Belmont Club

Back to Square One

The basic difficulty facing American policy in the Middle East today is that its mistakes are fundamental. It is predicated on an alliance with Saudi Arabia, a country ideologically hostile to the United States, in support of activities which have also proved inimical to the United States, for the ostensible goal of containing the consequences of another miscalculation — Iran — 33 forgotten years ago.

The result has been a repeat of the same mistakes; a process that has empowered the wrong people — radical Islamists — at the expense of America’s natural ideological allies in the Christians, moderate Muslims, liberals and secular, but noncommunist adherents of democracy of the region. Empowered them because they have money and cultural confidence, two things the modern Western leadership notably lacks.

But it is worse than 1979; the current alliance puts America in the back of the bus as expressed in the tagline “leading from behind.” In that slogan is described a self-imposed inferiority, a chronic submission to political enterprises that would, if closely inspected, be dubious to say the least. It is a policy based on weakness, born of a desire to spend as little as possible abroad, the better to focus on domestic welfare and permanent political majorities at home. At worst, it is a bargain which trades appeasement abroad for authoritarianism at home; it a policy of shameless opportunism masquerading as high minded leadership. And therefore they are proud of it.

But rottenness cannot not long be concealed. The State Department now spends its time apologizing for the First Amendment before a raging mob instead of defending itself. The Justice Department expends its energies hunting down cheapass video producers while American embassies — and German ones — burn. But the most obvious inversion is the spectacle of a President who avoids speaking to the head of the only fully democratic country in the region — Israel — even as the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt prepares to come to the United States in triumph. Your eyes don’t lie. It really is the ‘bad guys’ the Administration has to mollify; it really is the tyrants that they have to appease because it is to those bad guys that they they have entrusted the execution of their plans.

What could go wrong? If things look perverse it is because they are perverse. Like a car with square wheels, a submarine with a screen door or a rifle with barrel curved backward toward the stock, it just doesn’t look like it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. And now confirmation of the fact has arrived by the light of burning embassies which throw their fitful glare on the bloody handprints of those dragged to their deaths. It is snapshot of incompetence in pursuit of an imbecility.

And it cannot be undone by a successor administration any more than Reagan could undo the damage caused by Jimmy Carter. The damage is too great for a quick fix. The West will have to live with instability and hostility in a region upon which much of the world depends for energy for some time to come. No solar panels, algae, no number carbon trading certificates — no fiction peddled by those whose stock in trade is fantasy — can paper over that sad fact. The bill for folly has arrived and it will be generations paying it.

All that can be done now is to stop digging the hole any deeper.

The Green Lobby should be told what Hillary failed to say to the rioters at Cairo. Go to hell. The world will restore its energy independence whatever it takes and their quasi-religious cult can sit in a corner in the meanwhile to await a better day.

The West should re-recognize that only possible lasting alliances in the Middle East are between societies which broadly share the same values. Just as a lasting alliance with Stalin’s Soviet Union was impossible, so too is a permanent peace impossible with nations whose ideology frankly declares as its goal the desire to conquer and enslave the world. Principle should return to foreign policy, not for sentimental reasons, but for practical ones.

Finally, America should recover the power to act on its own initiative without clearing it first in the Magic Kingdom. That is not to say it should become hostile or pick a fight with any country in the region. If that happens, the belligerence will come from the other side. Rather it means decoupling policy decisions from any need to unnecessarily mollify, appease or otherwise toady to inherently hostile elements.

When Hillary Clinton eulogized Ambassador Chris Stevens she unwittingly summarized the key issue. She said of Stevens, “he joined the Foreign Service, learned languages, won friends for America in distant places and made other people’s hopes his own.” While Stevens died a heroic death, one would have thought it was the business of the State Department to make it’s own people’s hopes it’s own.  That was what Hillary was hired to do. When did she forget it?

Speaking of Egypt at the point when he had confused even himself, President Obama said: “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.” But that question is secondary, as David Burge understood. “I want to know if Obama considers the US an ally,” he Tweeted.

No policy can long survive such a monumental dithering at the top. President Obama should remember that he is not the President of the World. He is still only the President of the United States. If he cannot grasp that fact even with both hands then he is truly lost.  America can no longer assume it can bring Democracy to the Middle East. About all it can manage in the light of unfolding events, with the current leadership, is to make sure that Sharia does not come to the United States.

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