Two years ago, I thought President Obama’s foreign policy failures stemmed from incompetence rather than a desire to do this country harm. These days, I’m not so certain. At a minimum, he seems intent on smashing whatever remains of our country’s credibility in the Middle East, a perennial hot spot with the potential to set half the world on fire.
Consider Iraq. In December, 2011 the last US troops left that country after establishing relative peace. A “status of forces” agreement, through which the Iraqi government agreed to our presence lapsed on December 31 of that year; we professed an interest in continuing it but did little to back up our words. In a region famous for the centrality of interpersonal relations, Barack Obama expended no personal capital on negotiations; he delegated those tasks to Deputy-Director-level representatives and to Vice-President Joe Biden — whose tact and deft personal touch are legendary. Unsurprisingly, talks were fruitless; as a result we are now bystanders, watching as the Iranians overfly Iraq with men and material for their ally in Damascus.
This fiasco is about to be repeated in Afghanistan, whose president doesn’t know from day to day if he’s going to deign to speak to the only allies he can rely on to prop him up. I would not want to be among the last five thousand US troops in the country when our Administration once again fumbles a joint agreement. Afghanistan has a number of unpleasant ways of putting an end to outsiders.
Remember that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” thing? The Afghan Taliban has recently discovered that one has only to seize an American soldier or two and this Administration will roll over like a treat-addled Labrador retriever. In the Middle East, where leaders tend to follow the dicta of Caesar Augustus and Machiavelli, this is beyond dangerous. When you are neither loved, nor feared, nor respected, you’re lunch.
But the jewel in the crown of failures is Syria. Two years ago covert efforts to provide arms to a largely-secular Syrian opposition stood a very good chance of toppling a much-despised tyrant. Instead President Obama channeled Hamlet, dithering and wringing his hands as other governments, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, armed elements in the resistance whose aims and ideologies were profoundly opposed to our own. Iran, whose leaders see Syrian President Assad and his Alawite government as sort-of co-religionists, was unrestrained; both directly and through its creature, Hezb’allah, it showered men and material on the Syrian regime, whose fortunes have improved as a result.
In the background hovers Russia, to which President Obama clings in hope that an upcoming “peace conference” it is sponsoring will bring about a political solution to the Syrian crisis. This is delusional: Vladimir Putin, Russia’s new Tsar, has no interest in watching Bashar al-Asad fall. Instead, he wishes to maintain Russia’s only remaining ally in the Middle East and with him, Russia’s naval base at Tartus. Tsar Vladimir also wants to cement a Russia-Iran-Syria crescent of influence through the heart of the Middle East, illustrating to everyone that America is a declining power. Barack Obama has given him everything he could have asked for to achieve his goal.
Maybe the President doesn’t understand the implications of such a re-alignment of power. Maybe he doesn’t comprehend the meaning of prominent Sunni cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi calling for a jihad against Shi’ites, declaring them “…more infidel than Jews and Christians…” Maybe he can’t grasp that the reason the Syrian resistance is dominated by its Islamist elements is because they have weapons. But he should — and if he can’t, aren’t there people to explain it to him?
Shouldn’t someone tell him that defeat of the Syrian resistance will embolden those who wish this country ill? That off-the-cuff remarks about “red lines” commit us to action when they are crossed? That other nations are run by adults who watch what we do, not what we say?
Or perhaps the President is listening - but to people like Samantha Power, his UN ambassador-designate. Ms. Power has stated publicly that we should apologize to the world for our wrongdoing, and that “much anti-Americanism derives from our…denying freedom to others.” This blame-the-victim logic may underlie the President’s wrecking of our foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere; it certainly strikes a chord with many on the Left, who see groveling as the only appropriate response to our actions in the world over the past century. According to current self-obsessed pop-psychology, apologizing will make us feel better about ourselves. But in the real world, it will be seen for what it is: dangerous weakness and self-loathing.
And do not doubt: we will pay the price.
Summit resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column for the Summit Daily News.