NBC’s Richard Engel Slams Obama on Foreign Policy: ‘Outlining a World That He Wishes We Were’ In

While NBC News was up to its usual business in praising and defending President Obama both before and after his State of the Union speech, chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel emerged as a rare voice that instead took to the liberal network’s airwaves to condemn the President’s rhetoric on foreign policy as both unrealistic and, in many cases, simply not true. 

After being asked by anchor Brian Williams for his thoughts, Engel began dissecting the President’s perceived world outlook: “Well, it sounded like the President was outlining a world that he wishes we were all living in but which is very different than the world that you just described with terror raids taking place across Europe, ISIS very much on the move.”

Engel read a passage from Obama’s speech that touted American leadership in fighting the terrorist group ISIS and then immediately condemned it, saying: “That just isn't the case, according to military officials I've been speaking to. They are taking new territory.” 

While he estimated that the U.S. has been killing “about 1,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria every month,” the problem has only gotten worse as ISIS has been "replacing those with new recruits with 1,500 fighters.”

The rare and brutal analysis regarding the President’s foreign policy on NBC by Engel only continued:

He talked about building and supporting the moderate Syrian opposition. That, effectively, isn't happening. There is no real support for the moderate Syrian opposition. In fact, one military official told me that they are calling the moderate Syrian opposition the unicorn because they have not been able to find it. So, there was a general tone, maybe even suspended disbelief, I think when he started talking about foreign policy. There's not a lot of success stories to be talking about in foreign policy right now[.]

He concluded that, while Obama attempted to set a “general tone which was moving on, starting again, starting a new chapter, moving beyond the 9/11 generation,” the NBC News correspondent refuted this assertion: “It doesn't feel like we necessarily have been able to put that generation behind us, and I think that was something that struck me.”

Engel’s criticism of Obama on foreign policy Tuesday was far from the first occasion. After the President made a speech in September about dealing with ISIS going forward, Engel ripped Obama’s so-called strategy for being “wildly off base” and “an oversimplification of the problem.”

In another example, Engel was on CNBC’s Squawk Box on May 29, 2014 and could not name a single country where U.S. relations have improved since President Obama took office in 2009. 

(h/t: Mediaite)

The full portion of the segment from NBC’s State of the Union 2015 coverage is transcribed below.

NBC’s State of the Union 2015 coverage
January 20, 2015
10:52 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Richard Engel has been watching and listening from his post in istanbul Turkey tonight. Richard, we woke up here in the states this morning. New ISIS video, two Japanese hostages. They are asking for $200,000 or they are going to assassinate both of them. Video of a Russian intelligence ship cruising into the harbor in Havana, might as we will have been 1962, and then this on again, off again possible coup in Yemen, a U.S. ally, dangerous neighborhood, the little pictures we have show U.S.-made Humvees being driven by the government on the streets. This is all part of your beat. What did you make of that portion of the President's speech? 

RICHARD ENGEL: Well, it sounded like the President was outlining a world that he wishes we were all living in but which is very different than the world that you just described with terror raids taking place across Europe, ISIS very much on the move. One thing the President said is that “American leadership, including our military power is stopping ISIL's advance.” That just isn't the case, according to military officials I've been speaking to. They are taking new territory. The U.S. is removing, by, that I mean killing about 1,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria every month, but they are replacing those with new recruits with 1,500 fighters. He said – the President says, “instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad correlation to destroy ISIL.” The U.S., this was the year when 2,000 troops were sent back to Iraq, when we are being dragged back into the war to lead that country when we thought we had closed the chapter on Iraq. He talked about building and supporting the moderate Syrian opposition. That, effectively, isn't happening. There is no real support for the moderate Syrian opposition. In fact, one military official told me that they are calling the moderate Syrian opposition the unicorn because they have not been able to find it. So, there was a general tone, maybe even suspended disbelief, I think when he started talking about foreign policy. There's not a lot of success stories to be talking about in foreign policy right now, and the general tone which was moving on, starting again, starting a new chapter, moving beyond the 9/11 generation. It doesn't feel like we necessarily have been able to put that generation behind us, and I think that was something that struck me. 

WILLIAMS: Sadly one of the defining themes of our time. The only good news is we can hear the hint of seagulls behind Richard Engel in Istanbul where the sun is going to be rising shortly on a new day. Let's hope it's a more peaceful one. Richard, thank you, as always, for staying up late or getting up early as it were to join us tonight.

State of the Union State of the Union Foreign Policy Afghanistan Iran Iraq Middle East Syria Military War on Terrorism Liberals & Democrats Islam NBC President Barack Obama President Obama ISIS Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Brian Williams Richard Engel Barack Obama
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