Barack Obama continues his quest in demonstrating just how feckless he can be on foreign policy. Once again, he talks about how terrorists should be isolated in one breath while demanding presidential-level engagement with their financiers in the next. Jake Tapper had a difficult time keeping pace with the shifting rhetoric over the space of just two days:
More recently, Obama as he traveled through Florida seemed to give some contradictory statements about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the Colombian terrorist group FARC.
On Thursday Obama told the Orlando Sentinel that he would meet with Chavez and “one of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of FARC in Colombia and other issues he would want to talk about.”
OK, so a strong declaration that Chavez is supporting FARC, which Obama intends to push him on.
But then on Friday he said any government supporting FARC should be isolated.
“We will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments,” he said in a speech in Miami. “This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and – if need be – strong sanctions. It must not stand.”
So he will meet with the leader of a country he simultaneously says should be isolated? Huh?
First off, I hate to correct a man who ran the Harvard Law Review on vocabulary, but the proper word is fomentation, not fermentation, unless one wants to start marketing Anti-American Sentiment Beer. Imagine if George Bush had used fermentation in such a context. The media would have a field day pointing out that Bush once belonged to a fraternity! And that he had a drinking problem! It would end up at Slate’s “Bushisms” column within hours.
That’s the least of the foolishness here, though. Just as with Hamas and Iran, Obama tries drawing a fallacious distinction between terrorists and the governments that fund them. Just as Hamas acts as Iran’s proxy in Gaza and Syria, FARC acts as Hugo Chavez’ proxy in Colombia, with less success. Both Iran and Venezuela should be isolated and sanctioned by the global community, and for the same reason: they sponsor terrorism.
And Barack Obama has already committed to direct, presidential-level diplomacy with both without preconditions.
So how does Obama reconcile these conflicting postures? He starts rewriting reality:
Said Obama: “I think the Organization of American States and the international community should launch an immediate investigation into this situation. We have to hold Venezuela accountable if, in fact, it is trying to ferment terrorist activities in other borders. If Venezuela has violated those rules, we should mobilize all the countries to sanction Venezuela and let them know that that’s not acceptable behavior.”
“If” Venezuela “is trying to ferment terrorist activities in other borders”? Just one day before Obama had asserted that Chavez was supporting FARC in Colombia.
Er, foment, please. Was Obama doing a beer commercial in Florida? Maybe that explains why he can’t walk a straight line on Venezuela. Interpol confirmed the data on Raul Reyes’ laptop showing hundreds of millions in funding from Chavez for FARC. He allows FARC to operate within Venezuelan borders as a means to topple the elected government of Alvaro Uribe. The OAS doesn’t have to conduct an investigation before we can make policy on that reality; it makes it sound as though Obama wants an OAS test similar to John Kerry’s UN test before we develop our own foreign policy.
The ferment/foment issue is just a gaffe, although one Obama should correct soon. The policy statements aren’t gaffes but an example of the confusion and weakness inherent in Obama’s foreign policy. He wants to talk to terrorist sponsors while pretending to be tough on terrorism — and when the contradiction gets pointed out, he shifts in favor of defending the terrorist sponsors, insisting on some Perry Mason level of proof before acting in our interests to isolate and sanction terrorist sponsors.
It’s absurd, and it’s dangerous. And Obama’s shifting on the question makes it quite plain that he’s mostly making it up as he goes along. This is a candidate who ran at least a decade too soon.