Among the many dismally shortsighted predictions the besotted press and pundit class made in the wake of Barack Obama’s 2008 election was the anticipation that his ascension to the presidency would have a number of transformative effects America’s foreign policy and on the state of global affairs generally.
One such ill-founded prediction could be found in The New York Times politics section, not the editorial page, the day after the election.
“Mr. Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm — a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos — saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course,” The Times declared.
That is just the beginning of this manifestly embarrassing report.
They say the country that weakened democratic forces abroad through a tireless but often ineffective campaign for democracy — dismissing results it found unsavory, cutting deals with dictators it needed as allies in its other battles — was now shining a transformative beacon with its own democratic exercise.
It would be hard to overstate how fervently vast stretches of the globe wanted the election to turn out as it did to repudiate the Bush administration and its policies. Poll after poll in country after country showed only a few — Israel, Georgia, the Philippines — favoring a victory for Senator John McCain.
The world’s view of an Obama presidency presents a paradox. His election embodies what many consider unique about the United States — yet America’s sense of its own specialness, of its destiny and mission, has driven it astray, they say. They want Mr. Obama, the beneficiary and exemplar of American exceptionalism, to act like everyone else, only better, to shift American policy and somehow to project both humility and leadership.
Surely, few would have predicted in 2008 that America would again be at war in Iraq by the president’s sixth year in office. Fewer still would have hazarded to guess that Obama would open a new theater in the necessary war against terrorism in Syria. But no one, absolutely no one, would have posited that Obama would be conducting both of these wars alongside the military forces of Bashar al-Assad and the mullahs in Tehran.
Sobriety having lamentably returned, The New York Times recently pondered whether Obama was doing America’s image abroad more harm than good by conducting strikes against Islamic State forces in Syria alongside Assad’s murderous regime (one which Obama had previously said must dissolve). “[T]he longer the fight goes on without the policies being resolved,” The Times reported, “the more damage is being done to America’s standing in the region.”
On Tuesday, The Huffington Post discovered that the Pentagon is fully aware that they are also sharing Iraqi airspace with another unsavory partner: Iran. Not only that, but the Islamic Republic and the United States are engaged in precisely the same mission.
The U.S. is aware of Iranian bombing activity in the same national airspace where planes aligned with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State are operating, a defense official told The Huffington Post Monday evening.
The official said he believes the Iranian bombing is unlikely to end as long as the Shiite-dominated nation feels threatened by the Sunni extremist group, also called ISIS. The bombing will not require a U.S. response unless Iran presents an immediate threat to U.S. forces in the air, he said.
“We are aware of that. I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily concerned with it — we kind of have our eyes on it,” the official said. He noted that the Iranian bombing has been taking place near the Iranian border, in a different part of Iraq than most U.S. and coalition activity. The official said he could only confirm reports of the bombing on the condition of anonymity.
CBS News revealed that, while the Pentagon is aware that Iran is executing airstrikes inside Iraq, “there’s no coordination going on and none is needed.” Presumably, if there is no coordination, that would be because American forces are executing strikes in the north and west of the country where Sunni populations are predominant and Iran is focusing on striking targets in and around the Shia-dominated areas of the country. Coordination by another name, for sure.
Whatever one thinks of America’s tacit military cooperation with Iran, it surely would surprise those who composed that hagiographical testament in The Times in 2008. Obama, it seems, isn’t the only wide-eyed ideologue who has been mugged by reality over the course of the last six years.