Over the weekend, several C-17 transport planes transported a reported 350 U.S. Special Operations forces out of Yemen as the country stood on the precipice of civil war. The Wall Street Journal has a trenchant summary of just how President Obama’s policy has gone up in smoke:
What happened in Yemen, according to descriptions by current and former officials and experts, was a miscalculation about the changes unleashed by the Arab Spring revolutions. It involved an overreliance by Washington on a promising new leader who ultimately was unable to hold off rival forces and tensions, they said.As a result, a country President Barack Obama last year cited as a model of American counterterrorism success has now descended into chaos, with U.S. influence and drone strikes no match for at least four sides at war with one another.
The long record of Administration miscalculations in the Middle East should give anyone pause: a policy that sought peace, reconciliation and stability finds itself with a region increasingly engulfed in flames, with one U.S. plan after another going awry. The Obama strategy of leaving Iraq and winning in Afghanistan has been a failure in both countries. Working with moderate Islamists to defuse terrorism and support democracy failed in both Egypt and Turkey. Libyan intervention and Syrian abstention both led to chaos and promoted the rise of jihadi groups.And now in Yemen, the core of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy has failed and has been hastily rolled up.Nobody would have gotten all of this 100 percent right. The Middle East is a very difficult environment for U.S. foreign policy, and neither of this president’s two predecessors covered themselves in glory in their approaches. Nevertheless, this record of comprehensive, continuing failure and miscalculation is in a league of its own. It does not, however, appear to have caused much head-scratching at the White House, where confidence in President Obama’s strategic genius appears undiminished.