Obama's Foreign Policy of Fantasies

"Anti-Immigrant bigotry" and lack of jobs are causing the rise of ISIS?

President Barack Obama continued his feckless foreign policy charade at the United Nations on September 29th before returning to Washington. He chaired what was billed as “The Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism,” and he met with Cuban President Raul Castro.

At the summit, Obama claimed major progress in rolling back the Islamic State (or ISIL, as he refers to the jihadist caliphate occupying large portions of Syria and Iraq). By now, the president is certainly aware of the reported complaint, backed by 52 defense analysts, to the Pentagon’s inspector general, which alleged that intelligence reports on the war against the Islamic State were doctored in order to support the Obama administration’s claims that the fighting was going well. Some of these doctored reports were reportedly used to brief the president and other high government officials, telling them what they wanted to hear. The defense analysts, who are career professionals, have painted a far more pessimistic picture of the fight so far than the Obama administration wants the public to believe. Nevertheless, while Obama acknowledged at the summit that the Islamic State fighters are “resilient” and that there will be some setbacks along with successes, he continued the false narrative that the Islamic State is in retreat. The fact is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of Obama’s lack of leadership in the fight against ISIL.  Putin is taking the lead himself, providing direct military support to the Syrian regime and building his own coalition including Iraq and Iran.

President Obama also continued his false narrative that ISIL is peddling a “warped” interpretation of Islam. It’s all about “the economic grievances that exist in some of the areas that ISIL seeks to exploit,” the president believes. He added that “sustainable development – creating opportunity and dignity, particularly for youth – is part of countering violent extremism.”    

More jobs and economic opportunity will not stop the Islamic State’s successful recruitment of many thousands of would-be jihadists from countries all over the world, including the United States. These recruits are not looking for gainful employment opportunities. They are attracted by ISIL’s successes and by its “pure” interpretation of Islam rooted in the Koran and sharia law. Instead of snubbing Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Obama should have listened to Sisi’s call for a “religious revolution” within Islam, assuming that such a revolution is even possible, to overhaul the dangerous “corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years.”

Finally, Obama used his address to the summit to repeat his moral equivalence argument that “violent extremism is not unique to any one faith.” He said “we have to recognize that ISIL is targeting Muslim communities around the world.” And he blamed ISIL’s rise in part on the “anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry that creates the divisions, the fear and the resentments upon which extremists can prey.”   

Obama insulted millions of Christians who are facing genocide, sexual exploitation and mass abductions and displacements at the hands of jihadists. Christians are not beheading Muslims. Muslims are beheading Christians and other “infidels.”  And it is not “anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry” to be concerned about ISIL members’ infiltration of European and U.S. borders under the guise of seeking “refugee” status.

President Obama also met with Cuba’s President Castro on Obama’s last day of his 3 day trip to the UN. They are reported to have discussed ways to further normalize relations between Cuba and the United States. The official White House read-out of the meeting stated that President Obama “highlighted steps the United States intends to take to improve ties between the American and Cuban peoples, and reiterated our support for human rights in Cuba.” It was an upbeat statement that glossed over the Cuban regime’s continued demands before it will agree to further normalization and its denial of any human rights problems in Cuba.

According to the Cuban version of the meeting, President Castro reiterated that there can be no normal relations until “the blockade that has caused damages and hardships to the Cuban people” is lifted and “other issues that are harmful to the sovereignty of Cuba” are also resolved.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla elaborated during remarks to the press after the meeting in which he participated along with Secretary of State John Kerry. Repeating what Castro had said in his speech before the UN General Assembly on Monday, Parrilla told reporters that the Guantanamo naval base should be returned to Cuba. President Obama, he added, must use his “very broad” executive powers to further ease the embargo’s restrictions. Given Obama’s eagerness to step on Congress’s powers in such areas as immigration, he undoubtedly welcomed the challenge to stretch his executive powers to their fullest.

The Obama administration has failed to demand that Cuba fundamentally improve its wretched human rights record as a condition for moving forward in normalizing relations. When I asked Foreign Minister Parrilla to respond to criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record, Mr. Parrilla denied that there was any problem at all. “We are proud of Cuba’s record in human rights,” he exclaimed.  Instead, he criticized the human rights records of the United States, particularly in how African-Americans are treated, and of Europe in its handling of the influx of migrants from the Middle East. 

Cuba’s government regularly rounds up political dissidents for arrest. On the Sunday before Pope Francis arrived in Cuba for his papal visit, the regime arrested more than 50 Catholic protesters. Foreign Minister Parrilla pretended such actions never took place, refusing to answer my question regarding dissidents and the pope’s visit.

Whether it is the true  nature of the enemy and its ideology that we are fighting in the Middle East or the true nature of the repressive Cuban regime with which Obama is pressing ahead to normalize relations, Obama used the bubble afforded by the United Nations to insulate himself and his audiences from reality.