You Can’t Be Syrias

Foreign policy is supposed to be really boring. Really boring. It should be such that everyone knows exactly who you are allied with and who you aren’t. When someone from the State Department gets up to speak, you should be able to predict what they’re going to say about any particular country. For a long time, foreign policy was just a matter of saying the same messages over and over.

Now, however, we have a president who claims to use “Smart Diplomacy”. Obviously, it’s much more intelligent than any other president’s foreign policy. This is a big, bad foreign policy that wears sunglasses, has its own Twitter account, and always gets into the best dance clubs. With Smart Diplomacy, you can be friends with a country and then be an enemy of the same country soon after. Or, vice-versa!

For example, we used to be allies of Egypt. Then, during the Arab Spring Fling, we became supporters of the opposition which overthrew the Egyptian government. After the new Egyptian government became somewhat hostile to us, we told the president that he had to go. After the new government came to power, we were friends again. However, we won’t sell weapons to Egypt so they can fight terrorists in the Sinai. See? Wasn’t that smart?

Or take Syria. For a long time, we have been opposed to Syria because it was a state sponsor of terrorism. Then, during the Arab Springy Thingy, we became even more hostile to them because they used chemical weapons on the insurgents. However, once ISIS beheaded two hostages (never mind all of the other people who had been mercilessly killed before that time), we turned against the largest insurgent groups, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, effectively helping our enemy, the Syrian government.

Israel is another case in point. We were allies with Israel. When Israel was attacked by Hamas, our Smart Diplomacy chastised both sides for fighting, and we decided to stop selling missiles to Israel for their Iron Dome system. Are we allies or not? Brilliant, is it not?

Unfortunately, there are ideologues in our country who think this approach is truly good. Because they want to see the liberal policies of our administration succeed, they are unable to see the chaos our foreign policy is causing. Instead of looking at our foreign policy objectively and evaluating its effectiveness fairly, they simply want to give it a pass because it was promoted by a liberal administration. Many times, people become nearsighted to the drawbacks of others simply because we are biased toward them.

If only we would truly wise up and realize that our friends need to assured that they are our friends. And our enemies need to know that we are always in opposition to them because of what they are doing. Now that would be the smart thing to do.

Hippa, Hippa, Hooray!

Several years ago, the health care industry adopted HIPAA, a set of privacy standards. It has resulted in each of us filling out pages of new paperwork whenever we go to see a doctor. I’m sure it is very good legislation that is protecting all of us from misusing our privacy data, but since I haven’t observed any actual benefits, it’s hard for me to be terribly appreciative of HIPAA.

In spite of these new legislatively-induced privacy concerns, many times we give up much of our privacy information right in the waiting room. Several times, I have found that the receptionist asks me for a number of pieces of private information, including my:

  • phone number
  • address
  • date of birth

And they ask for this information out loud, in the clear. Anyone who is listening could collect that information. It might not be enough to empty my secret Swiss bank accounts, but it can provide information that’s not generally available to people. If someone was actually trying to collect my private information, it could be a place to start.

The funny thing is that we sign off on the protection of our privacy information while at the same time we give much of that information away.

Cobbling Together His Presidency

There is a debate that goes on in my household concerning whether President Obama is trying to bring about chaos or is just incompetent. As you can guess, we’re not fans of Obama. During the first 2-3 years of his presidency, Obama made some missteps, but there did not seem to be many fumbles. I didn’t agree with his Affordable Care Act, his foreign policy (whatever that actually was), or how he seemed indifferent to our economy. Nevertheless, he didn’t do many stupid things. 

During the past few years, however, his administration has had a number of bungles. During the Spring of 2014, it seemed like there was a new bungle every week. I actually looked forward to the news to see what was the next thing he stepped into. 

That’s when my wife and I began discussing whether these missteps were intentional or not. My wife believes this is intentional because Obama wants to bring about utter disorder so he can order martial law and become El Presidente’ For Life. I refer to this as the Chaos Theory. Others, such as Rush Limbaugh, agree. They believe the President is too smart to make so many actual boneheaded mistakes. 

I disagree. I believe our Dear Leader is simply inept. I do not subscribe to the Chaos Theory because conspiracies are never as grand or as real as people think they are. When I was a teenager, I believed in a number of conspiracies which I later, to my embarrassment, found were not true. I also believe that our President was ushered into office simply because people wanted to show the world that our country was not racist. He lacked experience (which we all are suffering for). He is used to people pushing him to the forefront because of the ethnicity that he represents. I do not doubt that he is intelligent, but he lacks the experience needed for the office. 

This week, Obama uttered a phrase that reinforced my belief that he is incompetent. He made a speech at a NATO summit in which he said he would “cobble together” a coalition of countries to degrade and ultimately eliminate ISIS. This was a clumsy, inept statement. You don’t “cobble together” a coalition of nations. Dictionary.com says “cobble” means “to put together roughly or clumsily.” No one would want to clumsily put together a coalition that would oppose ISIS. That would mean defeat. It was a poor choice of words, and it gave the wrong signal.

Normally, foreign policy is a very boring matter. It should include a series of statements that all basically say the same thing. A foreign policy statement should be carefully chosen. You don’t deviate from the script. You make sure everyone delivers the same message. You make sure the same message is given over and over and over.

Our President, by saying he would “cobble together” a coalition, indicated that he really didn’t know how to make foreign policy statements. He was making off-the-cuff remarks without realizing how it would sound to the public. He was failing at Foreign Policy 101. This reflects what I have believed all along. His administration doesn’t really know how to do what they should be doing. They think they’re better than everyone else and they are continuing to fumble along.

This, after six years of running the White House.