September 15, 2013

JEFF JACOBY ON Obama’s Mideast Power Vacuum.

Having won a difficult war in Iraq, the United States should have settled in for the long haul, just as we did in Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korea, where tens of thousands of American troops remain to this day. Instead President Obama pulled the troops out, as he had always made clear he would. Iraq’s fragile constitutional democracy, so hard-won, was left to fend for itself. Al Qaeda in Iraq, all but wiped out, gained a new lease on life. Now a new generation of Americans, including young Alex, is learning that the loss of US influence makes the world a more menacing place.

We are nearly five years into a presidency whose foreign policy is driven by the conviction that America’s profile in the world, above all the Muslim world, must be lowered. “One of the things I intend to do as president is restore America’s standing in the world,” Obama vowed as he pursued the presidency in 2008. Abandoning Iraq wasn’t the way to do it. America’s standing in the world has reached a new low. So low that even Bashar Assad can thumb his nose at an explicit presidential “red line” — then laugh as Vladimir Putin effortlessly suckers Washington into doing nothing about it.

George W. Bush made plenty of mistakes, but he understood the difference between leading and “leading from behind.”

Bush had different objectives, too.