Foreign Policy Experts Provide the 'Solutions' Obama's Looking For

President Obama has said he was going to pivot away from the Middle East, but no one thought what he really meant was abandonment.  Regarding this area of the world, the president has had the view that it's his way or no way by his constant claims that his critics do not have any solutions.  American Thinker interviewed foreign policy experts for their opinions.

Shortly after September 11, President Bush spoke of the axis of evil.  It appears that it really exists today, with the bedfellows of Iran, Syria, Hezb'allah, and Russia.  Iran has sent ground troops from its elite Quds Forces into Syria in support of Russian air strikes against ISIS forces and those opposing Assad.  Those ground troops are being commanded by Iran's Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the very general who, while still under sanctions, flew to Moscow to meet personally with Vladmir Putin last July.  People should also not forget that wherever Iran goes, not far behind is its terrorist proxy, Hezb'allah, and that President Obama gave in to all of Iran's demands with the nuclear deal.

As the Obama administration is cementing the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran is buddying with Putin.  As a presidential candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has consistently emphasized the need for a commander in chief who understands this region and has the will to take the fight to America's enemies when they directly threaten America's safety and interests.  He told American Thinker, "I do believe it is imperative for Congress to push back against Iran in the region, including their continuing support of Assad.  The Senate needs to focus on Iran's disruptive behavior.  Everything is related, and make no mistake: what Russia is doing in Syria is a slap in the face to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.  The president won't articulate the threats, ignores them, or undersells what is actually happening.  Just as Vladimir Putin has exposed President Obama's weakness by sending troops into Syria, the ayatollah is demonstrating to the world that U.S. leadership under Obama is in retreat." 

Former ambassador to Oman Gary Grappo, who also was the chief of mission of the Quartet in Jerusalem, echoes what others have told American Thinker: that the Iranian deal has shown how America has compromised its leadership role in the region.  He says that with everything going on in the Middle East, "one of the critical actions this president must now do is make it a fundamental element of U.S. policy in the region that we will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.  Moreover, we must make it clear that we are prepared to take all necessary measures to ensure it does not get one.  The big question is, will this president say it, and would it be believed?"  Ambassador Grappo further pointed out that this administration has a sad and disturbing track record of failures in the area, including Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the rise of ISIS. 

Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, warns that Iran has shown no signs of moderating its behavior.  "The only country in the greater Middle East from Afghanistan to Morocco that will be better off and is definitely better off today than it was when President Obama took office is Iran.  It is tragic.  After the deal, their behavior got worse, just as I said it would, because they are more empowered and less constrained."

Speaking of more empowered, Vladimir Putin's name comes to mind.  Unfortunately, President Obama has not heeded the sentiments of past Democrat presidents.  As Vice President Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney point out in their book Exceptional, President Roosevelt in 1940 convinced a war-weary and isolationist-leaning country to join WWII because America has an obligation as "the defender of freedom" and "the arsenal of democracy."  And in 1962, Kennedy said, "The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war."

Not so with President Obama.  He has allowed Putin to take the lead in Syria, as Russian fighter jets are bombing both ISIS and anti-Assad forces, as well as watching closely where U.S. drones are flying and what they are aiming at.  Withdrawing all troops from Iraq accelerated and deepened the situation, creating a vacuum filled by Russia.

Can Putin, thanks to President Obama's inaction, increase his influence in this region?  Former prime minister Tony Blair emphasized that Putin responds only to strength.  Michael Hayden agrees, since "Putin pushes as long as nobody pushes back.  The administration saying he will regret that decision is not the basis for sound foreign policy.  He may very well be making dumb decisions, but it does not mean they are not bad decisions for us, too.  Yet in the short term, Putin is doing fine, gaining influence and the ability to shape the final outcome."

Vice President Cheney told American Thinker it comes down to leadership with our allies, and we will "only hold the respect of our adversaries if they do not believe we are significantly weaker.  Because of President Obama's policies, a tremendous signal has been sent: that we are unable to influence events in the world.  What really bugs me is how he put a future president at a disadvantage to play the role of defender."

But Hayden points out that Putin's Russia is also weak, considering that it is a declining power, has a military nowhere near what it used to be and an economy the size of Italy, and "is an irritating nation with regional intentions.  [Putin] is doing all this with only a pair of sevens in his hand.  However, this is not something that will get better by our ignoring it.  It is our problem.  President Obama criticized President Bush for doing too much.  He can be criticized for doing too little."

Hayden wants Americans to understand that Syria is of vital interest because "the U.S. becomes collateral damage.  There are thousands of refugees streaming into Europe.  Then it becomes only a matter of time before they come here.  The continual existence of a terrorist state there is not good.  The solutions I would recommend include having safe havens, one north and one south.  I would tell the Russians not to interfere with it in any way.  We need ground forces for logistic and intelligence purposes that are embedded with friendly forces.  This would allow the air strikes to have greater precision.  We need a more aggressive use of our specialists.  We also need to invest in new military equipment and a stronger budget, because the world is getting more complicated, and our need for an armed forces becomes greater.  But what I would not do is send large numbers of American combat forces, since that would be self-defeating."

It has become obvious that it is not the critics, but President Obama who does not have any viable solutions.  What is happening in the Middle East is directly connected to President Obama's policies and lack of a strategy.  As Quinn said in a recent Homeland TV show episode, "what strategy?  Tell me what the strategy is, and I will tell you if it is working."

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.