “though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington clients and other U.S. missions in the NATO and EU communities.” So terrorized was Stroum’s small staff that the inspector general recommended the State Department dispatch medical personnel to examine the stress levels of embassy employees. It noted at least four quit or sought transfers to jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan during her tenure, rare moves for diplomats ensconced in cushy European postings.

Let’s keep it real: developments in Luxembourg are barely of interest to Luxembourgers; of none to anyone else in the entire galaxy. But that our career diplomats sought refuge in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than work for the bundling bitch, Stroum, is very enlightening.

Why bring up this amusing but ancient history?

Because Obama is about to top—or bottom—himself:

Obama bundler and nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Noah Mamet has never been to Argentina, he revealed at his confirmation hearing Thursday.

“I haven’t had the opportunity yet to be there,” he said. “I’ve traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven’t yet had a chance.”

Mamet bundled $500,000 for Obama and the Democratic Party, and he’s not the only friend of the administration to recently reveal little in-depth knowledge of his new country.

But he looks forward to starting a dialogue:

On Friday, a State Department spokesperson couldn’t answer whether Manet could speak Spanish. Asked, she answered, “I don’t have his personal biography in front of me.”

Isn’t this the same guy who said “[I]nstead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English, they’ll learn English, you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.”

Do I care that Obama is sending rich fools to foreign hell-holes? I do not. Given its recent behavior, Argentina deserves a fatuous fop like whatshisname. I’d send Charlie Sheen to France if I were president (except that his behavior would be unremarkable over there). But can we remove the cardboard halo from above Obama’s head now? And replace it with a sign that says “ATM: Deposits Only”?

PS: Given who’s running things, I suppose we shouldn’t be upset at the tawdriness of the State Department.

That’s funny, you don’t look Luxembourgan.


RIP Smart Power

Hillary Clinton was no George Marshall in the job, but next to this boob, she looks like the reincarnation of Thomas Jefferson:

John Kerry invents country of Kyrzakhstan

In an embarrassing slip of the tongue, Mr Kerry last week praised US diplomats working to secure “democratic institutions” in the Central Asian country, which does not exist.

The newly minted diplomat was referring to Kyrgyzstan, a poor, landlocked nation of 5.5 million, which he appeared to confuse with its resource-rich neighbour to the north, Kazakhstan.

The State Department kindly omitted the error in the official transcript of Wednesday’s speech, which Mr Kerry delivered on the eve of his first foreign trip as secretary of state.

Mr Kerry’s flub was all the more awkward, because Kyrgyzstan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and a major recipient of US aid, which totalled $41 million (£27 million) in 2011.

As a local radio wag wondered, can Kerry see Kyrzakhstan from his house (which is on a hill after all)?

John Kerry isn’t a dope because he confused two (or more) inconsequential eastern European states. He’s just a dope. This sort of thing is just further proof. He and Biden will make a great comedy team. Add Hagel and we can call them the Three Stooges.

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Fart Power

Childish, I know, but childishness is appropriate in this case.

Now that Egypt has held its latest “elections”, and “overwhelmingly” “approved” its “constitution”, things can get back to “normal”, right?

Pretty much:

A judge is to investigate Mohammed El-Baradei, the ex-head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, along with the former foreign minister and Arab League chairman, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate, over accusations that they campaigned to unseat Mr Morsi during a recent outbreak of unrest.

The announcement by the new chief prosecutor, Taalat Ibrahim Abdallah, who was appointed by Mr Morsi last month, will heighten concerns that the president and his Muslim Brotherhood backers intend to scapegoat political opponents.

It comes two days after a controversial new constitution – denounced by the secularist opposition as a route to sharia law and discriminatory against minorities and women – was officially declared to have been approved in a referendum.

I don’t really have a lot to add, except to say tee-hee. And ha-ha-ha. Oh yes, and snort.

Good thing John Kerry is coming along to save the day. Chortle.

With Hillary’s departure, the era of Smart Power is over. The new era might be called Herbal Essences Power.

The old era of American foreign policy might have been summed up as supporting “our sons of bitches”. The Obama Doctrine, such as there is one, seems to be nothing more than replacing our SOBs with theirs.

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Smart Power, Dumb Broad

No, I don’t really mean that. Hillary is many things—misguided, malevolent, ambitious, dishonest, calculating—but enough praise!

She just plays dumb at the State Department:

China has rejected criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that it is hampering efforts to end the Syrian conflict by supporting President Bashar Assad’s government.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement Saturday that Clinton’s remarks were “totally unacceptable” and that China has contributed greatly to the cause of Syrian peace.

He said China has wide international support for its “just and constructive” stance on Syria.

“Any effort to slander China and incite discord between China and any other country will be futile,” Liu said.

I hate to agree with China, but they’re right. If slandering China were the job of a diplomat, I’d be UN Secretary General for life!

But of course, Secretary Clinton is right too, if belatedly:

Clinton told about 100 nations attending a conference on Syria on Friday that they should “directly and urgently make it clear that Russia and China will pay a price” for standing up on behalf of the Assad government.

What did you do in Syrian civil war, mommy? I attended a conference, honey.

I don’t suppose we have to insist other countries fear us, but is it too much to ask them to respect us?

Yes, I suppose it is. If we don’t respect ourselves…


Smart Power, Dumb Ass

Did Russia press the Reset Button with its middle finger?

So Russia is arming Syria and Iran, is that right? Dear God, what a mess.

The truth is, not that you’ll read it in the MSM, that under Obama the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. Europe, the Middle East, China, Russia—any one of these and Bush would have been hounded out of office. Instead, the only hound, Bassett by the look of him, is in office.


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