Elections Have Consequences...
Several years ago, a rising politician asked me to write a policy paper on why Israel was a strategic asset to the United States. While the subject matter seemed commonsensical, explaining it to the average American, which was the purpose of the paper, was quite a different matter. The premise of the argument rested upon the concept of the Pax Americana that had helped to maintain peace in the Middle East for decades.
Pax Americana refers to the stability and peace that had been established post-World War II in various regions throughout the world due to the military and economic power of the United States. When America projects its influence into a region, stability ensues -- not necessarily democracy but a relatively peaceful coexistence enforced by America's might. When American power recedes, a vacuum is left behind and the bad guys see an opportunity to move in. While there are citizens who do not support America's role as the world's policeman, it is difficult to argue that by fulfilling that role in the Mideast, America's strategic interests were not successfully met for decades.
Unfortunately, Americans elected a man who not only does not believe in projecting American influence abroad, but who resents America's historic role, and apologizes to the world for our past transgressions. In "pivoting to Asia," "leading from behind," prematurely withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, reaching out to dictators with promises of reset relationships, and pursuing the folly that if only Israel were to make peace with the Palestinians, peace in the region would prevail, Obama has left a void -- and the region in shambles.
Who and what will fill that vacuum is what we see playing out now. And due to the lack of American leadership and influence, the region is suffocating in chaos, turmoil, death, and anti-Americanism on steroids. Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Jordan were once stable countries that are now either mired in civil war or on the brink of collapse. The Iraqi democracy built with U.S. blood and treasure is crumbling and the Taliban is back on the rise in Afghanistan. And no matter how many times Obama claims that al Qaeda is in retreat and the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate, it is undeniable that terrorists and Islamists are on the march. And the administration has not only done nothing to prevent it, it has aided and abetted those who seek to destroy us.
When Obama was elected, Americans were not concerned about foreign policy. He was supported by Americans who either suffered from Bush-Derangement Syndrome, had drunk the "Hope and Change" Kool-aid, wished to transform America through socialist economic policies, cast a ballot based solely on the color of Obama's skin, or were simply ignorant about who they were electing. A decorated Vietnam War veteran and decades-long member of Congress was no match for lofty speeches filled with soaring rhetoric. With promises of bringing out troops home and diplomatic solutions to deal with deranged terrorists and Islamists (not to mention the healing of the planet), Americans elected an inexperienced ideologue who lacked personal achievement and the basic qualifications for the office of the presidency.
For those of us who understand on even the most simplistic of levels the importance of America's role in the world, chaos under an Obama administration was wholly predictable. For us, foreign policy was a primary concern and we did not vote for Obama. But for the majority of the populace who had little understanding of how the world works and for whom 9/11 was a distant memory, voting for the man who promised to fundamentally transform America was a dream come true.
Unfortunately for the country -- and the world -- the American people twice voted for a man who is not competent to serve the country in any capacity, let alone as the chief executive and commander-in-chief. And as the world is discovering,elections have consequences. Eight years of American withdrawal on the world stage, of incompetent management of the world's sole policeman, and unrealistic hopes of diplomatic solutions with irrational tyrants do not bode well for the civilized world. Daniel Henninger observed:
Those who think their president can begin reversing all this in 2017 are dreaming. A sinking world power is the heaviest lift imaginable. Ask Winston Churchill....
The American decline put in motion under this presidency is real, not speculative. We are not at the edge of the cliff, but in September 2013 we are at a serious inflection point.
The problem is not just Obama's incompetence, but also that of every member of his administration serving in any kind of decision-making capacity. Not one of these individuals understands the Mideast from its complicated history to its complex set of players. And they have certainly never proposed any type of policy -- realistic or otherwise -- to deal with its myriad issues and challenges. Biden opposed the surge that saved Iraq while proposing to slice the country in three. Hagel's time in the Senate left behind nothing remarkable other than a record reflecting animosity toward our strongest ally in the region, Israel. Samantha Power has contemplated invading that ally and is the brains behind "responsibility to protect" which led to the Libya disaster (Tucker Carlson best described Power as having a "freshman seminar view of the world"). Susan Rice will be remembered for lying to the American public about the Benghazi attacks.
At State, Clinton spent a tremendous amount of money traveling the world to accomplish absolutely nothing while the Arab Spring was blossoming into a possible world war (yes, we could be witnessing the beginning of World War III if WMD end up in the wrong hands). And Kerry, Assad's former BFF and a man who has shown his own disdain for U.S might, has simply stepped in to pick up the pieces left by Clinton before she jumped ship. Both secretaries were also against the surge.
No wonder we see headlines such as:
● "Unserious Commander-in-Chief" ("And yet here is Obama, having done nothing yet but hesitate, threaten, retract, and wander about the stage...")
● "How not to run a foreign policy" (Surely this episode will be studied in schools of government for decades, as an example of how foreign policy should never be conducted")
● "The Benching of Uncle Sam" ("Mr. Obama is looking like the dog who ran away from the car.... He is shirking presidential responsibility for the U.S.'s role in the world.")
● "Barack Obama's Staggering Incompetence" ("This latest volte-face by the president is evidence of a man who is completely overmatched by events, weak and confused.... Rarely has an American president joined so much cynicism with so much ineptitude.")
● "The Democrats' 'Smart Power' Lies in Ruins," (quoting Anthony H. Cordesman: "When Samuel Beckett wrote "Waiting for Godot,' he was not writing an instruction manual on strategy for American Presidents. Unfortunately, however, that seems to be the instruction manual President Obama has read.")
● "Obama's Middle East Disaster Area" (We have an unserious man for a serious time").
This was wholly predictable -- the man arrived in the Oval Office ill-equipped to take on his responsibilities and the electorate simply did not care.
We are continually told that Americans are war weary. I am not convinced. I believe that if Obama were to take to the airwaves this week and articulate a policy that described a plan to alter the direction of the war in Syria and why it is in the nation's best interests to do so (instead of "cover-my-ass since I really screwed this one up"), the American people might back a military intervention. Great minds may differ but the messaging has fallen short nonetheless.
With comparisons to Hamlet and SNL's Emily Litella and nicknames such as Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom, Obama's flip-flops, leaks, ineptitude, and indecisiveness playing out on the world stage is an embarrassment. And they have, in just under five years, resulted in a Mideast in flames, Putin and Iran heading toward a regional hegemony in our stead, and the world laughing at us.
This is not only the result of Obama's failures. It is the result of an American people who get their news from Jon Stewart and who did not prioritize national security. The single-issue voters cared more about a woman's right to an abortion, gay marriage, global warming, and a sundry other relatively meaningless issues in the face of a world threatened by rising Islamic fundamentalism (a term that the administration will not use and a war that it will not acknowledge). And they did so less than a decade after the 9/11 attacks.
In another decade, America may be gone entirely from the Mideast, which could very well be dominated by a nuclear Iran in partnership with a new superpower in the form of Putin's Russia -- whether or not Israel survives the challenges is anyone's guess. But all will be good here at home in our isolated cocoon because free abortions will be available to anyone not in a gay marriage, wind turbines will be seen along the side of every highway carrying battery-operated cars, a single-payer health-care system will be thrust upon all, and 10s of millions of Americans will be dependent on government for food, housing, education and the like.
About that time historians will begin writing texts on the decline of America that began in 2008 when its citizens elected an incompetent, empty-suit ideologue. Or just maybe, the Syria fiasco will be enough to wake Americans up to the fact that the POTUS must understand the world and lead it through the projection of American will and might. If that happens, it may still be possible to stop the decline the world is breathlessly witnessing and rebuild a Pax Americana that will once again protect us and our allies.