A Pattern of Appeasement and Retreat

Take two headlines, one about Iraq, the other about Afghanistan.  The Iraqis told us to honor our signed agreement, and pull out all our troops by year’s end.  Over in Kabul, Karzai said he’d go to war against us if we attacked his neighbor, Pakistan.  It’s the same story in both places, but the real headline is the thirty-year-old one:  U.S. fails to come up with an Iran strategy.

It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?  You’re a Middle Eastern leader, and you’ve been working and fighting alongside the Americans.  The United States was magnificent on the battlefield, and you either won (as in Iraq) or were winning (Afghanistan) when the Americans announced they were leaving.  And they even set a date for their departure.  Where does that leave you?

It leaves you high and dry, at the mercy of the Iranians, who aren’t going away, and who, although defeated in one battle and bloodied in another, intend to keep on killing.  Maybe even you yourself.  Remember that Maliki in Baghdad used to be a member of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization called Dawa.  He knows all about the Iranians’ enthusiasm for slaughter, and he knows that if he’s uncooperative they won’t hesitate to blow him up.  And remember that Karzai in Kabul is being paid by the Iranians — he said so himself — and he, too, knows that there are lots of terrorists in his country who will kill him.  They already killed his brother, after all.

When the Americans are gone, who’s going to defend Maliki, Karzai, and the rest of them?  They are properly dubious about the capacity and loyalty of their own forces, and we’ve taught them they can’t rely on us.  Along come the mullahs with their protection racket:  “What a shame!  The Americans are leaving, as we told you all along.  But hey!  Everyone’s entitled to a mistake now and then.  And we’ll protect you much better than they did.  And it will only cost you…”

The reaction from the administration is predictably pathetic.  Having failed to convince the Iraqis to rewrite the Status of Forces Agreement they signed with Bush, Obama declared victory.  He proclaimed it a triumph of his diplomacy, and the fulfillment of a campaign promise.  As I remember it, he promised to run away right away, but no matter. At the same time, Defense Secretary Panetta acted as if it was just something we’d have to pretend to respect, while reopening talks that would lead to the return of American trainers.

And out there in diplofantasy land, our secretary of state, having overcome an attack of the giggles after being told of the butchering of Muammar Qaddafi, warned Iran that they’d better watch out, because our heroic diplomats weren’t about to leave.  Furthermore, we’ve got bases in the region. "Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region, both in bases, in training, with NATO allies, like Turkey..."

Nobody pointed out that one of our fiercest diplomats, Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, had run back to Washington because of “threats to his safety.”  And Hillary’s reference to Turkey as a paradigm of tough American friends was particularly unfortunate, since the Turks neither talk nor act like allies.  They talk like anti-Americans.

Before I forget, let me remind you that anti-Americanism comes in two distinct versions.  The first is the one we’re most familiar with, the hatred of America because it is held to be arrogant, imperialistic, militaristic, and insensitive to the needs of the rest of the world.  The second, which is very much in play nowadays, is contempt for America because the Americans just aren’t up to the role history has assigned them:  global policeman.  There’s a lot of that out there, not without justification.

To be sure, as Obama's fans will tell you, he approves the killing of lots of bad guys, of which Qaddafi is the latest case in point.  It's an impressive list by now, and grows longer virtually every day.  And they insist that he's brought down more tyrants than George W Bush and Dick Cheney ever dreamed of, and is calling for Assad to go.  Why is he not getting proper credit? they ask.  The answer's pretty easy:  because in the three cases of regime change to date (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya), Obama arrived late to the fight, plainly dithered before making up his mind which side he was on, and never seemed to be "in charge," without which he really isn't entitled to ask for a medal.  And as for the assassination of terrorists, while it's a better world without them, it's not a fundamentally changed world, and Obama promised to change the world.  If you're going to fight the terror network, you're going to have to target headquarters, training camps, and home bases. He has yet to act effectively against the two surviving charter members of the Axis of Evil, Iran and Syria.  They have every reason to believe they can do most anything without fearing anything more than sanctions, headshakes, and tongue clucks.