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

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Busted Flush

As we count down the months until the Obama presidency is over, it's worth noting that though bad decisions, hubris and incompetence, he has set the stage for regional instability in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia. As a consequence, bad things can still happen while Obama remains in office. Richard Fernandez discusses this when he writes:
... After years of talking about a "world without nuclear weapons", legacies, grand bargains, rule based international systems, open borders and falling seas, the final act of the Obama administration has been to allow a budget aimed at belatedly giving America a fighting chance for survival, to at least let someone do what he could not do himself.

It seems clear there is widespread consensus there will be a major period of instability or conflict after Obama leaves office, perhaps even before he departs. Conflicts in Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, China, etc. are not only possible, they have actually started and each is escalating.

What is still unclear is how bad it will get. That depends on two things: the extent to which Western defenses can be rebuilt and the judiciousness with which foreign and security policy leadership is exercised. Political events in 2016 are crucial not only in America, but all over the world because they will determine, more or less, who is in charge when the balloon goes up. If the West can prepare in time and uses its assets properly, the worst of the crisis can still be avoided and a general peace might still be preserved. If nothing intelligent replaces the last seven years of foolishness then the embers now smoldering may burst into open flame, merge and threaten everybody with the major conflict Dmitry Medvedev warned against.

There will still be some calls in the next few months for president Obama to "do something" but there will be fewer than you would expect. The word is out, even among allies. He's a busted flush. For the moment, the consensus appears to sit tight, get ready, take no chances and wait out Obama's term.
Barack Obama is indeed a "busted flush," and waiting out the remainder of his presidency seems a reasonable strategy for allies who have felt abandoned by his feckless foreign policy.

But what if the Democrats prevail in the next presidential election? The options are discouraging. On the one hand, we have Bernie Sanders who will double down on Obama's 'make bad decisions and/or do nothing' strategy. A long time opponent of a strong United States, Sanders will follow Obama's lead by abandoning allies and cozying up to adversaries. On the other hand we have Hillary Clinton—the architect of Obama's disastrous foreign policy failures during his first term. Even worse, it's almost a certainty that Clinton can and will be blackmailed by our adversaries—all of whom likely have incriminating emails hacked from her infamous private server.

And on the GOP side, we have the Donald—a man whose simple-minded, shoot-from-the-hip  approach to foreign policy does not provide much comfort. One can only hope that he'll have the brains to surround himself with good people and the humility to listen to them. There's a glimmer of optimism if Marco Rubio wins the nomination because he is well-versed in the details of foreign policy, but the young senator remains a long shot. And Ted Cruz? His ideological extremism will preclude any chance of him winning the general election.

Bottom line—the "busted flush" in the white house has set the stage for big loses in the world wide game of poker that we call foreign policy. His continuing chatter during the game now grates on his opponents, and his gambling stake is running dangerously low. He tries to buff, but the other players now know all of his tells.