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The Deepening Concern OVer President Obama’s Appeasement Policies

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Two interviews on yesterday’s program deserve to be read and circulated widely.

Max Boot and Bill Kristol have their share of detractors on the left, but mainstream liberals know that both are serious students of national security and both are widely respected for their analysis of world events.

The transcript of my conversation with Boot for yesterday is here, and the transcript of the conversation with Kristol is here. Two excerpts.

From the Boot interview:

HH: Now some of my Democratic friends really bristle when I use the term appeasement. And I point out to them that appeasement has a genealogy, it has a specific approach to world affairs, it has a specific way of dealing with aggressive regimes. Is it fair for me to use the term appeasement, Max Boot, in relation to the world’s response to Iran?

MB: Well, it’s an incendiary term, but I think in the current case, it more or less applies, because here you have Iran doing outrageous things in violation of international accords, and the reaction from the world is basically to meet with Iran, and to talk about serious consequences, but not really deliver those serious consequences. So yeah, I mean, if that’s not appeasement, I’m not sure what is.

From the Kristol interview:

HH: Yeah, it is a four front policy of appeasement, and I used that word advisedly, not just Iran and Iraq, but the Pole and Czech decision, and then this decision that you reference, the Afghanistan pullback. And I want to go there now. I sense, especially in this Washington Post article today, the preparation of the political battlefield for basically a retreat from Afghanistan. Do you share that assessment?

BK: Yes, I think that was a very significant piece in the Post where the forces who want to go to a so-called counterterrorism strategy, which is really a way of just staying offshore and killing a few terrorists, I suppose, and hoping it all doesn’t blow up in our face, that…I had assumed that Obama would reject those counsels. But I don’t see how you can explain his behavior over the last month except to say that he is trying in various ways to lay the groundwork for not accepting General McChrystal’s recommendation, the commander he put in there six or seven months ago. They’re going to pretend that the election changed everything, the Afghan election, was a mess and that changed everything, and somehow now we’re going to go to, I don’t think he’ll go to any kind of immediate withdrawal, but I really think we’re now…he is, I believe now, he had thought things through in this way. He thinks that he wants to go to the country in 2012, to this country for reelection as president, and say I have gotten our troops out of these messy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are having diplomacy all around the world, and he will hope that these places don’t blow up in his face. And they may not immediately. I mean, even if we have 30-40,000 troops in Afghanistan, they can probably do a lot of, prevent some bad things from happening for quite a while, cross his fingers, and hope Pakistan doesn’t just blow up, cross his fingers and hope that the Middle East doesn’t blow up, I guess. But you know, I really, as I say in the past, I’ve kind of assumed that look, he’s president of the United States, he’s going to…although there’ll be a lot of things I’ll disagree with, and things we’ll pay a price for, but that on some big decisions, he’ll be responsible. But I now really fear that on these really decisive decisions, he’s not going to make the right decision.

Read both interviews in their entirety and you will be –or should be– alarmed.

These conversations reflect the growing concern among center-right, and perhaps even some honest center-left foreign policy elites that the president is in full retreat mode across the globe and that he views American power as always the problem and never the solution. Clearly the left wing of his party has always believed as much, but he did not run as its representative on any issue except Iraq, and the president in fact ran as a proponent of greater force in Afghanistan, up to and including an invasion of Pakistan.

What is being unveiled right now is not just troubling but deeply dangerous. Center-right elites have held their fire in the months since President Obama’s election and then his inauguration, and have hoped that the combination of Secretary Gates-General Jones-Admiral Mullen-General Petraeus would keep the president on a mainstream course, one which recognizes that American power must be deployed in the world to check its worst actors.

If the decision on the Afghanistan recommendations by General McChyrstal goes the wrong way and President Obama refuses the reinforcements requested for a strategy of victory there, the course of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy will be set and it will be unmistakable. It will also not be what the vast majority of Americans voted for, or what they believe in.

And it will be an incredibly dangerous decision to trust that our enemies will leave us and our allies alone.


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