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Muddling Through In The Middle East
Our Storyteller In Chief

President Obama is a political webmaster and a master manager who also really knows how to wow an audience with his powers of speech. He is not a creative or independent thinker, however, as his Middle East legacy is starting to show.

Published on: May 13, 2014
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  • Eric Wessan

    Consistently Mr. Garfinkle delivers excellent analysis of the mess that is the Middle East

  • qet

    I’m still reeling from staring into the logical and substantial abyss separating this analysis from that of Singh offered to us last week in these very pages. Granted, Singh’s fluff piece was about Ukraine and this is about the Middle East, but still.

    “Magical thinking.” “Strategic ventriloquism.” “High-sounding language that does not create its own reality after it.” These are nonpareil characterizations of 99% of all current writing and bloviating from the CNN/NPR wing of the Left nowadays on foreign policy generally.

  • johngbarker

    More than two year left. How bad will it get? Will Obama be shooting baskets while Rome burns?

    • Andrew Allison


      • Curious Mayhem

        Will the golf ball burn? 🙂

  • johngbarker

    I just looked in Wikipedia and found out that Ben Rhodes has a MFA in creative writing. I am not joking, see for yourself.

  • Andrew Allison

    Given that there’s nobody worse than a reformed drunk, as a naturalized citizen I’m both angry and embarrassed by the depths to which we have fallen.

  • lhfry

    Obama is hardly a great speaker. He strings phrases together with aanndd, and ends always on a down note. He is also almost a monotone. And, of course, without his teleprompter, he is worse.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Definitely. The idea that Obama is a great speaker is a media fiction, just endlessless repeated.

      Calling Obama the “storyteller”-in-chief is a nice way of calling him “liar-in-chief.” The man is an empty shell and was never anything else. He was a way for supporters to project various fantasies of the aging Boomers, his main demographic and financers.

  • B-Sabre

    Oh, he’s a storyteller alright. He also specializes in misdirection, mischaracterization, retro-conning, fables and outright lies.

  • ShadrachSmith

    I read: Obama hasn’t got a clue about foreign policy, in no small part because he simply doesn’t care.

    Did I miss anything?

    • Breif2


      To the contrary, like me (and unlike you cynical S.O.B.s) he cares. We care deeply. We care deeply about many important issues. Surely with all of this caring that we have taken upon ourselves, some of you unevolved types could at least perform the trivial task of, you know, doing something.

      • ShadrachSmith

        I’m touched by your caring nature 🙂

        • Curious Mayhem

          Don’t forget, when you do it, to do it for the children.

  • jbirdme

    Regarding Israel and the PLO, Israel’s demand to be recognized as a Jewish state is not ultimately what sank these talks; it is the fact that the two sides are on different planets as to what a peace treaty should look like. The Palestinians see it as a matter of international law and justice and are not going to make many concessions. To Israel, the Arabs attacked and lost, and therefore they get to keep some of the land they captured, especially parts that have special significance in Jewish history; they want peace, but they expect the Palestinians to compromise much more. Finally both sides believe that their view will prevail over time.

    • azt24

      The problem with Israel/Pal is that the conditions that make it a stalemate are very stable.

      Israel, the more powerful party wants to negotiate a compromise starting from the status quo, the usual starting line for negotiations. But the Palestinians, the weaker party, want to destroy the more powerful party and sees any other agreement as a shameful surrender to be avoided at all costs. Since the so-called international community conspires to pay, feed and protect the weaker party, and protect it from the bad results of the last 94 years of its attempts to massacre the Jews, the result is a stalemate. The rest is diplomatic hooey.

  • ljgude

    I have to be a little grumpy over the Egypt analysis. What I noticed happening is that the Administration backed the Muslim Brotherhood, making a tremendous propaganda effort the portray them as moderate and defended them when they were overthrown. And the way I heard it they did scold the military for being undemocratic after they bounced Morsi and tried to pressure them over weapons supply causing the Egyptians to turn to the Russians for the equipment and the Saudis to keep up the financial drip. I really must have missed something if the Administration is still on its feet re Egypt. I also see the Israel Palestinian negotiations very differently. I think it has been clear since before the founding of Israel and crystal clear since they were given back Gaza that the Arabs will only settle for a one state solution eliminating Israel. That Israelis are now talking about a unilateral Israeli solution seems to me the only rational response to this latest exercise in futility.

    I think your analysis of Obama is really helpful. You have put your finger on his great weakness – he is not an original thinker. Listening to him debate healthcare with Hillary in the 08 primary one got the impression that he had thought about it a lot as he debated the one politician who had clearly thought about it more than any other. Nope, he turned it over to Pelosi and Reid and didn’t understand management well enough to put someone in charge of getting the computer program done on time. He has an uncanny ability to deliver the the terminal verities of the 20th century left as if they really were eternal. Evidently Mr. Rhodes shares some of the blame. That telling stories business is revealing indeed. The Israelis blew up a large Syrian supply of missiles in a stand off attack from Lebanon not long after the Syrian conflict got into top gear. Missiles that could reach Israel they said. If Obama can use drones to kill jihadis favorite goats and wives I don’t see what was to stop him nailing those 50 known chemical weapons sites with some very accurate bombs dropped by very large invisible bombers after that red line was crossed. Same for Bozo Harem – turn loose the schoolgirls or, you, know, you will find yourself on the wrong side of another red line. Or very large, black, and grumpy Navy Seals. In my view he is an unoriginal idealist who mostly sees the world through the lenses of post colonialism and political correctness which makes him pretty reality proof. Evidently he is handled by people he thinks he agrees with rather then ones that can effectively engage world. He even said he didn’t need another George Keenan, who not everyone will recall got it through Truman’s head that it was impossible to do quid pro quo with Joe Stalin. Obama is kidding himself that he can do exactly that with the Iranians.

    • azt24

      Hear, hear.

  • aez

    Wonderful article, and thank you. But, a very minor quibble–“poring over language,” not pouring over it, please.

  • diderot à la campagne

    what has Bush and the GOP done more than a debacle in the mideast?
    4 millions of iraqis forced to leave their home, hundred of thousands iraqis dead, an inter-confessional war which is the true domino effect over the entire mideast, instead of these democracies imagined by incompetent analysts of the AEI or diverse columnists in newspapers. Not even the ounce of serious nation-building but stupid reactivity and lies on elusive WMD.
    This article so deeply biased toward a policy that never worked.
    60 years after the creation of the state of Israel we are still at case number 1, rather pathetic for a so called “enlightened county” like Israel, which looks more and more like a fortress hassling poor peasants like a medieval war lord in France, and less and less as a natural democratic state.
    The dialogue with Iran opened by Obama is not as this columnist nastily claims but rather a true paradigm change that can influence durable changes in attitudes in iranian leadership. The infantile accusation of being a rogue state or en evil nation (we are humiliating 70 millions people here with such crap) can´t be taken seriously as foreign policy. For Syria, the so called army of “liberation” looks more and more as a bad joke, it is now completely overwhelmed by growing gangs of terrorists acting like death squadrons so even al Qaeda consider them as far more dangerous than Assad´s army.
    In that sense, a tactical alliance between the US and Iran and its ally teh lebanese legitimated party Hezbollah, part of the lebanese government, would certainly bring greater stability to the region instead of relying on sunni states of Saoudi arabia and the Erdogan Turkey, which are the sources of military support of these street gangs. And a politics of reconciliation between the shiites and sunnis with Obama as helping referee is the only key to end the mess ignited by the Bush destabilizing folly of this very sensitively structured region of the world (I am deliberately ignoring the oil factor putting emphasis on ethnic diversity and its resulting conflicts)

    I would say that Obama is doing right and I reject the validity of this paper.

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