Did Obama, for Once, Make a Good Foreign-Policy Decision?
Yes, all civilized people are horrified by the gas attacks in Syria. But killing hundreds by gas still does not compare to killing hundreds of thousands by machetes and axe handles in Rawanda or with conventional weapons in Dafur. And dare anyone mention the some four thousand deaths and ten thousand casualties Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons visited upon the Kurds in 1988? The world barely yawned over the slaughter. Now, in Syria, our moral indignation is aroused.
It is time to stop being the world’s policeman and to recognize that American blood and treasure are not to be squandered in every one of the world’s rat holes because the likes of Samantha Power have a savior complex and, until now, Barack Obama did not seem to know better.
The only nations with a security interest in Syria are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Israelis, and, suddenly, Turkey. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Israel fear the completion of the Shi’ia crescent extending from Tehran to Beirut. The Saudis, the Israelis, and even the Kuwaitis appealed to George W. Bush not to invade Iraq and change the balance of power in the Gulf. It was one of those times when the Saudis' security interest was indeed our security interest. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have been supporting the militants in Syria because Assad has become an important part of Iran’s hegemonic reach in the region. Even the Jews are less of a problem to the Saudis and the Emirates than are the Shiites.
As for Turkey, Obama’s naivete is underscored by having relied on Tayyip Erdogan as his mentor on Middle East policy. Erdogan tilted Turkey toward Iran when he perceived that American weakness would be replaced by Iranian hegemonic ascension. But with the impending collapse of Syria, a key player in the Iranian strategy, Erdogan is pursuing dreams of a revived Turkish “sultanate” as a competitor to Iran. Erdogan’s flagrant opportunism has caused everyone to distrust him, from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Israelis. Only the naïve Barack Obama still values his counsel.
To America, it does not matter if fundamentalist Sunni militants or Assad runs Syria. Our intervention in Iraq had a more profound effect in undermining our strategic interests than anything that could follow. The best course of action is to wish both sides in Syria every success.
As for the use of poison gas, that is an issue for the international community, not for Barack Obama, even if the Congress assents.
For once in international affairs, Obama made a good decision. We should encourage him to stick to it.