BIBI REDUX – AT 8:16 P.M. ET: A few weeks ago President Obama went all out to humiliate the prime minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu. Now, having gotten some quality practice, he's out for the president of Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reports Mr. Obama's strange tactics:
President Obama isn't faring too well at converting enemies to friends, but he does seem to have a talent for turning friends into enemies. The latest spectacle is the all-too-public and counterproductive war of words between the White House and our putative ally, Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The only winner so far in this spat is the Taliban.
The Obama Administration seems to have had it out for Mr. Karzai from the day it took office, amid multiple reports based on obvious U.S. leaks that Vice President Joe Biden or some other official had told the Afghan leader to shape up. The tension escalated after Mr. Karzai's tainted but ultimately recognized re-election victory last year, and it reached the name-calling stage late last month when President Obama met Mr. Karzai on a trip to Kabul and the White House let the world know that the American had lectured the Afghan about his governing obligations.
This is the same American president who took four days to wander up to a microphone and denounce the suppression of democracy demonstrators in Tehran. Strange set of priorities.
The public rebuke was a major loss of face for Mr. Karzai, who later returned fire at the U.S., reportedly even saying at a private meeting that if the Americans kept it up, he might join the Taliban....
...The kindest word for all of this is fiasco. American troops are risking their lives to implement a counterinsurgency strategy that requires winning popular support in Afghanistan, and the main message from America's Commander in Chief to the Afghan people is that their government can't be trusted. That ought to make it easier to win hearts and minds.
We know Karzai has been a disappointment, but this is not the way pros handle a situation like this.
Mr. Karzai has been disappointing as a nation-builder, has tolerated corrupt officials and family members, and can be arrogant and crudely nationalistic. Presumably, however, Mr. Obama was well aware of these defects last year when he recognized the Afghan election results and then committed 20,000 more U.S. troops to the theater.
You go to war with the allies you have, and it's contrary to any diplomatic principle to believe that continuing public humiliation will make Mr. Karzai more likely to cooperate.
The common sense to all this:
Coming on the heels of the U.S. public chastisement of Israel's government, the larger concern over the Karzai episode is what it reveals about Mr. Obama's diplomatic frame of mind. With adversaries, he is willing to show inordinate patience, to the point of muffling his objections when opposition blood ran in the streets of Tehran. With allies, on the other hand, the President is unforgiving and insists they follow his lead or face his public wrath. The result will be that our foes fear us less, and that we have fewer friends.
COMMENT: I suspect that Obama, very much a third worlder, has contempt for those who ally themselves with the U.S., since he believes this country is hopelessly immoral.
It must do wonders for the morale of American troops in Afghanistan to watch this public spat. It must do wonders for the Chicago Democratic machine to see how well they taught their disciple to act like a political thug.
April 6, 2010