Filed under: Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, The United States | Tags: Disengaging From The World, Iraq in Chaos, The Advance of ISIS
No president in my memory has so often referred to himself as “the President of the United States of America”or as “the Commander in Chief,” as if he needs to keep reminding everyone of his importance. Perhaps I’m being unfair. George W. Bush often said of himself “I’m the decider.” That seemed to me to be a humble statement that the troubles of the world landed on his desk and he had to make a difficult decision—whether it turned out well or ill. As I said, perhaps I’m being unfair.
But Bush was right. Decisions have to be made. We may make a decision about Iraq, but as in all conflicts, the other side gets a vote. The Obama administration has admitted that they were blindsided by the ISIS invasion of Iraq and their rapid progress. Obama is accustomed to, well, dithering. He doesn’t like foreign affairs. He likes traveling with an enormous entourage to other countries and making a speech or two, but he came to office convinced that America was a world bully, interfering in other countries, and was no more exceptional than any other country. He has followed a deliberate policy of disengaging from the world and its quarrels.
We called it “the Apology Tour” when Obama made his way around the world bowing to foreign rulers and apologizing for our influence in world affairs. Democrats were offended at the name, but is that really what Democrats believe, that we should fail to assert a positive influence over world events? Or have they remained too enamored with Obama himself to have given it much thought? The world clearly expects more American leadership. Many countries have not done much about raising a military or acquiring major weapons because we were there.
Obama drew a red line that did not faze Assad, turned the Syrian bloodbath over to Vladimir Putin, which undoubtedly led the Russian president to launch his claim on the Crimea and his aggression against Ukraine. Obama frequently cites polls showing American “war weariness,” but just what is meant by that is not clear. America had won the War in Iraq, and Obama just wanted out. As Elliott Abrams said:
So we got out, fully, completely, cleanly—unless you ask about the real world of Iraq instead of the imaginary world of campaign speeches. We could no longer play the role we had played in greasing relations between Kurds, Shia and Sunnis, and in constraining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian excesses. The result was an Iraq spinning downward into the kind of Sunni-Shia confrontation we had paid so dearly to stop in 2007 and 2008, and ISIS—the newest moniker for al Qaeda in Iraq—saw its chance, and took it.
So we’re back in Iraq—Obama has sent 300 military advisers. That’s a very small number.
I’m inclined to believe that just as members of a family have trouble getting along, so the natural state of world affairs is not peace and harmony. That doesn’t mean that we must be eternally engaged in war. Weakness invites ambitious nations to act on their ambitions.
Putin has long regarded the collapse of the Soviet Union as a disaster and wants to restore its position as a world power. The Mullahs in Iran are quite clear about their ambitions regarding the Great Satan and the Little Satan. The newly enriched and increasingly dangerous fanatics of ISIS have already warned that they will see us in New York. Germany has said the United States must consider a renewed military intervention. “It’s the Americans’ task to deal with security in Iraq.” The French place the direct cause of the Iraqi implosion on Obama’s decision to back off from air strikes against the Assad regime last August as the fatal step.
Here are some excellent pieces on our current dilemma:
- “The West at its Worst: America is weak, Europe is afraid, and the brutal men in Iraq and Iran all know it.” by John Vinocur, The Wall Street Journal
- “Obama’s World Disorder:” by Victor Davis Hanson, Defining Ideas, The Hoover Institution
- “Revisionist history prevails on Iraq Invasion:” by Victor Davis Hanson, Tribune Content Agency
- “The Man Who Broke the Middle East:” by Elliott Abrams, Politico Magazine
- “Obama’s Foreign-Policy Failures Go Far Beyond Iraq: Retreat abroad and bigger government at home has made the U.S. weaker.” by George Melloan, The Wall Street Journal