But for Obama, a hard-earned diplomatic victory by previous administrations and the fate of Poland were less important than his “Russian reset.” So he abruptly scrapped NATO’s plans for a permanent defense against missile threats. (Talk about unilateralism.) It pleased the Russians, but it humiliated the Poles and Czechs. A Polish defense official called the decision “catastrophic.” The Czech Republic announced that it was withdrawing from Obama’s scaled-down alternative system, angrily rejecting Washington’s revised plans as “a consolation prize.”
Some dismissed Poland’s reaction as paranoia. However, as the old saying goes, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. Just consider that Russian war games often involve simulated nuclear strikes against, and invasions of, Poland.
Just as bad, the perception that the U.S. had taken Moscow’s side was a humiliating diplomatic blow for Poles and a bitter reminder of the West’s indifference to their security before and after World War II. As historian George Weigel concluded, “When the administration announced this betrayal on the 70th anniversary of the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, without even informing the Polish prime minister in a timely manner, it raised a very large question mark in Polish minds about the administration’s strategy, its grasp of the history of east-central Europe, and its understanding of the linkage between the two.”
As to gaffes, Obama recently stunned and sickened Poland by using the term “Polish death camps” in a speech. Poland has never run death camps. The Nazis and the Soviets did, and many Poles died in those murder mills. As Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski observed, Obama’s word choice was a matter of “ignorance and incompetence.”
And to that list, we might add “insensitivity.” Indeed, the longer this goes on, the less we can blame Obama’s treatment of allies on things like ignorance and incompetence. The harsh reality may be that he just doesn’t care about allies.
Take the example of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. In one of those “hot mic” incidents that have come to haunt Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the president of France, called the Israeli PM “a liar.” Instead of gently correcting Sarkozy, diplomatically changing the subject or better yet, defending Netanyahu and the besieged nation of Israel, Obama joined in the gripe session. “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day,” he sighed.
It was only one of many glimpses into Obama’s pettiness vis-à-vis Israel. In 2010, Obama made Netanyahu wait for an hour before meeting with the Israeli leader. We didn’t hear much about it from Obama’s dutiful press here in the States, but newspapers on the other side of the Atlantic took notice. ABritish newspaper reported that Obama’s boorishness “appeared designed to show Mr. Netanyahu how low his stock had fallen in Washington…Mr. Obama treated his guest to a series of slights. Photographs of the meeting were forbidden and an Israeli request to issue a joint-statement…was turned down.”
“There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage,” declared an Israeli newspaper.
During that same 2010 meeting, Obama reportedly presented Netanyahu with “a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence.” Where were the demands on Hamas, which pelts Israel with dozens of rocket attacks per month?
Indeed, perhaps nowhere is Obama’s postmodern moral relativism more distressing than vis-à-vis Israel, a tiny island of free government and free people in a sea of chaos, terror and autocracy. The White House seems to equate the construction of housing settlements by Israel with acts of terror by Hamas. And when Israel responds with force to those acts of terror, Israel’s response is lumped in with the initial attacks.
If Obama was surly and cavalier with every nation, it would be shortsighted and ugly—but at least consistent and fair. The fact that he offers an extended hand to those at odds with U.S. interests, while close allies in Britain, Israel and Poland are treated to snubs, slights and backhands is not only shortsighted and ugly, but also inconsistent, incongruent, unfair and just plain wrong.
Perhaps Romney’s foreign trip has sent a signal that things can be different.
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