grenell speaks with fox news’ greg jarrett about afghanistan and iran
This week, two different religions were mocked and disrespected in the United States and the followers’ reactions couldn’t have been more different. While a lone preacher in Florida burned a copy of the Koran, a Broadway show opened in New York making fun of the Mormon faith with irreverent humor and sacrilegious musical numbers. Some Muslim followers in Afghanistan reacted to the burning by storming the UN compound and killing innocent international public servants. The Mormon Church reacted to the musical by pointing the public to the superficial nature of it and the supernatural power of their faith.
While burning the Koran is religiously intolerant and insensitive to our Muslim brothers and sisters, to suggest that it endangers American lives in and of itself is ridiculous. What endangers Americans’ lives is the over-reaction to the burning by extremists, not the act of free speech. The assumption that people will kill because of the burning of a book and therefore the book shouldn’t be burned justifies the over-reaction and makes it a rational answer. There should be a universal condemnation to the killings because it isn’t rational or acceptable. Radical followers of Islam killed innocent people in reaction to a radical follower of Christianity’s lighting a book on fire. I would characterize both radicals as not truly following the God they claim to be following. Islam and Christianity teach peace and acceptance not provocation and death.
To assume that people are going to be killed if a Koran is burned is a dangerous supposition. The patronizing reaction by many liberals and politicians to condemn the burning of the Koran on the same level as the UN killings – and many times in the same sentence – left an assumption that the reaction was a natural outcome of the action. President Barak Obama’s statement on the UN murders also wasn’t helpful in teaching religious tolerance. Obama elevated the Koran burning to an extreme offense and therefore gave comfort to an extreme reaction. “The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry,” said Obama. The White House’s use of the word extreme was inappropriate for this situation.
Compare American liberals’ reaction to the Koran burning with their gleeful embrace of Trey Parker’s and Matt Stone’s Broadway musical about the Mormon faith. A musical with a song called: “Fuck you, God” and described by the authors as an “atheist love letter to religion”. New York Magazine said, “What’s so uniquely winning about The Book of Mormon is its scruffy humanism, its eagerness to redeem its characters—even its smaller ones.” And Jon Stewart was left speechless after he said “it was so good, I almost don’t know what to say.” The reviews for the musical have been the best any modern Broadway show has ever seen. And very few liberals have condemned the defilement of the Mormon Church’s holy text as Obama has for the Koran. If we believe that desecrating a religion’s holy text endangers lives then so does the accolades and support for The Book of Mormon on Broadway. I, for one, don’t accept this premise.
For American Mormons, the Broadway show and its embrace by the mainstream and liberal media has been embarrassing and humiliating. But the even tempered official Mormon Church reaction should make everyone take a second look at the religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement saying, “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.” The actions of some Afghan Muslims who killed UN officials as a reaction to the burning of a Koran in Florida cannot be justified or even confused to be a rational response.
America’s involvement in conflicts for the foreseeable future will be determined by Washington’s appetite for nation-building and debated by asking tough questions about whether or not we will be temporary occupiers or outside supporters. Americans, after all, have spent billions of dollars, and thousands of lives have been lost, fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban from inside Iraq and Afghanistan. Building even fragile democracies is expensive and enormous sacrifices must be made by military families and the taxpayers that support them. The U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense have also spent a great deal of time and money trying to convince Iraqis and Afghans to take responsibility for their country by personally fighting terrorism – and not just relying on Americans to do it.
One lesson we’ve learned over the last 10 years of fighting Islamic extremists is that fighting terrorism is easier when it’s done from the inside by insiders rather than from the inside by outsiders. Building a democracy can only be done when those oppressed have finally had enough and push back. If Americans want to support a group of people willing to make their own personal sacrifices to fight Islamic fundamentalists then more should be done to support the Somalis who are locked in a battle with the pirates that terrorize East Africa.
Off the coast of Somalia, Islamic bandits and pirates, some claiming to be a part of al-Shabab, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, have wreaked more than a decade of havoc, violence and death. With only half-hearted support from the international community, some Somalis are fighting back. The efforts of the international community have so far been unsuccessful, despite ongoing UN discussions and constant media attention highlighting the pirates’ destruction. A British couple was released after 388 days of being held captive by Somali pirates only after someone or some government paid a hefty ransom; al-Jazeera reported the total ransom was roughly $1 million. Word in the region has now spread that the pirates are offering $1.5 million for the next white/western hostage to be used to extort more money and garner greater media attention. The situation threatens the region’s stability and international peace and security.
The current western backed and UN approved Transitional Federal Government in Somalia is no longer waiting for additional support from the international community to do something to stop these pirates. The TFG has also been defending Mogadishu where its’ headquarters is defended by 8000 United Nations’ troops. The Mogadishu airport is controlled by Ugandan troops supportive of the transitional government but al-Shabab controls half of Mogadishu – and wants to control all of it. Experts say that the pirates off the coast must be stopped from their safe havens on land in Somalia. The pirate force off the East African coast has been estimated at 22 ships and a crew of 521. But the multinational forces patrolling those same waters have been unable to stop them. This jeopardizes lucrative oil, gas and fishing licenses that the Somalis could use to fund a unified government accountable to its people.
African Union troops, mainly Ugandans, have tried training Somalis willing to help the struggling transitional government defend itself from Islamist militant groups after a bloody civil war that is finally coming to an end. The EU has also been training some Somalis in Uganda and in Europe but the transitional government wants a more comprehensive approach to deal with the pirates and for the training camps to be set up inside Somalia. The Associated Press reported this week that the TFG has begun working with outside military trainers to equip and train Somalis to defend the coast and drive the pirates out. The trainers are reported to be part of Saracen, a private security firm whose track record suggests is well-equipped to train the Somalis. Estimates say more than 100 have already been trained and more than 1000 will follow soon. The new training is more aggressive and higher quality than previous training from UN efforts. America should promote this new strategy and work with the UN, the EU, AU and NATO to act fast with financial assistance before the water terrorists take over all of Somalia.
The TFG Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed believes the pirates can be defeated and the international community should support his willingness to try. Many experts believe that since nothing else has worked despite implementing an arms embargo, a monitoring group, travel bans, asset freezes, targeted sanctions, a panel of experts and multiple resolutions that this new effort deserves a try. So far, UN officials have been cautiously optimistic of the new trainers. But the UN should be much more vocally supportive of the TRG’s efforts. After all, in August of 2011 the UN will sit in judgement of the TRG and the progress it has made when the TFG’s mandate expires. If the UN stands in the way of this new idea then they will be partially to blame for the continued piracy.
Mogadishu Mayor Mohamoud Ahmed Nur told the BBC of his city, “It’s not the most dangerous. Baghdad and Kabul are worse – but they have lots of money. We have none because here there are no Americans.”
After 17 months of diplomacy, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was only able to get 12 of the 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council to vote to place increased sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Yesterday, on Fox News Sunday, Rice jumped to defend the Obama Administration’s lackluster performance by claiming that previous Iran resolutions were not unanimous during the Bush Administration and that there were “abstentions”. Her strategy to minimize the Bush team’s performance in order to make her own poor performance look better isn’t factual. After so much hype about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy engagement strategy, the Obama UN resolution was remarkably weak, took too long to get and received less support than Bush’s team got in producing FIVE Security Council resolutions on Iran.
Wednesday’s vote was the first Iran resolution for the Obama team but not the first time the Security Council pressured the government of Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activity. In September 2008, President George W. Bush and his team wrote, negotiated and forced a vote of the 15 nations that sit on the Council. That resolution passed unanimously, including with the support of Russia and China. It was one of three Iran resolutions the Bush team got passed unanimously. Rice would lead you to believe otherwise. Two other resolutions passed with only one country voting against sanctions and one country abstaining (singular abstention, not plural as Rice claimed). Not a bad accomplishment for a team that the Obama Administration labeled devoid of friends around the world.
While the Obama team continues to tout their global fame, their popularity failed to convince Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon from voting for the sanctions resolution — despite 17 months of diplomacy. Obama’s foreign policy weakness and acquiescence has made him an international celebrity guest, but it isn’t producing the promised results on U.S. foreign policy priorities. The Obama team’s poor performance calls into question its overly diplomatic strategy to lead the world through excessive talk.
Barack Obama has been a law professor longer than he has done any other job. As an expert in Constitutional Law, he learned to intellectualize issues and map out ways to make change on paper. But Obama has very little experience dealing with issues outside the classroom or committee room. The 55 day oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect study in the president’s intellectual strategy failing to produce results. Through a plethora of White House meetings with experts theorizing how the oil pipeline can be turned off, the Obama team is instructing BP rather than taking action itself. On Iran, there is some logic to the argument that we should not be afraid to speak to dictators. But the diplomatic reality is that dictators, like exploded pipelines, don’t play by rational rules.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama explained that he would speak directly to dictators like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them…is ridiculous,” he said. This argument makes sense only if you assume that the United States is just another country with no more influence than the next. And since we know that President Obama doesn’t believe America is exceptional, it makes sense to him.
But the 17 months of the Obama Presidency have proven that it actually does matter what America says – and to whom. The U.S. failed to strongly confront the Iranian regime with tough talk or multilateral diplomacy for 17 months, giving the Islamic Republic time and space to continue enriching uranium. The Administration’s delay and weakness also gave Russia, China, Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon a strong signal that the U.S. wouldn’t be leading the charge to isolate Iran, nor punish its bad behavior. The message to the world was very loud: America isn’t exceptional and you are free to ignore its wishes. Without American leadership, and yes, consequences, allies like Brazil and Turkey end up cutting their own deals with dictators like Ahmedinejad. And China and Russia are allowed to carve out economic contracts that circumvent UN demands and international sanctions.
Also during the 2008 campaign, Obama routinely called for more diplomacy and more international troops in Afghanistan. As last week’s UN vote shows, 17 months of more diplomacy from the diplomat in Chief achieved very little. Obama’s charm offense has also yet to convince our allies to give additional troops to help the Afghans, pass the Copenhagen Consensus, rally support for a no-fly zone in Sudan and put missiles in Eastern Europe. The facts show that the Bush style that Obama routinely ridiculed and derided produced better results than his exaggerated diplomacy has achieved. Bush lost two countries’ support in five Iran resolutions; Obama lost three countries’ support in one resolution.
If you are comfortable living in a world where America has no more influence than China, then you may like Obama’s softer, quieter, weaker America. Iran certainly loves the breathing room they got from Rice waiting 17 months before increasing the pressure on their illegal nuclear weapons program. And allies like Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon now find it easy to ignore Obama. It isn’t popular to say, but the world needs a strong America. The world needs an America that leads our allies and isn’t troubled by certain charges of hubris from elites on the Upper East Side of New York City or in capitals around the world. One thing is clear – Obama’s easy professorial attitude isn’t winning us votes.
Barack Obama’s First Year in Foreign Policy
This past year has not been a successful year for the 44th President of the United States. Although the Barack Obama Administration has had the incredible luxury of having its own political party – the Democrats – control the House of Representatives and the Senate by wide margins, there has been little progress on domestic and international issues. Obama and his team have the ability to pass any bill and create any new law they want without relying on a single Republican vote. And yet, the Obama Administration has failed to capitalize on that advantage. As Obama came into office, he promised lots of change. But so far, not much has changed. Domestically, the United States is facing the largest unemployment in decades and the American budget deficit is at an all time high. Internationally, the United States may now appear to be more popular but it’s largely because we aren’t asking countries to do much these days. The Obama team isn’t leading the world. They have chosen the easy path of non-confrontation. Copenhagen is proof. Sadly, the Administration has confused popularity with progress. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy priorities over the last year:
Consecutive United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iran were passed during the Bush Administration and the pressure was placed on the Iranian government to stop enriching uranium. Resolution 1737 imposed strict sanctions on the Government of Iran and was passed unanimously by the Security Council on December 23, 2006 after weeks of negotiations and stalling tactics from China and Russia. Resolutions 1696, 1747 and 1803, all passed during the Bush Administration, kept the pressure mounting on Iran to abide by the international community’s demands to suspend all nuclear enrichment activity. Despite grumblings from Security Council members about having to vote for such measures, the Bush Administration forced the votes and in the end was able to get multiple resolutions passed with unanimous support. Where Bush successfully isolated the Government of Iran, the Obama Administration has eased the pressure on them and the members of the Security Council. Instead of building on all of the work that had been done to negotiate sanctions, the Obama Administration pushed the “reset button” and started over, thereby releasing the mounting pressure. The Russians and Chinese were relieved that UN resolution negotiations were not proceeding with urgency. China and Russia even complimented the Obama Administration as a group of “good listeners” and the new process as “respectful”. The Government of Iran, too, was pleased to have more time to enrich uranium and less pressure to stop their delivery system testing. The Obama Administration hasn’t produced a single UN Security Council resolution on Iran since it took office – the last one passed by President Bush a full 15 months ago. The Obama Administration’s policy on Iran has been a complete failure and has only strengthened Iran’s resolve.
President Obama’s December announcement that he will send 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan was a welcomed sign for the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although the Obama team spent too much time fretting over their decision to add the troops because it would upset activists in the Democratic Party, Obama’s decision was a courageous one. Democratic leaders, however, are not pleased with the President’s decision. Nancy Pelosi recently said that it will be up to President Obama to make his own case for the troop increase because lawmakers are skeptical and Dennis Kucinich has vowed to offer a bill that would pull all American troops from Afghanistan immediately. President Obama is now in the uncomfortable position of having to count on Republicans to support his troop increase decision and give him one of his few victories this year. Obama’s announcement now makes the war in Afghanistan his war to win or lose. In Pakistan, the Obama team has a mixed record over the last year. While making the Afghanistan announcement in conjunction with a new robust strategy to confront terrorists in Pakistan, the Obama team has signaled their willingness to think strategically in the region. For America, a successful Afghanistan strategy can only be achieved when al-qaeda and the Taliban are wiped out in both countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghanistan alone is of no strategic value to the United States. While we hope that democracy can be achieved for the people of Afghanistan and that they will be able to have a greater quality of life, these pursuits of human rights and development should be led by the United Nations. Pakistan, however, is a more important strategic partner for the United States and Obama has yet to recognize it. Ensuring that the Government of Pakistan is able to deal with its extremists should be a top priority for America. So far, Obama has not been able to develop a strategy to deal with President Asif Zadari and the growing anti-Americanism in his country.
Candidate Obama promised to pull troops from Iraq as soon as he took office. But President Obama learned that it wasn’t possible. Republicans were pleased that Obama took the advice of his military advisors and changed his policy but his Democratic colleagues have continued to complain about a campaign promise that is still unfulfilled. In trying to capitalize on the growing American frustration over the lack of progress in Iraq, candidate Obama outmaneuvered Hilary Clinton and then John McCain. The many Americans who voted for Obama because they wanted the troops to come home from Iraq have also been disappointed. But the Administration is gambling that an emphasis on a troop increase in Afghanistan and a new robust strategy for Pakistan will insulate them from charges of military weakness in Iraq.
Israel and Palestine
Perhaps the one issue that brought Arabs around the world the most hope for progress with the election of Barack Obama was the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Even some in America were hopeful that Obama would be able to reassure the Palestinians and America’s historical tie with Israel would be sufficient enough to bring the parties together to form a permanent peace. But Barack Obama stumbled early on with his Cairo speech and his directive on settlements. He failed to challenge Arabs to act during his Cairo speech and it was seen by Israel and many in America as a missed opportunity. His public instruction that Israel cease all settlement activity was also a misstep. American Presidents can privately cajole and push the parties to negotiate but no American President can dictate to the parties what should be done. Obama must learn that the Palestinians and the Israelis must each bargain and agree to the terms of any peace deal on their own if it is to last.
CNN ran an op-ed by Richard Grenell of the USC Annenberg School about the challenges President Obama faces. “President Obama is in a unique position these days. As a Democratic president of the United States, he has a House of Representatives with 258 Democrats and only 177 Republicans and a Senate with 58 Democrats and only 40 Republicans,” Grenell wrote. “Obama is laying out a new Afghanistan policy and will be able to count on the Republicans to make sure it is funded. While members of the president’s own party were working to delay and stop his decision, the minority party is giving the president the support he needs.”
Since Tom Brokaw was tongue-tied on Meet The Press on Sunday and Andrea Mitchell was unable to think clearly about a man she covered for 4 years, I thought i should suggest some questions for any other reporters who get a chance to interview former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
1 – First and foremost, if you are so concerned about the direction of your so called party, why didn’t you get involved or even speak out during the Republican primary?
2 – Why did you wait for the last 16 days of the GENERAL ELECTION to speak out if you were truly troubled about “your party’s direction”?
3 – As the man who presented the facts to the UN Security Council on the U.S. intelligence in Iraq, does your endorsement of Obama mean that you agree with Obama that it was the biggest misstake we ever made by going into Iraq?
4 – And if you don’t agree with Obama on Iraq then how do you square endorsing a man that thinks you are the leader of the stupidist foreign policy blunder the U.S. has ever made?
5 – Does your desire “for a fresh set of eyes” leading America mean that you will commit to not taking a job in the next Administration?
6 – While we appreciate your economic assessment that McCain doesn’t seem to know how to respond to the economic crisis facing America, should we take financial advice from a Secretary of State that was billions of dollars over budget on his spending in Iraq and Afghanistan?
7 – And while we are at it, did you or did you not tell the President we should liberate Iraq?
8 – Since Obama has made an issue of the sleezy tactics used to out former CIA agent Valerie Plame, did you tell him before you endorsed him that it was your long term deputy that was the leak?
9 – Obama has said that he would sit down with Ahmedineajad without conditions and you have said that it is foolish to do so, is Obama foolish or have you changed your mind?
10 – You authored, recommended and still advocate for the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, does your endorsement of Obama (who doesn’t agree with it) mean that Obama has agreed to break his promise to change the policy?
richard grenell spent 8 years working at the department of state (4 of which were under powell).