Thursday, March 26, 2015

Malign Neglect

Studying the Obama administration Middle East policy, one can only conclude that it should be called: malign neglect.

After all, when you declare that retreat is an advance, that surrender is victory and that you lead from behind, something seems clearly wrong with your thinking.

It brings to mind a line from Hamlet. Spoken by Polonius, about the melancholy prince, it is:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.

Yesterday, as the remnants of the government of Yemen fled the port of Aden, with Iran-backed Houthi rebels fast on their heels, the White House declared that its Yemen policy was working.

Madness is when you take your delusions for reality.

In the meantime Max Boot, a distinguished foreign policy analyst explains the method in Obama’s madness:

Boot lists the data points we should consider:

Data point No. 1: President Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 and is preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016, even while keeping a few more troops there this year and next than originally planned.

Point No. 2: The Obama administration keeps largely silent about Iran’s power grab in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, even going so far now as to assist Iranian forces in Tikrit, while attempting to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran that would allow it to maintain thousands of centrifuges.

Point No. 3: Mr. Obama berates Benjamin Netanyahu for allegedly “racist” campaign rhetoric, refuses to accept his apologies, and says the U.S. may now “re-assess options,” code words for allowing the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state over Israeli objections.

Put them together and you might get sick to your stomach. But they do constitute a coherent policy:

Taken together, these facts suggest that Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off the most fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy in a generation. The president is pulling America back from the leading military role it has played in the Middle East since 1979, the year the Iranian hostage crisis began and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend. He is diminishing the alliance with Israel, to lows not seen since the 1960s.

Call it the Obama Doctrine: The U.S. puts down the burden, and Iran picks up the slack.

What does a policy that supports Iranian hegemony look like?

Boot explains:

Mr. Obama is also doing little to contest Iran’s growing imperium in the Middle East, symbolized by the ubiquitous presence of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, which is charged with exporting Iran’s revolution. Tehran backs proxy militias such as Hezbollah, which has moved from its Lebanese base to support Iranian client Bashar Assad in Syria; the Badr Organization, which is leading the charge against Islamic State in Tikrit; and the Houthi militia that has taken over San’a, the capital of Yemen, and is now at the gates of Aden, a strategically vital port near the entrance to the Red Sea.

All U.S. officials will say in response is that Iran’s actions are “helpful” as long as they are not too “sectarian”—akin to praising Al Capone for providing liquor to the thirsty masses while piously expressing the hope that his conduct isn’t too criminal. Now the U.S. is even supporting the Iranian-directed offensive against Tikrit by providing surveillance flights and airstrikes for attacking forces.

To keep us up to date, in the absence of American leadership Saudi Arabia and its allies have launched an attack on the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

As everyone knows by now, Obama has turned away from Israel.

Boot explains:

The flip side of this shift toward Iran is a move away from longtime allies, most notably Israel, which views the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat. The president vowed to put some “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem, and boy has he delivered. His aides deride the Israeli prime minister as a “chickens—” and a “coward,” and Mr. Obama has exhibited more visceral anger at Mr. Netanyahu than he has at Vladimir Putin or Ayatollah Khamenei.

We’d be better off if it was just plain madness. 

It’s going to take a long time to clean up the mess caused by Obama’s malign neglect.


Ares Olympus said...

Yes,neocons will be neocons and "Nation building" is a noble art, but it is an art we've not perfected.

Still, while we're protecting the world from the Axis of Evil, we might find ourselves on the course of the USSR, and slightly faster, the more we think we can make the world safer by playing police force for the world.

Dick Cheney was honest in the end at least, said in 2007 "This is an existential conflict. It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term."

So do we have the stomach for a 40 year occuptation force? I doubt it. If only he had said that in 2003, perhaps we could have saved a few trillion dollars, and Saddam would be our friendly neighborhood bully protecting the world from the other bully.

Dennis said...

What is an "occupying force?" Is that somewhat like the troops in South Korea, Germany, Japan et al.

Leo G said...

Think I have finally figured Obama out. He must have watched 300 when it came out and realized that he is the re-incarnation of Xerxes! Persia will rise again, as foretold!

Ares Olympus said...

Dennis, a good question, but at least we can pretend we're favor of the governments of South Korea, Germany, and Japan.

I was curious about Yemen, and found this. Saudi Arabia Leads Air Assault in Yemen

It looks like Americans will get a new geography lesson very soon.

Winning political fights on the the battlefield is certainly messy. And perhaps everyone has already picked sides except America!

Obama! What are we going to do! PANIC!!!!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

We will all sleep better when we have a new Persian Empire controlling the Middle East. We have so much in common with the Iranians. We have a shared vision for a grand future with them in charge of petroleum supplies, the pyramids, and we'll finally be rid of all the Jews.

Hold on... where have we heard this before?