Obama's Seven New Pillars of Middle East Wisdom (Part Two)

(Note: Since I wrote this, the sixth pillar has become more important. For the first three pillars, click here.)


4. Terrorist blackmail and other pressure should determine U.S. policy.

Since American policy needs to retreat rather than raise the flag, more than 20 embassies were closed due to alleged al-Qaida threats. The reason this kind of fear, lack of credibility, and abandonment of deterrence is unwise is not even comprehended any more in Western policymaking circles.

The concern that the Muslim Brotherhood will turn to a war of terrorism if it doesn't get power returned to it in Egypt is also supposed to overwhelm other considerations of U.S. interests. The fear that the Palestinians will push for statehood in the UN and international court causes panic that the United States cannot resist this supposed tidal wave. Other demands, especially when linked to positions on gender or other special interests, take precedence over demands of U.S. allies, even with Saudi Arabia now denouncing European sanctions against Hezbollah as inadequate.

5. Syria must be an Islamist state.

This has been a major priority during the Syrian civil war. The incumbent Syrian regime should not only be overthrown, but that its replacement should be Islamist, and preferably Muslim Brotherhood. A shocking but major hint regarding this was provided by a high-ranking CIA official, who claimed Syria was the top threat to U.S. security.

Bringing Islamist rule to Syria with a larger component of armed radicals has become central to U.S. policy. There are two central themes behind this policy: ensure that al-Qaida -- considered the ultimate and perhaps sole threat to U.S. interests -- does not come to power instead; and keep most of the power away from the Salafists, thus bringing about “moderate Islamism.”

This is what is meant in official documents, such as this excerpt describing the position agreed on by Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan:

The president and prime minister discussed the danger of foreign extremists in Syria and agreed on the importance of supporting a unified and inclusive Syrian opposition.

 At the same time, U.S. policy has been stymied. The American people and government do not want to intervene directly; the rebels cannot win without direct intervention (and more Western involvement at least); and intervention is also discouraged by the bad (radical Islamist) reputation of the rebels to Western publics.