NYT Spotlights Obama’s Middle East Mess
Published on: August 8, 2013
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  • Corlyss

    “judging by the reactions from celebrating jihadis and taunting Yemenites since, the move looked to most in the region more like a White House in panic than one in control.”
    Geez. For superstars of foreign policy, you guys can be shockingly dim. This consequence was easily predictable. It’s precisely what one could expect from the silly git in the White House. People who are angry and resentful about Benghazi didn’t want the Libya facilities closed to protect our staff there; we wanted it protected and once it was not protected, we wanted the administration to come clean that it screwed up and protect other similarly vulnerable locations. But as usual Obama took the wrong lesson from the event and has just made more of a mess for us and our allies. How much longer is he going to take foreign policy advice from that other vacuous nincompoop in the White House, Val Jarrett?

  • rheddles

    Foreign policy is a game without end. Even Germany and Japan got back in the game. So we’ll be in the game in three years. But in a much weaker position. As long as the war has not gone general, there will be time for the successor to clean up the mess that is being made.

    • Corlyss

      They were bound to have to pick up their former roles eventually. The post-WW2 and cold-war dislocations were never going to last forever. The only problem I see from the stand point of having other regional power centers striking out on their own is that US policy over the last 30 years has not exhibited much agility in responding to changed circumstances on the ground.

  • USNK2

    When the USA closes embassies, it is a sign that the USA can not rely on the host government for protection.
    That is why shuttering 21 embassies sends such a negative signal.
    This is what happens when the USA president (and all the media) engages in endless campaigning and zero governing

  • wigwag

    While the main stream media may have once thought that President Obama was a Lincolnesque figure, I think that Professor Mead is right; they are beginning to come around and see Obama’s foreign policy as the cartoonish effort that it is.

    It’s not Lincoln that President Obama resembles, it’s Elmer Fudd. Like Elmer, Barack keeps running around aiming at wabbits with his blunderbuss, but the wabbits keep laughing in his face; so does everyone else.

    Does the American President really think that he is imposing any type of penalty on the Russian President by cancelling their meeting? It’s perfectly obvious that Putin couldn’t care less. Cancelling the meeting does little but remind everyone that Obama is little more than a sheep in sheeps clothing.
    Putin is a bully; he keeps dissing Obama because he knows that Obama is a coward and he can get away with it. Obama may think that denying Putin face time with him is some kind of punishment. I sincerely doubt that Putin sees it that way.

    With his performance in Egypt, Obama’s reputation for competence has hit a new low. When he implored the Egyptian Generals to go easy on the Muslim Brotherhood, not only did they laugh in his face, but they laughed in the faces of is three clueless emissaries, Ambassador Burns and Senators McCain and Graham.
    Don’t President Obama and his liberal internationalist advisors realize that their attempt to convince the Egyptians and the rest of the world that the United States is willing to use its “leverage” over Egypt by cancelling our military assistance just makes the President look pathetic? Don’t McCain and his fellow nitwit neoconservatives realize the same thing?
    The United States has no leverage over the Egyptians; whatever leverage we once had was squandered long ago by our Commander in Chief. Within two days after the coup (or whatever it was), the Saudis and their Gulf friends delivered to the Egyptian Generals more financial aid than the United States has delivered in 8 years. The Saudis, who delivered $12 billion in the blink of an eye are telling the Egyptian Generals to crush the Muslim Brotherhood; the United States which delivers $1.5 billion is suggesting that the Generals invite the Brothers over to smoke some hookah. Who do you think the Generals are going to listen to?
    The spectacle of Secretary of Defense Hagel begging al-Sisi to be nice to the Brothers is even more pathetic, One can only hope that Hagel is at least modestly more articulate in his private discussions with al Sisi than he was in his testimony during his confirmation hearings. When Hagel informed al-Sisi that the United States was going to hold up the delivery of four F-16s, I’m sure that the Egyptian laughed in his face. As it happens, there are now several reports circulating that President Putin is planning to visit Egypt in the next few weeks and that he is coming with a large package of Russian made military hardware to be financed by guess who? That’s right; the Saudis.
    When it comes to Egypt, thanks to Obama’s incompetence, the United States is now almost completely irrelevant. Obama’s strategy was defeated by the Russians and then annihilated by the Saudis.
    Professor Mead is right; the Saudis have concluded that the American President is clueless, feckless and ineffective and they have gone rogue. The Saudis are happy to provide the Egyptians with any funds that they need to make up for any reduction in American aid and they are happy to provide the Egyptians with any weapons that they want to make up for any reduction in American arms sales to Egypt. The only people who will suffer from Obama’s mistakes are employees and American defense contractors.
    The fundamental flaw in Obama’s thinking was his belief that the Muslim Brotherhood and Erdogan’s AKP in Turkey were “moderate” Muslims who could midwife moderation, modernity and democracy in the Muslim world.
    The idiocy of this strategy is apparent to anyone who is not entirely clueless. Virtually every Arab nation makes it a capital offence to convert from Islam to Christianity; in many Arab nations (especially Egypt) female circumcision is common. Illiteracy is rampant in the Arab world; especially among women. Yet Barack Obama was willing to bank of the idea that these nations were ready for democracy and he was willing to anoint the likes of Morsi, and Erdogan (not to mention Abbas) as the men to lead their nations to the democratic promised land.
    It’s hard to imagine anything dumber, but Obama is not the only one to blame. It is remarkable how deluded, pathetic and unrealistic the American foreign policy establishment has become; the cluelessness is to be found across the ideological spectrum and it crosses party lines.
    McCain’s and Graham’s performance in Egypt proves it. They told the Egyptians Generals that if they didn’t release the imprisoned Brothers and quickly move to democracy, they would lose American support. It was all the Generals could do to not role their eyes. Dimwitted pundits from Tom Friedman on the left to Bob Kagan on the right insist that promoting democracy in the Muslim world must be an American imperative. What planet are these dullards living on?
    Now that the liberal internationalists and the neoconservatives have entered the loony bin, who can Americans turn to for promising foreign policy ideas. The answer seems to be no one. The only people left are the realist-legalsist leftists that Professor Mead blogged about a couple of months ago. These are people who manage to cleave to two mutually contradictory ideas; that realism in foreign policy is a must and the international law and international institutions hold the greatest promise for a safe and prosperous world.
    It seems to me that the foreign policy glitterati is little more than a confederacy of dunces. Everywhere they go, stupidity is sure to follow.
    We need a smarter President. The problem is that neither the Republican Party or the Democratic Party has anyone to offer who isn’t equally as ineffective as the current occupant of the Oval Office.

    • Corlyss

      “they are beginning to come around”
      It doesn’t matter now. It mattered the first 4 years of drift and dissolution. Now the MSM can burnish its analytical creds by exhibiting sagacity that won’t in any way hurt Obama. Who listens to them now?

      • Bruce

        In two years when they start shilling for Clinton and destroying the Repub, they can say, “We aren’t partisan. Look how tough we were on Obama in 2013.”

  • Anthony

    WRM, you’re correct for many partisans the merry fest of president-bashing always has appeal (despite back story). “The notion, advanced by more than a few commentators, that U.S. President Barack Obama is somehow responsible for such chaos emerging under his watch cannot be taken seriously. For it assumes that Washington has far more influence than it actually has on the ground in disparate, populous and complex Islamic societies. Just as the Eastern Bloc collasped largely from internal stresses, rather than from any decisions taken by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the Arab world has evolved likewise largely on its own, not because of any decision taken by Obama. Of course Libya was an exception….”
    Yet American Foreign Policy in Middle East from Cold War forward, under all Presidents, has been influential (or at least appeared to be) and now embassy shutdowns have brought more focus to a recognized diminished sphere of U.S. influence. A serious question beyond president bashing is are Middle East challenges threat to American people (not just geopolitical interests)? Also, is Ayman al-Zawahiri Egyptian?

  • Nick M.

    It feels like he is trying to embrace his Jeffersonian nature of avoiding direct conflict at every turn, even if it is defensive conflict, but disguising it with Hamiltonian and Wilsonian rhetoric and superficial moves. Sadly, it does not to be working too well for us.

  • wigwag

    One mistake that Professor Mead makes in his post is his focus on Obama’s numerous failures; of course Mead is right. Obama’s failures are almost too numerous to mention. But the more salient point is that the American failure in the Middle East is a bipartisan affair; Republicans are as complicit as Democrats and progressives are as clueless as conservatives and neoconservatives.

    What our plummeting credibility and influence in the Middle East really denotes is the extraordinary lack of imagination and vision by our foreign policy Mandarins of all stripes.

    During their recent trip to Egypt, John McCain and Lindsey Graham demanded that General al-Sisi release the overthrown President Morsi, they referred to the Egyptian Generals as a “junta,” they called for toleration of the massive sit in by Morsi supporters and they threatened a cut-off in American aid.

    One can only assume that McCain and Graham are deranged. They seem to think that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is merely an Islamic version of the Solidarity labor movement in Poland of a quarter century ago. Perhaps the Senators believe that the Muslim Brothers have been robbed of their version of the Prague Spring and perhaps President Morsi reminds them of Alexander Dubček.

    Or maybe McCain and Graham don’t think that the Brothers are serious when they pledge allegiance to the sentiment,

    “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
    Maybe they just believe that it’s a cute slogan something akin to “you can trust your car to the man who wears the star.”
    Let’s think about the country that McCain and Graham insist return to the road towards democracy that it was on before Morsi was deposed.
    The vast majority of Egyptians endorse the statute mandating capital punishment for the crime of converting from Islam to any other religion. They also favor harsh punishment for any other form of apostasy.
    Ninety percent of Egyptian women experience genital mutilation. The purpose is to deny them sexual gratification so as to reduce the chances that they will commit adultery.
    Christian women in Egypt are routinely attacked and often kidnapped from their homes and forcibly converted to Islam and married off against their wills to Muslim men who they may not even know. For decades, the usual response of the Egyptian authorities has been to look the other way.
    Just a few months ago, tens of millions of Egyptians bought the idea hook, line and sinker that the Mossad had brainwashed sharks to attack vacationers swimming at Egyptian beaches as a way to destroy Egypt’s tourism industry.
    This is the country that John McCain, Lindsey Graham and scores of neoconservative “intellectuals” think could be on the road towards Jeffersonian democracy if we could just find a way to influence the Egyptians to restore President Morsi to power.
    If the Egyptian military at the behest of Saudi Arabia wants to help the Muslim Brothers fulfill their aspirations of “dying for the sake of Allah,” it seems to me that the United States is very unwise to interfere. I can’t understand why Obama, McCain or anyone else is so disturbed by the prospect.
    But what should be disturbing to Americans is the virtual collapse of common sense by foreign policy elites across the political and ideological spectrum. These foreign policy elites seem to be suffering from some severe form of mass psychosis. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are immune; neither are progressives or conservatives.
    I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not end well.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama is a clueless clown, and American Prestige has suffered because of him. Those that feared America under Bush, now openly sneer and laugh at Obama and his antics.

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