The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Not Progress

As Barack Obama's team careens from one foreign policy failure in the Middle East to the next, one gets the feeling that this team of 2s is over-matched—unable to fathom the reality of the Middle East and unwilling to establish a strategy that might have a chance of managing a bad situation. Just today, Obama announced that Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki, had to go. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

Sure, Maliki is incompetent, corrupt, and dictatorial, but so were Mubarek in Egypt, Kaddafi in Lybia, and Assad in Syria. Obama called for the ouster of all three men. How did that work out for us? Egypt is in turmoil, Libya is in chaos, and Syria is the home of war crimes. But wait, Barack Obama assured us that al Qaeda was decimated, didn't he? In fact, it was touted pre-2012 election as one of his foreign policy "successes." I guess ISIS isn't "core" al Qaeda, so that makes it all okay.

Elliot Abrams comments:
The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.

How did it happen? Begin with hubris: The new president told the world, in his Cairo speech in June 2009, that he had special expertise in understanding the entire world of Islam—knowledge “rooted in my own experience” because “I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.” But President Obama wasn’t speaking that day in an imaginary location called “the world of Islam;” he was in Cairo, in the Arab Middle East, in a place where nothing counted more than power. “As a boy,” Obama told his listeners, “I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.” Nice touch, but Arab rulers were more interested in knowing whether as a man he heard the approaching sound of gunfire, saw the growing threat of al Qaeda from the Maghreb to the Arabian Peninsula, and understood the ambitions of the ayatollahs as Iran moved closer and closer to a bomb.

Obama began with the view that there was no issue in the Middle East more central than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Five years later he has lost the confidence of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and watched his second secretary of state squander endless efforts in a doomed quest for a comprehensive peace. Obama embittered relations with America’s closest ally in the region and achieved nothing whatsoever in the “peace process.” The end result in the summer of 2014 is to see the Palestinian Authority turn to a deal with Hamas for new elections that—if they are held, which admittedly is unlikely—would usher the terrorist group into a power-sharing deal. This is not progress.
In the Middle East, one thing is very, very clear. When hard men are confronted with soft power, there is a mismatch. The hard men perceive (correctly) that weakness sits behind words that are spoken, that veiled threats are temporary or illusory, that red lines aren't, that America is weak and ineffectual. When that happens, hard men act in their own self-interest. Very often, evil actions follow.

Clouds are gathering, and Obama's team of 2s is incapable of making the decisions required to protect this country from the coming storm. Frightening.