February 28, 2020

How Clinton’s peace team showed that Ben Carson isn’t ready to become president

I have enormous respect for Dr. Ben Carson, a fellow Michigander who has had remarkable success as a neurosurgeon, author, and columnist. I have no idea why men like him, instead of losers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, aren’t the leaders of the American black community. However, when I heard that Dr. Carson might be considering a run for president without ever having served in public office, my admiration for him gave way to head-scratching. After reading a transcript of his recent interview on foreign policy issues with talk show host Hugh Hewitt, I am more convinced than ever that the good doctor is not yet ready for political prime time.

Having served as a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East and Latin America, I care a great deal about foreign affairs. I think that the past two presidents have been disasters on that front, and I hope against hope that our next Commander-in-Chief will be at least bilingual and have experience living abroad. That said, at the very least the leader of the free world needs to be deeply familiar with the nuances of the military and diplomatic challenges that he is likely to face in the next four years. Unfortunately, Dr. Carson gives little evidence of having spent years pondering these issues.

The best strategic minds in the United States and Israel are currently proposing ways for their governments to counter ISIS, Al Qaeda’s various branches, and other Islamist terrorist groups. If Dr. Carson becomes president, their reports will make their way to a man who has just stated that “the Islamic faith emanated from Esau.” It’s hard to see how a billion Muslims around the world – let alone serious analysts — would take a President Carson seriously from day one.

Even more worrying is Dr. Carson’s willingness to outsource the detailed analysis to his assistants and advisers: “[W]e spend too much time trying to get into these little details that are easily within the purview of the experts that you have available to you.” He goes on to compare the duties of a president to those of a hospital administrator, who ensures that experts in various medical departments are able to work together efficiently. When it comes to regions like the Middle East, the president can’t delegate the details to others. If he does, the Clinton dynamic is likely to rear its ugly head again, with predictable results.

The members of President Clinton’s peace team – Dennis Ross, Aaron Miller, Martin Indyk and others – had enormous brainpower and experience. I have no doubt that their proposals for engaging with Arafat & Co. were rooted in a sincere desire to secure a lasting peace for Israel. However, they ultimately gave the president bad advice, which led to his wasting much of his precious time and efforts on a peace process that led to a dead end.

Since President Clinton did not have a clear understanding of Arafat’s true character and agenda, he did not have a correct idea of how peace should be pursued. It’s a shame that so many Israelis had to be blown apart while Israel was being pressured to pursue peace as if there were no terror, and fight terror as if there were no peace. Any ten-year-old child could have told Clinton that trying to prop up a mass murderer is not a good idea, but he listened to his smart guys and Israelis paid the bloody price for their incompetence.

A President Carson would also need to have expert knowledge on various regions of the world because many times analysts disagree, and he has to have some basis for evaluating their analyses. If he gets conflicting recommendations for action against ISIS from his Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and National Security Advisor, for example, he has to be able to make an informed decision as to which path to pursue. Given that Dr. Carson called in the interview for the Baltic countries to join NATO (they’re already members), there is little reason to hope that he would be able to do this. We’ve had a community organizer as our leader for the past six years, and the results are there for all to see. Dr. Carson has achieved far more than Barack Obama did prior to becoming president, but it appears that he shares the president’s lack of strategic vision on foreign policy. I would be happy to support Dr. Carson’s run for another public office, just not for president. However, I think that he could do the most good by becoming the president of the NAACP.