Some of those who defend Obama’s policy in Syria and the Middle East claim that he actually knows what he is doing, and that by referring from overt intervention he is allowing various enemies of the United States to fight on Syrian and Iraqi territories, which serves America’s interests, or so they assert. But the things to which these “experts” seem to be oblivious here is the impact of the alleged policy on the Syrian and Iraqi peoples.
With over half the population of Syria displaced, and over three million of them now registered as official refugees in nearby countries, and with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis now joining the fray as refugees, again, Obama’s policies make him complicit in genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the looming total collapse of regional order. This goes beyond being a coldhearted realist and right into being a full-fledged psychopath. I am not sure if making the President of the United States seem like a psychopath is a good defense strategy really. Some on the right are even using the same claim to vilify the President.
Even so, it is obvious by now that the alleged policy did not succeed in preempting the need for a more overt American intervention for long, especially when airstrikes against ISIS bases in Iraq now going far beyond the initially announced goal of saving Iraq’s Yezidi community; strikes which might soon spill into neighboring Syria as well, as many in Obama’s own national security team deem necessary, if not inevitable. This state of affairs makes Obama seem as much a moron as a psychopath. Again, I am not really sure if this is such a good defense strategy of the man’s aptitudes.
Personally, I prefer to attribute Obama’s policy to weakness of character and misguided ideological conviction – an understanding of foreign policy and America’s role in the world that is, simply put, out-of-time, and disconnected from contemporary geopolitical realities.
Mr. Kissinger recently posed a number of questions that the United States needs to answer if she want “to play a responsible role in the evolution of a 21st-century world order.” The questions are:
“What do we seek to prevent, no matter how it happens, and if necessary alone? What do we seek to achieve, even if not supported by any multilateral effort? What do we seek to achieve, or prevent, only if supported by an alliance? What should we not engage in, even if urged on by a multilateral group or an alliance? What is the nature of the values that we seek to advance? And how much does the application of these values depend on circumstance?”
Mr. Kissinger offers no answers, but he provides an advice of sorts by noting that
“Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America’s exceptional nature must be sustained. History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy.”
In other words, President Obama can never be offered guarantees that a new American intervention in the Middle East will be short-lived and successful. There are always risks when it comes to military action, and there is always a need for planning far beyond military action. But if the plan or the comprehensive geopolitical vision that Obama has allows for mass murder and ethnic cleaning to take place on a mass scale as an acceptable or justifiable outcome, than I doubt very much that this in any way commensurate with American values, or America’s “sense of identity.”
The idea that the President was simply paying heed to the pulse of the nation has never been convincing, but leadership sometimes, if not often, requires that the President recharge the nation by reminding her of her values, rather than allowing her to betray them.
Be that as it may though, most Americans now support airstrikes in Syria, as recent polls have shown. Level-headed thinking, however, requires that such strikes take into account not only the menace represented by ISIS, but also that represented by the continuing survival of the murderous ruling regime, and that in itself requires developing a vision for where you want the region to be fifty years from now, and not only two.
Foreign intervention is never an easy challenge, but Obama’s dithering and ambivalence have only made it worse, and more necessary than ever.