Monday, June 8, 2015

Recovering from Obama: Foreign Policy - J. R. Dunn

by J. R. Dunn

The same mixture of arrogance, delusion, and incompetence has been in play, to the level of dementia. The results have been apocalyptic. All this is totally the work of the Obama administration.

It’s difficult to single out the worst aspect of President Obama’s tenure, but certainly his foreign policy is somewhere in the top five. Obama’s approach to foreign relations may be the worst since that of Thomas Jefferson, and is considerably worse than the previous modern champion, Jimmy Carter, who at least grasped some vague notion that things were wrong and made a few gestures at addressing them (along the lines of the Moscow Olympic boycott). Obama has made no such effort, and we can be certain he will make none. He leaves the U.S. in greater danger than at any point since the height of the Cold War.

It’s pointless to debate the reasons behind this. Speculation can be separated into two schools. The first that Obama is simply too ignorant and ill-informed to grasp the subtleties of foreign policy to any degree, and is merely following the liberal worldview on a kind of paint-by-numbers level -- college-boy pacifism, anti-Americanism, “noble savage” third-worldism, Islamism, and so on. Just keep following the formulas and things will naturally turn out right.

The other is that it’s all deliberate, a conspiracy on Obama’s part to intentionally damage and limit American influence on the world stage.

In truth, it doesn’t matter. (For the record, I lean toward the jackass interpretation, having never seen an iota of evidence that he’s bright enough to carry out anything as complex as a conspiracy.) Both would end up producing the same results. From an objective viewpoint they are indistinguishable, so no debate is necessary.

The actual question is what to do about it. Obama will be out of office in less than two years. The time is approaching for repair, renewal, and retrenchment. (Always granted that our LIVs don’t drop Hillary on us for our sins.)

So how do we go about it?

There’s no sector of American foreign relations that is undamaged. We face open aggression from Russia and China. Our allies have uniformly put the U.S. at arm’s length.  America is universally distrusted, dismissed, and held in contempt. But the worst part of this bleak picture involves the Middle East.

Obama inherited a Middle East in which, after considerable effort and cost, the U.S. had won a hard but honest victory. Our worst enemies were defeated or cowed, the Jihadi threat was well in hand, and the next steps were clear: maintain the newly established status quo and continue pressure on the remaining problem areas.

In short order, Obama transformed this benign situation into utter chaos at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Libya, Yemen, and Syria have collapsed. Iraq stands on the verge. Egypt was yanked back from the brink only by precipitate action by its military. Turkey, an American ally for generations, now stands almost openly as a sponsor of the Jihadis. Iran is months from fielding atomic weapons.

American allies in the region have lost all respect for this country, and act with no regard for U.S. interests. Behind this stands a renewed and even more vicious terrorist threat. It’s no longer a question of whether things will get worse, but when, and how much.

Obama loathed the Bush administration’s strategy in the War on Terror, the sole foreign war in which the established political opposition (of which he is a part) worked openly for America’s defeat.

Obama’s first order of business was to put the coup de grace to the Bush strategy by effectively withdrawing the U.S. from the Middle East, which he accomplished by tossing aside a “correlation of forces” agreement with Iraq’s Maliki government.

He replaced it with a completely different policy fabricated by a coven consisting of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power. The astonishing thing about this policy is that it has gone almost completely unacknowledged and unmentioned by media, academics, and members of the Foreign Service. It’s as if it doesn’t exist -- something comparable to the “secret treaties” of the late 19th century that eventually led to WW I. This secrecy allowed Obama and company to act with almost complete impunity, as well as to simply waltz away without a word of explanation when it fell apart, which it did.

As far as it’s possible to make out, the Obama Doctrine for the Mideast consisted of an abandonment of our traditional allies in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ur-terror organization that gave birth to al-Qaeda and eventually ISIS. Allowed to take over in Egypt and encouraged in several other states, the Brotherhood was treated as a government-in-waiting -- as if the Mafia was being encouraged to take over Italy.

There was a single exception to this benevolent program, that being Libya. Somebody -- Hillary or Obama or both -- saw Libya as cheap victory. Qaddafi had been effectively neutralized by the Bush administration. His nuclear program was given up without demur with the agreement that he himself would be left alone. But the Obama administration deliberately destabilized the country, with Qaddafi hunted down and raped to death by his enemies (a common practice among the inventors of algebra and pioneers in descriptive astronomy, it seems). Shortly afterward, after a virtual invitation from the State Department, the Benghazi consulate was ransacked, with the U.S. ambassador also suffering death by rape. Libya, an ancient province of Rome and long an appendage of Europe, is now in abject chaos.

There is no point in following this train of events as regards Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and so forth. The same mixture of arrogance, delusion, and incompetence has been in play, to the level of dementia. The results have been apocalyptic. All this is totally the work of the Obama administration. No other single force could have possibly caused such a catastrophe. If Obama, Hillary, Rice, Power & Co. had never existed the Middle East would be in infinitely better condition.

As to solutions, nothing is to be expected from Obama or his administration. It must be taken as a given that anything mentioned hereafter can only be put into effect following Obama’s replacement. Neither he nor any of his hirelings are capable of constructive action. If the archangel Gabriel (also a high personage of Islam, remember) were to appear with a complete, detailed, and guaranteed program, these people would still mess it up.

The situation on the ground has changed. Liberals are always the first to preach this, and the last to acknowledge it. None of the truisms regarding the region remain relevant, though you wouldn’t think so to listen to Obama, Kerry and company. Syria is no longer a power. The Palestinians have been effectively abandoned by their Arab allies. (At the same time that they’re being avidly taken up by Europe -- go figure.) The long post-colonial status quo is dead. It needs to be replaced ASAP.

The chief new reality is the de facto coalition among Israel, Egypt, and the Sunni Gulf states. This comprises a potential new source of stability in the region, a stability that has been lacking since the collapse of the Ottoman imperium. The dream of an Arab equivalent of Europe -- a region of independent nation-states united through ethnicity and religion -- lies in ruins. The possibility that it can revived are minimal. Libya, Syria, and Yemen are all failed states and, left to themselves, the UN, or Europe, will remain that way. The fantasy of nation building was punctured by Iraq and Afghanistan. These people are not only incapable of governing themselves, they are incapable of maintaining a viable social system. This role must be filled by an overarching power, as it was by the Ottomans and the European imperialists.

It must be done because we require order. This is not the 19th century. The Jihadis have clearly demonstrated a global reach. They can get at any target anywhere simply by parasitizing well-established Western communications and transportation systems. The sole way to deny them this capability is through control of the failed states that act as incubators for their mujahedin.

The United States has, through Obama, turned its back on this role. The Europeans are simply too decadent to take it up. This leaves the current coalition of Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf states. Fortunately, their enemies are our enemies. Iran and the Jihadis are even more of a threat to them than they are to us. In fact, it’s this very threat that has brought these disparate and often hostile states together. All of them seem to realize that they will hang together or hang separately at the hands of a resurgent Islamic primitivism (which one major member, Saudi Arabia, did much to encourage -- history can be very cute at times).

The two major goals in the Mideast are the defeat of the Jihadis and the denial of Iranian hegemony. The coalition can encompass both, with support from interested Western powers. Despite all the appeasement rhetoric, the Iranian nuclear threat can be shut down in short order. No one has considered the possibility that Israel might utilize tactical nukes fitted to bunker-buster warheads. These would “drill” deeply into the overhanging mountains before detonating, rendering the Iranian nuclear program unsalvageable with little in the way of fallout or residual radiation. This would a bold step on the part of Israel, but existential challenges encourage that kind of thing. Sanction from the Gulf States is likely to be easily obtained.

Iran would attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, but in the age of fracking, this is nowhere near the threat it once was. Fracking could take up a large part of the oil shortfall within months. There would be a serious economic earthquake, but the West has it coming.

Turning to the Jihadis, the long war, which the U.S. and Europe have proven incapable of maintaining, would probably be best fought by nations in the area. Saudi Arabia has valuable knowledge about these people. Israel has one of the most effective intelligence agencies in the world. Pooling their efforts should bring results that would difficult for outside actors to match. The current collaboration between the Israelis and the Egyptians could act as a model here.

Failed states such as Syria and Yemen are likely to remain non-nations on the Somalia model. As such, they will have to be controlled. Civilized forces will need to enter these degraded pea-patches on an irregular basis on punitive missions, much the same as the British mounted expeditions into Afghanistan and Somalia during the imperial period. (Libya is different, virtually bordering on the West as it does -- it must be brought under control, the sooner the better.)

This is effectively a form of neocolonialism, one that should be carried out by locals with a deep understanding of the stakes. It could of course, be “better,” in the abstract, if Somalis and Syrians could govern themselves, but they can’t, and that’s the end of it. They are a problem, and a new Mideast coalition offers a solution. Such a coalition will share goals with the West: elimination of the Iranian threat, destruction of ISIS and similar Jihadi gangs, and beyond that, a new status quo.  While such a solution is far from perfect, it is the best that can be expected from a horrendous situation.

What would the U.S. role be? Basically, everybody’s benign uncle. To act as an honest broker, mentor, and guide for both sides, to ease the natural conflicts between Jewish and Arab interests, to work out strategies and policies, and nudge either side in the right direction.

Even this is asking too much at this point. Obama has, of course, downgraded the U.S. relationship with Israel even as the new modus vivendi has been working itself out -- a remarkable development that he has ignored. There’s nothing that reveals Obama’s utter fatuity more than this. 

Even if Obama understood any of this and was interested in pursuing such a strategy, it’s well beyond his capabilities or those of anyone in his corner. (Try to picture Jen Psaki or Marie Harf attempting to so much as explain it.) It should at the top of any new president’s agenda.

Much of this is going to fall out on its own whether we like it or not – it’s unlikely, just to mention a single point, that the Israelis or Arabs will recognize U.S. leadership until the Obama curse fades from historical memory. But by accepting the inevitable, we can plan for it and concentrate our efforts to assure that results are beneficial.

J. R. Dunn


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