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U.S. Influence Drip-Dripping Away

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt bombed Libya without consulting with the United States. Mahmoud Abbas is set to unveil an initiative for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the content of which the United States will not see beforehand. Leading from behind, indeed.

Published on: August 26, 2014
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  • mbermangorvine

    Joe and Jane America are doing well if they can point to the approximate correct area of the world for “the Middle East.” Incompetent, arrogant foreign policy in the last two administrations depends on this public cluelessness for unhindered blundering fun.

    • Corlyss

      “Incompetent, arrogant foreign policy in the last two administrations depends on this public cluelessness for unhindered blundering fun.”

      That’s true of almost every complex issue that finds its way into public policy. Public policy used to be more rewarding when I could have some level of confidence that the legislators knew something about the laws they passed. That hasn’t been true for almost 2 decades. When the legislators are no more knowledgeable than the first ten names in the phone book on a particular issue, the Republic is in great peril. The ACA was a big wake-up call to the electorate. So far, the alarm is still ringing . . .

      • B-Sabre

        I’ve said for awhile now we’d probably be better served in DC by drafting our representatives through a lottery than electing them.

  • Pete

    “But there is no mystery in now to handle the problem: Bomb Assad regime assets simultaneously with bombing ISIS assets. That should make the point clearly enough.”

    Total brainlessness.

    • Corlyss

      Which school do you subscribe to:
      The I can’t be bothered with other peoples’ messes school, or
      The I can wait till some of the ISIS fighters with American passports return here and start blowing up shopping malls school, or
      The I wouldn’t trust this administration to know which end of the weapon to aim school?

      • Pete

        Schools 1 and 3.

        • Fred

          Unfortunately, in the real world, being in school 1 entails objectively being in school 2. I think anyone with two brain cells to rub together is in school 3.

        • Corlyss

          I’m philosophically and morally and psychologically incapable if being in 1; I wouldn’t be my parents daughter if I were. School 2 is abhorrent to me as an Army brat. I’ve been in 3 since I realized sometime around 1965 that Dems were totally clueless about national security and defense. With the possible exception of FDR, their idea of fighting a war is ineffectual offense, followed rapidly by capitulation.They know only how to “fight” enough to get a lot of American warriors killed, at which point the bale out of the tough fights on the grounds that they’re saving the soldiers. Recently I had the pleasure of reading Jennifer Weber’s revelatory book Copperheads on Lincoln’s Dem opponents during the Civil War. One of the many revelations in the book was the fact that while McClelland’s principal appeal was to perfunctorily end the war in order to “bring the boys home before they get killed,” but the evidentiary record of soldiers’ letters home and to their Congressmen at the time was one of unequivocal support for the war efforts to defeat of the Confederacy, by a huge margin, somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% if memory serves. I realized: Dems can’t help themselves, it’s in their DNA.

          • Pete

            I agree with your assessment of the Dems.

            I respect you being in School 1 …but that’s not for me.

            For too many in School 1 — that of the U.S. being the world policeman — if a butterfly flutters the wrong way in some Third World s**thole, it is a national security concern and Uncle Sap has to jump in and correct that butterfly least our Republic comes tumbling down. .

          • Gene

            I agree with Corlyss, and her first sentence above especially. I simply can’t abide the thought that innocents dying in the mountains of Iraq or in Rwanda 1994 should be abandoned to their fate, which is what you’re arguing for if you remove the US from any “world cop” role. I know you won’t insult my intelligence by suggesting that any other entity would fill that vacuum if the US creates it. And BTW, neither of the examples I gave above would fall under the category of “national security,” and they don’t have to to be worthwhile.

            At the same time, those arguing for School 1 have many good arguments, which is why I’m so conflicted on this. And conflicted I will likely remain. What I wish we could get right out into the open is that there are awful human consequences to a hands-off policy. (Yes, yes, I know there are usually awful consequences to hands-on, too.) A recent post re Iraq on the Cato Institute website was honest enough to flatly state that their position on these matters means that Iraq (and by extension I’ll assume, other places in other circumstances) might just have to burn.

            School #3 is where all of this theory and moralizing gets brought down to earth. Our current administration is incapable of anything but half-assed, ineffectual intervention, and it (and American voters) have no stomach for seeing an interventionist policy through any but the most minor types of adversity. Any US allies that really do rely on our security guarantees are right to be concerned that those guarantees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

          • Pete

            Gene,

            The party is over. The U.S. has over $17 trillion in federal government debt alone with God only knows how much in unfunded liabilities.

            If we continue to play the role of the world’s policeman, we’ll surely go bankrupt sooner rather than later.

            And the U.S.middle class will soon stop offering their sons and daughters up for nation building and other screwy, no-win ideas trying to civilized the barbarians in the Third World.

            And the taxpayers will revolt, too, at this squandering of money.

            Bush/Cheney and the neo-con adventure in Iraq had a direct cost reportedly of over a $1 trillion. And to that, there’s zalso a lot of indirect cost like money for care and disability to the guys that war screwed up. That cost will haunt us for a generation or more.

            And by the way, the Shai you save in Iraq today would be (and were) just as bloody thirsty as the Sunni, who are now murdering them, when they were in power.

            It’s no win. The inmates are running the asylum in the Arab middle East. Let the place burn least we get burned too in a futile attempt to civilize them.

  • DougPage171
  • Afrayedknot

    Isn’t it, “Al-Udeid” and not “Al-Ubeid”? Or is there some ambiguity when transliterating from Arabic into English.

    Picayune details aside, I’m glad someone is highlighting Qatar’s meddling and why the US hasn’t done anything about it. I’m also curious if anyone knows the current Emir’s motivation for all this meddling – it seems to have started up as soon as he took over for his father.

    Instead of moving Al-Udeid, it would probably be cheaper and easier take over Qatar and be done with it. The native population is smaller than that of St. Louis and most likely unarmed. Speaking of St. Louis, perhaps we can have the Ferguson PD do the job. I am, of course, joking. Mostly.

  • wigwag

    I understand Adam Garfinkle’s point that the presence of American air bases in Qatar gives the Al-Thani clan leverage over the United States and not the other way around, but I can’t help but wonder whether there are other, even more important reasons that Obama and Kerry seem so besotted with the Qataris. After all, to the consternation of virtually every single American ally in the Middle East (although Obama may think of them as former allies) early on in the Gaza conflict, John Kerry did everything he could to wreck the Egyptian peace initiative and instead empower the Qataris as intermediaries.

    Why did he do this? Was he just worrying about American air bases? Could it just be that Obama and Kerry are too obtuse to spot a ““troublemaking little pissant of a country” when they sees one?
    It seems to me that despite the fact that Obama has fallen in love with a particularly noxious form of realism promoted by the likes of Zbignew Brzezinski and despite the fact that Secretary Kerry is a dullard, the reasons most go deeper than that.
    I wonder whether all of this is really about Iran. Doesn’t the Administration want a rapprochement with Iran at just about any price? Hasn’t the Administration bought into the idea that an empowered Iran operating as a counterweight to both Israel and the Sunni world is the best way to allow the United States to exit the morass of the Middle East?
    If any of this is true, it seems to me that Obama and Kerry must view the tacit alliance between Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Arabs and the Jordanians during the Gaza imbroglio with intense alarm. Surely the Administration realizes that the Gaza campaign might merely have been a dress rehearsal for what it fears is the main act, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations carried out by the Jewish State with the surreptitious support of the aforementioned Sunni Arab nations.
    By aggressively trying to stymie the Egyptian initiative during the Gaza Campaign while trying to insert Qatar into the process, wasn’t the Administration’s real goal to cut this budding anti-Iran coalition down to size while shoring up the Turkish-Qatari coalition which is much less enthusiastic about an attack on Iran? Aren’t Obama and Kerry so worried that an anti-Iran coalition of States in the Middle East will thwart the Administration’s ambitions for American-Iranian relations, that they are willing to align with the anti-Semitic Turkish Government, the terrorist harboring Qataris and the murderous Hamas insurgents?
    Obama may be venal, but I doubt he’s stupid (though Kerry may actually be stupid). Obama wants Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf Arab nations stymied because they stand in the way of his grand ambition, an empowered Iran which can counter-balance the American allies who Obama has come to despise. Qatar and Turkey(and indirectly even Hamas) just happen to be on Obama’s side in all of this.

  • Anthony

    The Hard Hand of the Middle East (Robert Kaplan) – “order is preferable to disorder, meaning dictatorship is preferable to chaos, even if dictatorship itself has often been the root of such chaos.” Friends, bedfellows, and endemic interests leveraged through international posturing underscores latest news from Middle East.

  • The really bad news is not even about the middle east. It’s about the enlightenment project promising the convergence of morality, science and politics. Hence the anticipation of clearcut ethical choices in politics – godd guys and bad guys. Instead, there’s medieval mess. There probably was all along – it’s just our perceptions, learned at high school and college, that blinded us to its character. The middle ages were that long because they weren’t really ‘the middle ages’, an interim accident. Rather, the quagmire of fighting princedoms, headhunters, fanatic priests and ignorant populace was the essence of political reality. The relative order of Roman antiquity and American modernity were based on the dominance of a disciplined empire. Once the empire goes, the order goes, and we’re back with the Pope in Rome, the one in Avignon, the Merovingians, the Visigoths, the Holy Roman Empire and the Rhineland Palatinate (anachronistic, I know, but even ‘history’ as a science is a modern illusion). Even ‘Joe and Jane’ are illusions, They are more likely to be Alejandro and Keisha, and not to have the white-bread sensibility implied in the ATL text. So the technical move of the base from Qatar is not really the answer. It’s a bandaid applied for an underlying perncicious disease. The answer, if there is one beyond resignation, is a form of hardheaded realism that realizes the loss of values, clear directions, moral certitute, and white bread. Welcome to the desert of the real.

  • animalmother

    there’s absolutely nothing in Obama’s public political/intellectual record before or after becoming president that suggests this man believes in the value of American power or has any strategic sense about how to use it – Gates’ book goes about as far as decorum would allow in making clear Obama does not particularly respect the military and its ‘thinkers’ and may indeed despise them and his practice of foreign policy seems very much to confirm that opinion – he committed to the Afghan surge because in the primary against Hillary he said he would and there was no way to back out of that ‘promise’ once he became president – but that promise was simply about beating Hillary, it had nothing to do with actually winning the war which is why when it came to the surge he did as little as he possibly could to make it look like he was keeping his promise but not so much that he couldn’t announce a pullout in time for the 2012 election – in other words, the Afghan surge was nothing more than a political calculation and again Gates’ book pretty much comes right out and says Obama had zero interest in fighting that war.

    The point is: as bad as Obama’s America in retreat foreign policy is, there’s absolutely nothing in anything the man has said or done that would lead one to believe that should he actually reverse course and attempt to practice a foreign policy befitting a superpower like America that he could pull such a thing off – I have zero confidence in this man as commander-in-chief and I’m guessing the vast majority of officers in our military feel the same way – it’s entirely possible that the only thing worse than Obama doing what he believes is right would be Obama half heartedly trying to fake his way through doing what he’s convinced is wrong.

    • bruceamcallister

      The post election Obama surge was a good faith effort on Obama’s part to test the Republican hawks’ and neocons’ belief that we could remake at least that country, although a SI liar effort had already clearly failed in Iraq. Now we know that the hawks and neocons have been wrong at every turn.

      • bruceamcallister

        You’re just rehashing

        • bruceamcallister

          The old invasion argument – behaving like a superpower, indeed.

  • Jon Robbins

    “Back in that July 29 post I referred to Qatar as a ‘troublemaking little pissant of a country.’”

    It’s funny that when French diplomat, Daniel Bernard, once referred to Israel as that ” shitty little country,” it was deemed absolutely outrageous. But when the Israel lobbyist-in-residence (or one of them at least), Adam Garfinkle, refers in similar terms to Qatar, it is with the implicit demand that we passively accept his slur. This is the fundamental hypocrisy of the Israel lobby and its repulsive ideologues.

  • pnkearns

    I’m with the author here. We need to pull the U.S. bases out of Bahrain and other Middle East countries, and free the U.S. from the rentier leverage of unworthy host nations run by despots.

  • Jon Robbins

    It’s al-Udeid Air Base–not al-Ubeid.

  • matimal

    This has been Obama’s plan all along. The birthers were wrong, but their suspicions that he doesn’t see the U.S. as anything but another country were right. Every day that goes by I see a populist political from across the political spectrum forming a majority in the U.S.

  • hooharhar

    He just isn’t the same without Paul Simon.

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