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The Double-Dealing Middle East Is Double-Dealt

November 4th, 2013 - 7:02 pm

obama_shell_game_big_11-3-13-1

Boo-hoo, Middle East

About every day or so, a throat-clearing Middle East pundit weighs in to warn us of the Obama’s administration’s dereliction of traditional American engagement. They rightly lament “lead from behind” in Libya. After Benghazi, Libya has turned into something like Somalia. Far more are dying there from sectarian chaos than during the latter years of the hated Moammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship.

The Sunni reactionary establishment of the Gulf is right to deplore Obama’s incoherent flip-flop-flips in Egypt and Syria. The oil lords logically conclude that a directionless president will do nothing to stop Iran’s race to get a bomb — and all the subsequent Middle East WMD catch-ups to match it.

Even Obama’s pet Turkey seems confused that its favorite administration is now nowhere to be seen. The Iraqis were given a fresh start after the surge and hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. aid — and still claimed that they wanted the U.S. out. Obama gladly called their hand. Now, left to themselves, they are reverting to the pre-surge violence, whining about security and sectarianism — and back asking us for even more money. Rule One: never bluff an isolationist to yank all his forces from your country.

After twelve years, it is clear that triple-dealing President Hamid Karzai never made the reforms in Afghanistan that he promised. Now he will soon be on his own too, as Kabul comes to resemble the disaster of Saigon, 1975. He is correct in lamenting U.S. withdrawal, and yet about the most unsympathetic of the many unattractive dependents American has acquired in the Middle East.

Visitors from an alien planet might conclude of the region that Saddams come and go. Arab Springs and Cedar and Green Revolutions rise and fall. Socialists and fascists, Islamists and Baathists all wax and wane. All the while, the Middle East — statist, authoritarian, anti-democratic, religiously intolerant, tribal, misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and exploitive — stays mostly the same and so in a way earns the wide varieties of awful government that it suffers from.

In response to complaints of American retreat, National Security Advisor Susan Rice doubled down on the Obama neo-isolationism. She shrugged that, other than worries over an Iranian bomb, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and free commerce in and out of the Persian Gulf, the U.S. can no longer be all that bothered about regional violence, much less think it can push down reluctant throats Western-style consensual government. She at least hit upon one point, in the sense that U.S. abdication was a sort of payback for past ingratitude.

Such retrenchment may be disastrous. Indeed, the region, in response, is certainly heating up as the U.S. backs off.  Vladimir Putin seems eager to fill the void. The Shiite-Sunni wars escalate. Al-Qaeda has spread and multiplied. China will come in to protect its own huge oil appetites. Christians will vanish from the region.

The Obama administration most likely is pulling in its horns for a variety of practical reasons. In general, in the era of sequestration and still massive deficits, it is cutting back on lots of defense and forward deployment. Obama believes that every dollar spent on defense abroad comes at the expense of a lost food stamp or one less disability check at home.

In addition, Obama himself in the past has questioned the accepted notion of American exceptionalism. In some sense, he thinks that there is not necessarily anything special about American history or its values that would justify its moral right or practical ability to intervene in problems abroad. Indeed, between apologies and bows he has made the point far better than any anti-American tinhorn dictator.

Again, in response, a tired public shrugs the equivalent of “whatever.” In theory, it understands that any time the U.S. stays home, others less lawful and stable take up the slack — and the ensuing chaos comes back to haunt us. But voters are exhausted by Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya — and the ingratitude that seems to follow from those who were beneficiaries of vast investments in American blood and treasure.  Americans are collectively sighing that, in relation to whatever we do in the Middle East, Middle Easterners have a grating propensity for scapegoating America for their own self-inflicted miseries.

We are blamed for putting in the shah of Iran. Or is it that we are faulted for allowing the Khomeinists to take over and wreck Iran? Should we support democratic reformers? We did just that all during the Bush administration with its freedom agenda to the point of ensuring that Iraq oil was transparent and off-limits to American companies, while sacrificing much to foster democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And the response? Bush, the best friend that reformers in the Middle East ever had, was mostly derided by Middle-East intellectuals, variously written off as a neocon Israeli puppet, a war criminal, a naïf pushing unworkable democratic government among traditional Arab societies, as a callous realist intriguer who propped up pro-American thugs like Hosni Mubarak, or as an unreliable ally who unfairly pressured authoritarians like Hosni Mubarak. In the Middle East, there is a conspiracy theory for every day of the week.

In sum, the American people think the Middle East is, well, the Middle East: support democracy and we are derided as cultural chauvinists, Western interventionists, and clueless about the nuances of Arab culture. Support the existing status quo, and we care only about oil, not the masses, and geopolitics rather than democratic reform. Stay out entirely and we have abdicated moral responsibility. Intervene and we are “nation-building” in the old colonial fashion.

It is hard for Americans to keep up with all this, much less take Middle East intellectuals seriously, given their lockstep and boring anti-Americanism. No wonder the American people seem to have become tired of this wink-and-nod con. Their exhaustion has proved a godsend to Obama, who can be naturally both weak and indecisive, and not necessarily in the short-term unpopular at home for such laxity. Again, for a variety of other reasons, he wanted to vacate the region and forget about violence against sympathetic Christians, Iraqi reformers, Afghan women, and anyone else who hoped for something better. Conniving Arab leaders and whiny intellectuals helped to give him his opening.

Oil is still an important consideration, but now ironically so. For the last half-century, Arabs have damned the West for developing the Middle East oil industry, for supposedly supporting authoritarian oil sheiks who sell petroleum at astronomical prices to the U.S. and Europe, buy Western weapons, live it up on Western junkets in quite anti-Koranic fashion, and then manage to buy off their own publics to table any ideas of social or political liberalization. They have gotten rich off their oil that someone else found and developed; and they have embargoed it, price-gouged it, and used it as blackmail.

But now the U.S. and North America are nearing self-sufficiency in oil and gas production. The United States soon will not need much Middle East or Mediterranean oil. Perhaps the oil-hungry Chinese and Europeans can deal better with Sunnis, Shiites, Baathists, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the theocrats in Iran, Bashir Assad, the coup in Egypt, and whoever is rioting, blowing themselves up, or storming an embassy this week.

In sum, Middle-East teenage strutting, pontification, boutique anti-Americanism, brutal anti-Western terrorism, and general game-playing were always predicated on one common denominator: the parent U.S. felt it just had to put up with the whining of the adolescent Middle East.

America either needed Middle East oil, or it had humanitarian concerns and wanted greater freedom and prosperity for millions of the oppressed. Or it once worried about Soviet communism, then al-Qaeda fundamentalism, and then Iranian weapons. Or it ensured that the world’s sea lanes in and out of the Persian Gulf and Suez Canal were open and safe. Or it protected Europe’s southern flank when Europe itself would not. Or it worried about vulnerable Israel.

The American taxpayer always needed coaxing to keep committed to all that.

Yet with Obama something quite new followed: a true isolationist and neo-neutralist president. A cool Barack Hussein Obama, who referenced his paternal connections to Islam and who was a proud man of the Left. A president who was skeptical of Israel and, with an eye to public support, a critic of past U.S. interventions. He wanted out of the region at all costs. The American people, tired of serial wars abroad, snoozed their agreement.

And now? The double-dealing Middle East is double-dealt — and shocked, shocked! — that anyone would be, well, so double-dealing!

Obamism could not have happened to a nicer region.

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock images.)

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Top Rated Comments   
Analyzing Obama's policy-making is tricky because his motives are layered, and some of the layers are at cross purposes to others. For instance Van Jones this week mocked Obama's opponents as deranged for claiming that Obama is “absent, weak and ineffectual” and a “dictator and tyrant who's destroying America” in the same breath. It's always interesting when an open Communist revolutionary like Jones crafts a sound-bite because they usually try to inject a bit of disinformation into every defense they make. Thus Van Jones says we are deranged, yet it is possible to claim that Obama is both incompetent and tyrannical. Incompetent in terms of implementing workable policy, tyrannical in his overall approach to the presidency.

For instance. those of us who are not dazzled by Obama's glamor and deception can see for ourselves that he is weak. His first debate with Romney last year showed that clearly. He almost instantly wilted in the face of even mild, direct factual argumentation. He turned into a sullen, petulant child in front of the entire nation. He is ineffective because like most with pure academic backgrounds, he doesn't understand how the real world, the world of cantankerous humans, of solid mass, of chaos and inertia, of momentum and entropy get in the way of idealized formulations, abstract equations and theoretical constructs. As for absent, well, all we have to do is cite the rollout of Obamacare to see that he takes no personal interest in the actual implementation of even the most signature of his signature accomplishments as President; though such negligence can and does negatively affect the lives of abstract millions that he claims to care about.

As for the tyrannical side, most of us fail to understand that there are two deeper layers that drive collectivist-statists of all kinds: 1) the raw will to power, and below that 2) a profound nihilism which stems from a rejection of consciousness itself, usually out of a combination of childhood fear and pain, which severs the individual's ability to truly bond with other humans. And so yes, there is a tyrannical essence beneath Obama's incompetence. You see it in his readiness to use executive order to bypass a reluctant Congress, or truculent public. You see it when he publicly refers to white people as “enemies”. You see it in how his TSA, NSA, IRS etc. conduct themselves...

Beyond that it's important to remember that Obama is only one part of a much wider leftist-globalist network in the form of think-tanks, NGO's, crony-capitalists, robber-barons, petty dictators and other like-minded politicians around the world, who are very much interested in breaking US military dominance and snatching up slices of the global economy. That is the over-riding agenda, and the basic strategy is to yoke the US electorate by nudging it into a quasi-totalitarian mold. The middle-east is a good example of that. The Muslim Brotherhood and other groups induce Obama to exert US power to create favorable conditions for them; this suits Obama's generally anti-American agenda, rough plans and flimsy objectives are good enough because it's all theoretical anyways, and if nothing works out as advertised, well, at least there's the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with having spread the chaos and damaged the U.S.'s interests and reputation.

So Van Jones is actually telling us a subtle truth, despite his incompetence as a constructive problem solver, Obama is an extremely competent sower of chaos and tyranny. That is to say that while objectives are tyrannical, he is adept at couching them as unintended consequences of otherwise well meaning policy-making. This is classic Alinksy on steroids and is ultimately why Obama was selected to be President.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The middle-east's share of unlovely sages is matched only by the bottom feeders at the UN and scummiest hypocrites in US and european media. 'Boutique anti-Americanism' is polite.

But washing your hands won't cut it: in the real world, we're stuck with the results. The most disastrous effect of O's make-it-up-as-you-go flailing is to hang out Israel to twist in the breeze.

A rare recent ray of sunlight: John Bolton may be unique among A-team public figures in the US. He not only knows harvest time is near, he says so openly and clearly:
http://tinyurl.com/nm5cqmm
...but he can't determine the outcome either.

Israel has just one shot to get it right, and we're near midnight. Reality is there will be no useful, useable, timely help from this US gov't. Israeli faces extermination. Almost nobody knows all the factors, but you can still ask yourself:
What would you do, and how can you help?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Doc- remember Sparta.
Playing a hand close to the vest is the best way.
Oh, and - the Progressive Messiah isn't an isolationist. He is a Third World Avenger. Anything he does in foreign policy is designed to punish and weaken America.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (65)
All Comments   (65)
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It would be very interesting if the Russians suddenly struck a deal with the Israelis to buy all that Mediterranean natural gas Israel just discovered last year. Suddenly Putin would be interested in keeping Israel's enemies on a short leash. And the loss of guaranteed oil money would impoverish the middle east to levels not seen since the 1800's. No more money for jihad.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're banking on them placing their inherent anti-Semitism behind their business interests....I don't think Putin's capable of that. Hatred of Israel and Jews is in his DNA. Not a student of Putin so I could be underestimating his shrewd business instincts, but he resembles more of a thug and a thug's emotions usually overrule their business instincts (over time).
(I know - a rational thug is somewhat of an oxymoron but I think of it more like a survival instinct)
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am getting frustrated. I saw several comments asking why Obama was not called on not participating in the so-called "peace process".

If only that were true! Obama/Kerry is currently making us (in Israel) release a large number of convicted murderers, certified monsters, for this idol of a "peace process" - and Abba has stated that he will not sign an agreement until the last murderer is set free (as if he would in any case!).

So not only do our enemies learn the valuable lesson that murdering Jews has no penalty, but the citizens of the country making us do this don't even know it's happening?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...this idol of a 'peace process'..."--mzk

Yes, it is an idol. And an illusion. When will an Israeli politician stand up and say straight out that a "peace process" is not the same as "peace"?
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kipling nailed in "White Man's Burden" But that is an unPC name so substitute "America's Burden" and it could have been written last week.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
When Iranian nukes are placed on Venezuelan missiles Obamas chickens will have come home to roost.

Sept. 11th proved that isolationism is a fatal illusion.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
"All the while, the Middle East — statist, authoritarian, anti-democratic, religiously intolerant, tribal, misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and exploitive — stays mostly the same and so in a way earns the wide varieties of awful government that it suffers from."

On the other hand, the weather over there can be nice in the springtime.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The weather over here is wonderful (come visit), but I would guess up here on Mount Carmel we get about two weeks of fall following winter and before summer. Mostly summer, and we are not in the desert by any means. It doesn't rain in the summer, by the way.

It's cooler in Jerusalem, but it doesn't usually get that cold.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm now in the "let them go to hell" crowd. I once thought Muslim countries could be democratic, I no longer believe that. The only exception are the Kurds, our only true Muslim friends. Please correct me if there is anyone else.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
More than 50% of US Government Spending Goes into the Military

http://www.globalresearch.ca/more-than-50-of-us-government-spending-goes-to-the-military
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good, I'm glad that some of my tax money goes to something worthwhile.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
BS, the Federal Government is spending $3.8 trillion in 2013, of that $666 Billion is budgeted for the Department of Defense. That's 17% not 50%, and if you add in spending by State and Local governments, it's a much lower percentage of total US government spending. The fact is US Defense spending has been about 4% of GDP for decades.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not according to the Whitehouse OMB:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2014/assets/tables.pdf

2012 total outlays, $3,537 billion ... Dept of Defense, $671 billion. That's more like 19%.

You can only get a "More than 50%" number by ignoring all non-discretionary spending. Non-discretionary spending is still spending. At least Defense spending is listed in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
As it should since that is a constitutional function...unlike SS and other forms of welfare.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Israel is to the Middle-East what Chicago is to Illinois. They're close by but different worlds. We on the right believe that people should make it or break it on their own. Same with countries. But if there are shared ideals and mutual interests, alliances are helpful. The reward the USA gets from an alliance with Israel is more spiritual than the oil based alliances with the arabs. It's just hard to see something spiritual.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Intelligence (information). Slavish support of your foreign policy (except when you're busy condemning us). A guaranteed friendly port. Technology. More intelligence.

And a country that wants to be an ally but is 100% willing to have its own boys defend itself (except for when you stop us from doing so).
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think now is the perfect time to develop a grand vision for the region.

The West lost its taste for religious conflict during the Thirty Year's War. Unfortunately Islam has never had that learning experience and would profit from it.

The way to go is back off, and with a wink and nudge, let the Iranians and the Arab Shia know that we would view their success in the area with favor.

Then you make and break alliances to keep a rough balance while they bleed dry. Where is Brother Joseph now that we really need him
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have a point, VDH. While Obama's Middle East policy has been one of naivety, dishonesty and reckless ineptitude, sucking up to our enemies and selling out our friends, the net result for the region is a startled realization that without US involvement they are left to deal with their ugly problems on their own.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, here in Israel our problem IS the Middle East.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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