And Hamid makes three
Not long after he struck the deal with the Republicans that allowed the government to resort to the bond market for over a trillion dollars of its operating expenses, our President was evaluated by one of his sharper critics, Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon. His words dripping with the kind of self-satisfied smugness of someone who feels he has defeated an unworthy enemy, he said that Obama “has shown a willingness to learn.” He was just beside himself with delight. According to The Hill, he had this to say publicly:
“The things that occurred in the past of couple days are extraordinary,” Seidenberg, chairman of the Business Roundtable, told a Washington news conference on Wednesday.
Extraordinary, indeed. That was one.
Then, our good friend Israel, currently run by a right-wing coalition government, refused to continue for a mere 90 days a freeze on settlements in disputed territory that our government believed was necessary to continue and possibly finalize peace talks with the Palestinians. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally promised the freeze. But it turns out, his cabinet wouldn’t go along. Not even if the US gave them as a “gift” 20 F-35 stealth airplanes and promised to be their friend forever in the UN. No go. This was another demand that the President just couldn’t shake. So in what looks like it may become a theme in this Administration, the President dropped altogether the demand for the freeze–its central promise to the Palestinians.
It wasn’t enough to snub its largest (by far) sponsor; it was necessary to prove that he was neither sorry for breaking his promise or even indebted to the US in any way. So he had his aide explain that the American government actually endorsed Mr. Netanyahu’s breach. The New York Times (12/8) reports:
Ron Dermer, a top aide to Mr. Netanyahu, said Wednesday on Israel Radio that the Americans did not blame the prime minister for the need to refashion the policy, that relations were in fact very good.
“I have to tell you, the coordination between us and the Americans is perhaps at the best since Netanyahu entered office,” he said.
No need to fear retaliation; this Administration caves like a house of cards. And now Israel is friends with us again. That was number two.
Now today the Washington Post tells a story about our good friend Hamid Karzai. General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry were meeting with him concerning his decision to ban foreign private security firms. The Americans were pleading with him. If he continued to insist, billions of dollars of reconstruction projects would have to be stopped. Here’s how the Post tells it:
Sitting at the head of a glass-topped, U-shaped table in his conference room, Karzai refused to budge, according to two people with direct knowledge of the late October meeting. He insisted that Afghan police and soldiers could protect the reconstruction workers, and he dismissed pleas for a delay.
As he spoke, he grew agitated, then enraged. He told them that he now has three “main enemies”–the Taliban, the United States and the international community.
“If I had to choose sides today, I’d choose the Taliban,” he fumed.
After a few more parting shots, he got up and walked out of the wood-paneled room.
Guess who won? But it’s of course worse. Our President flew secretly last week to Afghanistan to make up with Mr. Karzai. He was unable to dine with him as planned but had a video conference. We can only hope Mr. Karzai didn’t demand too much. It’s time for the annual “re-assessment” of Afghanistan policy. I guess we will soon know how much this agreement will cost so that we can remain friends. The good news is that Mr. Karzai doesn’t have a need to publicly humiliate the President after taking him to the cleaners in negotiations, unlike the other two. Bags of money are good enough for Mr. Karzai.
Rest assured, however, that this was not a disaster. In fact, David Brooks, in a typically incoherent and nonsensical “opinion,” says that the President had a “very good week.” If General Pyrrhus were a Washington pundit he might have responded: “Another very good week like that and we are undone.”