US Middle East policy – incoherent
posted at 5:21 pm on August 30, 2013 by Bruce McQuain
And frankly, I think that’s a nice way of describing it. James Picht declares that Barack Obama is the worst foreign policy president ever. Rumor has it Jimmy Carter is all smiles. Picht says our Middle Eastern policy is incoherent. He lays his argument out this way:
Obama’s botched efforts in the Middle East serve to remind us that there’s no situation so bad that dedicated ineptitude can’t make it worse. His administration team has done just that. American foreign policy goals in the region are now completely unclear.
Obama’s dithering in Egypt has antagonized everyone there, has been interpreted as support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, and has pushed Egypt directly into Russia’s embrace. No one knows whether our goal in Egypt is stability or democracy. We appear to back Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is backed also by Hamas, which in turn is supported by Iran, but our support appears completely irrelevant. Egypt’s new leaders have concluded they can safely ignore us.
The fiasco in Syria is worse. Is our goal there regime change? Is the goal still regime change even if that puts jihadists in charge? The Syrian rebels are supported by al-Qaeda and Hamas, and opposed by Iran, which with Russia supports Assad. Where exactly in all this do our interests lie? Are we really on the side of al-Qaeda?
Do we intend to back the monarchy in Bahrain, no matter how repressive it grows, in order to keep the base that houses our Fifth Fleet? Bahrain will eventually explode, but American support of the monarchy gives it free reign to repress the freedom movement and clamp down the pressure-cooker lid even more tightly.
The Obama Administration has dissembled its way across the Middle East, leaving enemies and allies alike uncertain of our intentions. Russia, China and Iran have been much more transparent. Saudi Arabia immediately gave Egypt’s General Sisi $12 billion in aid after the army deposed Morsi, the first democratically elected leader in Egypt’s 5,000-year history. Obama in contrast withdrew from joint military exercises but seemed uncertain whether to cut other aid.
Russia has clearly backed Syria’s Assad, while Obama has dithered over a military response to nerve gas attacks against civilians. If there is a response, it now seems designed to punish Assad without actually hurting him.
After months of tacitly supporting the rebels, the administration seems desperate to avoid hitting important military targets when it punishes Assad. And to the horror of American military leadership, the administration has planned its attack in public, all but sending Assad a map of likely targets.
As a result, Obama has come to be more disliked in the Middle East than his predecessor:
The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project finds that support for the United States is lower now in Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan than it was in 2008. Approval for Obama’s policies was only 15 percent in Muslim countries last spring; what that rate would be now in Egypt and Syria is anyone’s guess, but a safe guess would be “lower.”
Truly amazing. It is hard to imagine the level of incompetence that is required for our foreign policy to be in such disarray. But there it is.
Charles Krauthammer calls what is going on a “complete humiliation” for Obama and the US:
“This is a complete humiliation for the Obama administration,” Krauthammer said. “Forget about the narrative of what Obama wants to do, which I think is a bad idea, but let’s assume it’s a good idea. This involves the elementary conduct of international diplomacy, trying to get some allies aboard so you don’t act unilaterally.
“And here is Obama trying to gather an ally or two for a pinprick and he gets nothing,” he added.
Krauthammer then questioned what officials were thinking this week when they leaked information about possible attacks in Syria.
“Did nobody actually think to check on the allies?” he said. “I mean, these are guys who couldn’t organize a three-car funeral.”
Basic or elementary diplomacy seems beyond this bunch. And leadership is non-existent. Instead we get an administration that seems to think that just because they decide something has to happen, it is the duty of allies to do our bidding. That premise was rudely shot down in the UK yesterday. When your coalition is you and France, you’ve failed Diplomacy 101.
But it isn’t much different than how the administration acts domestically. At every turn and in reaction to any minor roadblock or setback, the administration is likely to whip out an executive order or just ignore the law to do what it wishes. And while that may be somewhat effective here, in the international arena, they just don’t play that game.