Ukraine is worst of Obama’s many foreign policy disasters


The most devastating reproach historians are likely to make to Barack Obama’s record in the White House is his devastating failure in foreign policy — a failure that stems from his willingness to leave the warrior ideologues of the State and Defense Departments in place after he became president.

To them he added ideologues of a new and equally interventionist persuasion, which he found congenial: that of humanitarian action, scarcely relevant in resisting the Islamic caliphate that emerged as a major force in the concluding half of his second term. By then he also faced a Republican congressional majority distinguished by its ignorance — worse than his own in foreign policy matters — and its vindictiveness.

He arrived in office to a military leadership lacking a political strategy to shape its tactics in the Middle East and Afghanistan. When he asked for options and political counsel on ending the Mideast wars — as he had promised the electorate — he was insolently given settled plans by the generals for prosecuting the wars to victory.

Iraq in fact was eventually abandoned in a condition of political wreckage and sectarian conflict, and Kabul’s leaders have convinced the United States to remain in Afghanistan to prevent the same outcome, which we may fear will nonetheless eventually arrive.

He and the military leadership insisted on a useless and destructive intervention in Libya, with devastating consequences throughout northeastern Africa, and in the Syrian civil war they searched in vain for “moderate” rebel allies to overturn Bashar Assad. Obama would later rue the lack of Assad’s cooperation when the forces of the Islamic State group arrived. With respect to Israel, Obama accepted complaisantly — until one week ago — the defiance and disdain of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He left dealings with Europe, and with the U.S.’ most important and dangerous interlocutor, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, under the controlling influence of a neoconservative cabal in the State Department, committed to reckless policies of American and NATO expansion in Northern Europe.

However, if Obama is to be blamed for these errors, it is also true that his policies have reflected a consensus in the U.S. governing class and popular opinion alike that America must always be “first.” This has been the guiding presupposition of the nation and its elite, the majority of its foreign policy intellectuals and its mainstream newspapers and other makers of opinion.

The invasion of Afghanistan, the search in Iraq for the weapons of mass destruction that “had” to be there, the destruction of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, and disbanding of Iraq’s Ba’ath Party, army and the existing Sunni apparatus of Iraq’s government — all were welcomed by most of the American policy community.

But history’s judgment of Obama’s foreign policy will likely hang on the outcome of the American-backed coup in Kiev in February 2014. It was intended to bring about Ukraine’s eventual adhesion to the European Union and ultimately to NATO (despite earlier U.S. assurances to the contrary).

The cease-fire between Ukrainian forces and Russian insurgents that precariously prevails today was brought about by Franco-German diplomatic intervention to pre-empt declared American intentions to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons to expand the war against the insurgents.

The circumstances surrounding the instigation of this crisis have yet to be seriously investigated by the American press, and Russian claims that it was a hostile American act have been dismissed without solid evidence by American and NATO spokesmen and officials.

European opinion and most of the European press, accustomed to follow the American lead in major foreign policy matters, have expressed notable doubt about the origin and purpose of the current American and NATO roles in Ukraine, which seem to have been to provoke an unwelcome war with Russia.

Last weekend, the German weekly Der Spiegel published an investigation of the frequently inflammatory statements of NATO’s commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove (a U.S. officer), regarded by the German government as the leading figure in an American effort “to thwart European efforts at mediation.”

Much of what he says is regarded in the chancellery in Berlin as “dangerous propaganda,” which Germany’s Foreign Ministry has protested to the NATO secretary general.

Spiegel writes that “Obama seems almost isolated. He has … done little to quiet those who would seek to increase tensions with Russia and deliver weapons to Ukraine. Sources in Washington say that Breedlove’s bellicose comments are first cleared with the White House and Pentagon. … (The general’s role) is that of increasing the pressure on America’s more reserved trans-Atlantic allies.”

But to what purpose? Surely not war? Or regime change in Russia?

This is a question for which it seems impossible to find an answer — or even a discussion — in the American media. Europe has no answer. Perhaps even Obama doesn’t know. Is it to be left to the historians?

William Pfaff writes frequently on foreign affairs. © 2015 Tribune Content Agency

  • D.R.Phantom

    Thanks for the article.
    It sparks a gleam of hope in the darkness created by the world elites (mainly from the US) in their attempt to establish a global totalitarian society in which a couple of families decide fate of billions of people.
    The freedom loving people of the world who value the decency of human existence must unite and do anything they can to prevent suiting those vicious plans into reality.

    • Сергей Торпс

      Support Russia for a start – the only remaining obstacle on the way of uncle sam’s conquest of the world and establishment of a global single-nation dictatorship under the guise of “promoting the ideals of freedom and democracy” OF COURSE.

      • D.R.Phantom

        I do my best.
        The proposal of so called New World Order (the way you described) works against my very nature. We need to make people aware what it’s really going on. Particularly in America.

  • Dave Thomas

    “American-backed coup in Kiev in February 2014. ” What an extremely ignorant statement which shows just how little Mr. Pfaff knows about Ukraine. Go back and educate yourself about what happened in Ukraine and how and why Yanukovych fled to Russia, Mr. Pfaff. There was no coup and nothing even remotely close to one. Yanukovych increasingly lost power with every attack against the, at first peaceful protesters. Yes, some of those protesters – a very tiny number – turned more violent with the increase in violence from Yanukovych who dug his grave as he refused to compromise with the protesters and, instead, kept increasing the violence. However, every time he increased the violence, his own party members would abandon him. But when his goons shot over 100 protesters, the remnants of his party completely abandoned him. This is when he realized that his time was up since NO ONE was left to support him. This was hardly a coup. He fled the country on his own while hauling off literally billions of dollars which belonged to the Ukrainian people.
    Obama and the United States for their part have only helped Putin attack and invade Ukraine by constantly ensuring him that the US will not help Ukraine. They calm Putin’s nerves by letting him know that the Americans will NOT oppose his war in Ukraine and will allow him to keep killing Ukrainians. Stop being so ignorant Mr. Pfaff. You obviously have no idea about Ukraine and what is happening here. Yes, I live in Ukraine and have witnessed, with my own eyes, the Euromaidan revolution and various other things that have happened here.

    • D.R.Phantom

      Don’t be silly.
      Obama himself (by a slip of tongue) stated as the USA did broker the regime change in Ukraine.
      What about numerous shots of Victoria Nuland involved in pep-talks in the mid of Maidan protests?
      One native Ukrainian lady who came from Kiev a couple of days ago told me that it was her last visit to her motherland. She says that Americans made a copy of America (1% own more then the other 99%) but on a different level. The monthly income of her mother and sister suffices to cover the running costs of about three (!) days.
      Certainly, untouchable elite enjoys the luxury beyond comprehension.
      Americans did all that as a preparation for an assault on Russia.
      Ukrainians do not matter in that story whatever.

      • Dave Thomas

        Look buddy, it’s easy to sit there behind your computer thousands of miles from Ukraine, get brainwashed by Russian propaganda and pretend that you have been educated about what is happening in Ukraine. But when you live in Kiev, Ukraine, like I do and you are fluent in a number of languages including Ukrainian and Russian, and you have seen what has happened with your own eyes, then things look VERY differently. What you have said about Obama and Nuland is complete garbage. People who are ignorant about Ukraine and brainwashed by Russian propaganda keep repeating such garbage like the “Nuland phone call”. So, turn on your brain, and try to recall what Nuland said. If you do, you’ll see there is almost nothing that she said that correlates with what happened. She thought Yatseniuk should become President. But guess who became President once Yanukovych ran home to Russia? Turchynov! But then who did the Ukrainian people elect in the Presidential elections? Poroshenko! But Nuland didn’t even mention either of these guys. So much for the US calling the shots! And how do you think that the US organized millions of Ukrainians to go out in the streets and protest? Did they have TV ads? Send out brochures? Send coupons? Surely there must be some proof of this? Where is it? But if the US created this “coup” and controls the Ukrainian government, why is it that they are not giving the Ukraine any lethal weapons? You see, if you turn on your brain a bit, you’ll see that the Russian propaganda is nonsense. Russian propaganda is meant to deflect attention from their own crimes such as the invasion and annexation of the Crimea and the invasion and war they have started in the Donbas. The US didn’t invade Ukraine, Russia did. This is fact and no amount of RUssian propaganda can change this. They can lie all they want but for people with half a brain, the facts are evident, and this is why ALL of the Western democracies support Ukraine and the only countries that support Russia are North Korea and Venezuela. I know that people like you may be brainwashed and haven’t got a clue about what has happened in Ukraine, but countries have intelligence agencies which are not fooled, like you have been. This is why they have united in support of Ukraine and are against Russia.

      • Alexei

        что неужто правда в Киеве живете? может чуток под воздействие местной пропаганды попали? правда где-то рядом, обычно посередине

      • D.R.Phantom

        The intention of the world elite to subdue Russia is clearly readable from every single political movement of the US administration.
        So, the truth is not somewhere in between (as it often is), but, this time, on the Russian side without any doubt.

      • Dave Thomas

        Да, представьте себе, живу в Киеве! Я украинец, но я не родился в Украине. Мене всегда смешно когда россияне думают что из своей диктаторской России где нет
        свободы слова, где не существует
        свободного ТВ, где нет прямого эфира,
        где Кремль убивает журналистов и
        оппозиционных политиков, Вы лучше знаете что происходит в Украине, чем сами жители Украины которые здесь живут и все видят своими глазами. Очень смешно!! В Киеве ВСЕ были на Майдане. Все! Мы видели что происходит своими глазами и когда приходили домой и включали телевизор, мы видели разные Украинские новости которые нам показывали то что мы только что видели своими глазами (кроме ИНТЕР который контролировался Януковичем и у которого 40% акции Газпрома ) а потом включали Российски новости которые показывали картинку Майдана в роде бы из другой планете но совсем не то что мы все видели своими глазами. Понятно было что российски каналы просто врут! Так что правда вообще никак не “посередине”. Ваше российское телевидение вам врет и наращивает ненависть к Украинцам, украинском языке, украинской культуры и украинской истории. Это очень жалко что Путин создал из украинцев врагов и теперь украинцы и россияне никогда не будут дружить как народы, уже не говорю
        о “братстве”. Да, нам украинцам не
        по пути с россиянам.

      • Irinaski

        You’re just parroting the same trash about Russia that the Western MSN parrots. We all read it here in Russia and understand what kind of a propaganda war is being waged against us. How many of your countrymen still work in Russia and send their money home to Ukraine to support their families? I know people like this, from Western Ukraine, no less (Uzhhorod). Your “enemy” Russia is still to this very date Ukraine’s biggest trading partner. You think the US or the EU will buy your products? What is this siren song that you’re hearing that says we are your enemy? We have given job opportunities to and sheltered and fed hundreds of thousands of your refugees. You’re all truly to be pitied because you do not know what you do.

      • Dave Thomas

        What propaganda war is being waged against you? That your military invaded and annexed Crimea against all international laws? That your army is waging war in eastern Ukraine and is responsible for the deaths of 6,000 people there? That your leader is a fascist dictator? Sure there are Ukrainians working in Russia just like there are many Russians working in Ukraine. But the ones working in Ukraine are intellectuals like Ganopolsky, Shuster, Kiselev who can’t work in Russia since there is no freedom of speech, no free press and journalists and the opposition get killed for speaking their minds. Maybe the deaths of Politkovskaya and Nemtsov are also Western propaganda? I guess you think that they were not brutally murdered?
        Yes, I do think the US and the EU are buying Ukrainian products. The statistics show that this is the case. And as time goes by, Ukraine is increasing its trade with countries other than Russia. Russia is becoming less and less significant for Ukraine. Because Russia invaded Ukraine, annexed its territory and started a war, Ukrainians want nothing to do with Russia and this is totally understandable. You can blame your leaders for this and your own naivete since you are falling for their lies.

      • Alexei

        mate you are so biased it’s not even funny anymore, now I’m thinking you are a troll after all

      • Irinaski

        Yes, I see, this isn’t principled, it’s just personal. What causes you to hate so much? Let me venture a guess. You and a number of like-minded Ukrainians wanted a better Ukraine, which is a laudable goal. But there were other Ukrainian citizens who didn’t quite share your vision of Nirvana. The powers that be decided that there was no need to reach out to these citizens with new elections scheduled for the end of 2014 as agreed with the EU, they would just have to fall into line. You may know the saying – без меня меня женили (they married me in my absence). As we can all see now, this was a major miscalculation that has basically backfired in the destruction of Ukraine as it was. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Hard to tell yet. Now, with plans thwarted, people are desperately looking for a scapegoat because all of those “good intentions” and “fine motivations” couldn’t possibly have led to such straits, could they? And in spite of all of the mud coming our way we Russians do not “hate” the Ukrainians who are throwing this temper tantrum. Your solution is within your own country, not through “terrorist” operations, not through hate, but through engagement with your fellow citizens who think differently and have different aspirations than you do. That truly is the “European” “enlightened” way. Good luck to you!

      • Alexei

        Интересно. Ну я во-первых не в России сейчас живу и не смотрю ТВ, тем не менее как-то выработал более сбалансированное мнение ко всему произошедшему. А вот у вас явно перекос, то есть на майдане были ВСЕ (прямо все-все-все?) и в России диктатура (Немцова кто думаете убил?), украинские новости показывают правду (Шария смотрели хоть немного?), ну и конечно Путин создал из украинцев врагов. Полный набор в общем. Если вы не тролль, а реальный человек, то мне немного страшно за то что будет дальше.

      • D.R.Phantom

        The quality of your English and your name write on the wall you are not an Ukrainian.
        Also, your eagerness to reply to my statement confirms rather too firmly of me being in right.
        Also, buddy, I do not live thousand miles from Kiev and all Ukrainian I know speak good Russian and bad Ukrainian (if one is allowed to call it a language -Russian littered with Polish expression yet still in Cyrillic script). Truly, I can’t speak Russian but I can understand it fairly well. On the base of what I heard from native Ukrainians I made my statement. It’s not a fantasy, as the’re stories about Ukraine on CNN, BBC, FOX, DW, etc.
        But, finally, since your respond reveals of you feel offended, I’m now absolutely certain about US stages coup d’etat as a preparation for all out war on Russia.

      • Dave Thomas

        The quality of your English and what you have written suggest that you are very uneducated and highly ignorant. People like you are highly susceptible to Russian propaganda. Furthermore, because your English is so bad, you are not in a position to analyze my English. I am Ukrainian and I have lived in Ukraine a great chunk of my life, though I am not born in Ukraine. Unlike you, I am highly educated, which is why my English is much better than yours. Ukraine is a great place and became even better once the likes of Yanukovych went home to Russia! It really is funny how ignoramuses like you believe such garbage about the US wanting to invade Russia. All of you Russian-brainwashed fools, who think that the West was “surrounding” Russia with NATO and wanted to “invade” Russia should ask yourselves why it is, if the West was so much against Russia, that the West allowed Russia to gain a near monopoly in the export of hydrocarbons to eastern Europe and why they kept increasing trade and investments with Russia which allowed Russia to enrich itself. This, of course, made Putin overly cauky and aggressive, thinking that he was smarter than everyone else and that his country was so powerful and could do as it pleased breaking international laws. While Russia followed international law, Russia got richer and richer, but now we can see what happens with a fascist Russia which steps out of line: massive sanctions which are ruining its economy and bringing the country to its knees. And this is all Putin’s fault. Had he not invaded Ukraine, Russia would be prospering right now. Instead, he is bringing economic chaos and destruction to Russia. Russia should have been grateful to the US and EU for the investments and trade they gave Russia. Instead, Putin bit the hand that feeds it. The US doesn’t need to invade Russia. Putin is doing a fantastic job of destroying Russia all by himself.

      • D.R.Phantom

        I’m answering your comment written in Russian since it sounds polite and constructive, completely different from your reply in English.
        What I learned from Russian ‘propaganda’ is that all Russian media outlets are very careful of stating anything what could offend those who feel themselves Ukrainians. Russians know only too well that, whatever happen, they must keep on living with Ukrainians, with whom they share race, orthodox Christian religion, cultural heritage, and, what it’s the most important, language.
        On the other hand, no European nation can profit on the turmoil in Ukraine.
        But, for the world elite, controlling of the trade-land-routs between Asia and Europe is essential as for the establishing of NWO of global slavery.

        Another point, please. I do not think of American people having anything to do with the design of a totalitarian regime which is expected to govern humanity on global scale. For them, I mean elites, an ordinary American is treated the same way as me, or anyone else, say, from Somalia or Poland. For them, we all, including you David, are ‘useless eaters’.
        And, finally. Why did the US build and maintain a couple of hundreds of military posts all around the world, if it’s not for establishing the world hegemony? Russia stands on the way. That’s why she must be subjugated for taming of China is impossible without support from Russia.
        (p.s. It’s a pity some people are not able to read Russian. I’m obliged to let them know you can be quite polite and correct if you want to.)

      • KraN McC

        Dave has over 300 comments on this subject alone spouting the same propaganda over and over again…
        If he is in Ukraine he is probably sitting in some office with a hand book of “Propaganda for Dummies”.

      • Irinaski

        Dave Thomas just replied tto D. R. Phantom in Russian that he is in fact Ukrianian, but not born in Ukraine.

      • Dave Thomas

        I’m glad you have been reading my posts. Good for you! Keep reading, you may learn something. Hey, you called yourself a dummy, not me.

    • Jeffrey

      Pfaff’s an idiot and an unrepentant Cold Warrior. Unless he wants us to be militarily involved, there isn’t a thing that could have been done differently in Ukraine. Putin doesn’t care a fig about international opinion.

      As much as I hate fracking, it’s the best thing that could happen vis-a-vis Russia. The sooner it’s economy implodes, the better off the rest of us will be as there is zero hope a of popular democratic revolution ever occurring. Russia might as well whither away if it’s never going to reform.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Unfortunately, Pfaff is right.
    But, the president still has time to resuscitate his administration’s foreign policy by clinching a deal with Iran, for starters, and following through on that by working with Russia (and Iran) to stabilize Syria (and Iraq), and facilitate a Ukraine settlement that addresses the interests of the concerned countries in the region, without trying to prioritize a US agenda (particularly one defined by neocons).

    • D.R.Phantom

      The problem is the world elite uses USA as a spearhead in achieving its aims.
      Thus, the American administration doesn’t work in favor of American people. As anyone else, say, in Somalia, they address ordinary Americans with the expression “useless eaters.”

      • zer0_0zor0

        I agree with the gist of that observation.
        It’s hard to characterize America as an empire in some ways, but it is definitely the leader of an international coalition of aspirants to a status associated with a dysfunctional model in each of the countries that are promoting the model. In that sense, they are proving Marx right in terms of “class”.

        They are subverting the notion of citizenship by substituting a criteria of counting as a member that is based on success in an exploitative and environmentally destructive international order that is integrally tied to the military industrial complex.

        Obama has (and continues to) try to improve some things, but on others he is too closely aligned with neocon policies of pushing some false notion of revolution that only serves the interests of the international “investor class”.

  • Ren

    I am literally Laughing My Ass Off with this garbage of an article. Seriously?

  • Steve

    Greetings. The author is completely full of it. He may be correct in stating that Obama professes to American exceptionalism. However, he has not taken a lead. In the case of Ukraine he has hung in the background while France and Germany take the lead. When Assad crossed his red line, he was looking for any excuse to get out of his promise. Obama has chosen withdrawal verses activity. The one exception was Libya that I have no clue what he was doing. You don’t go in declare the other guy bad, blow him up, and do nothing. Obama is getting hammered because of his inactivity, verses activity. It is hard to be America first if you are doing nothing. The author has long forgotten the Asia pivot and Obama’s entire lack of interest over anything not touching the pacific.

    Now on to the Russian trolls. The difference between the United States and Russia is the US’s failures are Russia’s policies. When it turned out Bush Jr either lied or was incompetent regarding weapons of mass destruction his administration became discredited and a democrat was elected. When our politicians are found with the hand in the cookie jar we crucify them. Yes, it happens at all levels because a basic attribute of humanity is greed. But we do not celebrate liars and crooks.

    Yet in Russia these people are adored. Putin lied about Crimea and it was not a big deal. He can baldy admit it. He can have a political opponent killed under the walls of the national seat of power and he can claim this professional job was done by Islamist. Pull a gun within site of Capital Hill, I guarantee that individual is going to get nabbed on the spot. Putin can redirect the wealth of the worlds largest oil producer to his friends and he is adored as long as he passes tiny pensions to the masses. Look at all of the people who have died not for political opposition but who were investigating the financial dealings of Putin’s inner circle. Yet you celebrate this behavior as something to look up to. In the United States we have a problem because our term limits means politians just become consultants or go on the talk circuit. But in Russia they never go away because there really is no choice. We may have two bad choices. But Putin has been there for 15 years and will be there for 15 more. One could argue was is the difference between Bill or Hillary Clinton, or Geroge Bush Senior, Jr, or Jeb Bush or perhaps someday Michele Obama. But nothing is a given and an outsider can always win. After all 2008 was supposed to be Hillary’s turn.

    In summary Russians seem to want a tyrant to tell them what to do. In the United States we don’t just tear tyrants down. We tear everything and everyone down who gets too big for their britches.

    • Alexei

      outsider can always win :) do you even believe this yourself? the truth is, it’s all the same people in power in US for decades now, it’s just done a bit differently and disguised as freedom. Someone else can put Russia to shame, but definitely not nowadays US.

      • Steve

        Go tell Eric Cantor all the same people stay in power. He outspent his primary challenger 20:1. He was one of the most powerful members in the House of Representatives. And a nobody defeated. People in Virginia realized he was a smug insider and kicked him out. Does not happen often as most smart people realize they have to listen to those who vote for them. If the muggles don’t like Putin nothing they can do about it. I agree Obama can’t put Russia to shame as he is afraid of everyone including his own shadow. Next Ronald Regan will. He was not afraid to describe what old Soviet Union was. Am empire.