Liddick: On our way to becoming irrelevant in the Middle East
September 1, 2014
Now we know what happens when the world sees a hand-wringing, vacillating, self-loathing, weak-looking America: to quote the old athletic shoe commercial, "Bad things, man …"
In his latest effort at wrecking, the president announced that we haven't a strategy for dealing with ISIL, the sociopathic "caliphate" is assembling in northern Iraq and Syria. While many in the press and some in his own party are nonplussed at the frank statement of purposelessness, it didn't surprise those in the world who are not our friends.
Bashar Assad, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Haider al-Abadi and Nechervan Idris Barzani know it, and have for some time. The first was clued in when we shrank from enforcement of the president's infamous "red line" in the Syrian civil war, allowing him to continue his butchery unmolested. Al-Baghdadi, titular head of ISIL, calculates that Obama will not oppose him on the ground, but will dither over a few air strikes while the Caliphate of Murderers slaughters its way to control of more territory, more weapons, more oil wealth. We've given him no reason to think otherwise.
Al-Abadi must be fidgeting uneasily after the president's latest outings, in which he was essentially told that the Iraqi government must clean up its own mess before we consider getting involved to some degree. Barzani must be doubting our sincerity. After a number of Obama's finger-wagging denunciations of ISIL's actions — interspersed by golf outings, but a denunciation's a denunciation — Kurdish forces, engaged daily with ISIL, receive small arms and some light anti-armor weapons. The Czech Republic and Australia are both poised to do more.
Our longtime associates elsewhere in the Middle East are studying this fiasco and drawing their plans accordingly. That is why Egypt bombed Libya last week without bothering to let us know: we are well on our way to becoming irrelevant in the Middle East, not because our capabilities are diminished, but because we are seen to lack the will to use those capabilities. And irrelevant is not a good place to be.
Similarly in Eastern Europe, where once again a powerful state uses threats and alters national boundaries with military force. Russia's Prince Vlad calls the Ukrainians "Nazis," but someone should remind him who's doing the invading. Putin has no qualms about naked aggression, because he got the measure of our president years ago: Obama will bluster, he will threaten, but he will take no meaningful action, seeking instead to hide behind sanctions and the farce of "concerted action" together with Europe. Vlad the Terrible knows what Obama refuses to acknowledge: with the possible exception of Great Britain's David Cameron, European leaders are sheep. Without the direction which we have often supplied, they wander about the landscape to no particular end. And, they are easily frightened by loud noises from menacing neighbors.
In a supreme irony, there are now efforts being floated in Washington to "talk directly to Putin." The latest push was undertaken by Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Sunday's "Meet the Press." To anyone living in the real world, the depth of self-delusion and ignorance behind this is almost unfathomable. Vladimir Putin doesn't want to talk. He wants Ukraine to settle back into Moscow's grip and for the rest of Eastern Europe to follow suit, whether they want to or not. That's what his "New Russia" is really about. He's perfectly willing to use force to get what he wants, because economic sanctions don't bother him and that's all we're willing to risk. In the face of an open invasion, neither the U.S. nor its NATO allies are even willing to supply the woefully-overmatched Ukrainians with modern anti-armor weapons and armor of their own. Talk? I wonder if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko remembers the name Edvard Beneš? He should. He and his nation are about to go the way of Czechoslovakia, post-1938. The eventual results will, I fear, also be similar.
Nor should we delude ourselves into thinking that the repercussions of our fearful leader's channeling Hamlet are limited to Europe and the Middle East; we have strategic interests across the globe, and increasingly we are being either challenged or ignored. China wants things in Asia; given Russia's successes in Ukraine and our retreat elsewhere, Beijing's Politburo sees no reason not to use threat and force to get them. So Japan and South Korea are increasingly under pressure and our presence is more and more the object of aggressive Chinese opposition. Sooner or later, someone's going to open fire. Human tragedy will then be repeated on an awesome scale.
Tragic, because it was all so foreseeable and preventable. But good men will have done nothing, allowing foolish, malicious, ignorant children to lead the way to the graveyard yet again.
Morgan Liddick pens a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.