Bloopers, foreign policy edition
Yesterday was not a good day on the foreign policy front. Idiocy and incompetence
smart power were on display for all the world to see:
[T]he mistakes Thursday were of a […] serious variety. The worst of them was CIA Director Leon Panetta’s absolutely inexcusable and shockingly atypical decision to announce to the Congress that in his view Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would likely be out of office by midnight. Obviously, the agency was feeling the heat because it had failed to call the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the one region of the world to which the most agency assets are (likely) directed. So it made the classic error of overcompensating for the past failure to predict event… by predicting one that didn’t actually happen.
This was a lose-lose idea. Had Panetta been right, how would it have looked if the CIA had actually been the first entity to announce Mubarak’s departure? Might it have fueled perceptions that the United States was pulling the strings behind the scenes in Cairo, that Suleiman was the CIA’s guy? (Not exactly a big stretch to begin with.) Who thought it was appropriate that the U.S. ought to get in front of Egypt’s story?
The answer, one has to assume, is someone in the White House. It is hard to imagine that on this issue this administration would let its CIA Director make public remarks to the Congress without vetting them beforehand.
Wait, there’s more:
Which brings us to the other two major statements made by the White House on Thursday.
The first of these involved President Obama’s rather breathless assertion that we were watching history unfold in Egypt and also implying that soon Mubarak would be stepping down. Once again, who was it that suggested to the president that it was in his interest…or America’s… for him to be the warm-up act for the Egyptian president’s expected big exit.
It was the kind of decision that was a sure sign that the president was spending more time listening to political and press advisors than he was seasoned foreign policy professionals.
In 2008, many of us had said that electing a narcissistic and inexperienced, liberal ideologue from Chicago as President was a bad idea from the beginning. But who are we to make judgments? Obama was a “fresh” face, he was young, gave a good speech and more importantly to our media overlords, he was liberal and wasn’t George W. Bush. But hey, any inexperience in the foreign policy department would be more than compensated for with Joe Biden as Veep. That’s worked out great, hasn’t it?