October 2, 2012
WEAK HORSE: Hunt for Obama’s Middle East Policy Comes Up Empty, Jeffrey Goldberg writes at Bloomberg News:
Yet all we have from Obama is passivity, which is a recurring theme in the administration’s approach to the Middle East. So is “aggressive hedging,” a term used by the Brookings Institution’s Shadi Hamid to describe Obama’s strange reluctance to clearly choose sides in the uprisings of the Arab Spring.
“There’s a widespread perception in the region that Obama is a weak, somewhat feckless president,” Hamid, who runs the Brookings Doha Center, told me. “Bush may have been hated, but he was also feared, and what we’ve learned in the Middle East is that fear, sometimes at least, can be a good thing. Obama’s aggressive hedging has alienated both sides of the Arab divide. Autocrats, particularly in the Gulf, think Obama naively supports Arab revolutionaries, while Arab protesters and revolutionaries seem to think the opposite.”
Leaders across the Middle East don’t take Obama’s threats seriously. Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the Arab leaders of the Gulf countries believe he’ll act militarily against Iran’s nuclear program in his second term.
“When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed — that’s slavery,” Obama said in a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. “It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world. Now, as a nation, we’ve long rejected such cruelty.”
But for the third year in a row, Obama has waived almost all U.S. sanctions that would punish certain countries that use child soldiers, upsetting many in the human rights community.
None of which should seem very “unexpectedly” at this point — even to Bloomberg.