Belmont Club

The Law of Unintended Consequences

There are some achievements that one must simply stand in awe of. The Los Angeles Times reports that “A high-powered rifle lost in the ATF’s Fast and Furious controversy was used to kill a Mexican police chief in the state of Jalisco earlier this year, according to internal Department of Justice records, suggesting that weapons from the failed gun-tracking operation have now made it into the hands of violent drug cartels deep inside Mexico.”

That is sad repayment for good intentions. The administration has been trying to do good all around the world. It’s opposition to the Second Amendment, for example, probably motivated Fast and Furious. But though intended to benefit “the children” it proved hell on Mexican police chiefs. But that brouhaha may be as nothing next to the effects of its principled paralysis/intervention in Syria which Britain’s Home Office counterterror chief  now claimed posed the biggest threat to the UK and Europe “for a decade”.

Charles Farr said there are thousands of al-Qaeda-inspired fighters now operating in the war torn country with many wanting to attack the UK and other Western nations. He said there has never been so many groups and fanatics linked to the terror organisation so close to Europe.

Mr. Farr ain’t seen nothing yet. The administration’s foreign policy is unwinding like a busted spring. David Ottaway, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former Washington Post Middle East correspondent, writing in the National Interest, described the effects of trying to be all things to all men. He says the administration in its desire to out-Reagan Reagan has accidentally gotten itself mixed up not just in the Sunni-Shia conflict, but also gotten between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and stuck its hand in the mangle of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda.

It all started so well.

Saudi Arabia and the United States are now working closely together to bolster Syrian rebels seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, reviving in the process an earlier model of covert military cooperation from the 1980s that successfully drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. This time their target is Russia’s last remaining Middle East Arab ally—the Assad regime, whose armed forces are equipped entirely with Russian weapons…

The Obama administration’s June 13 decision to provide weapons to the rebels aligns the United States with its two closest allies in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have been arming them for over a year now and pressuring a reluctant Washington to follow suit. But the decision also plunges Washington into entangling intra-Sunni Arab disputes, including between these two Arab monarchies, over which Syrian faction should rule in a post-Assad era….

One little-publicized consequence of the U.S.-Saudi alliance will be to curb the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, a key Saudi goal. This has put the Saudi kingdom at direct odds with its neighbor, Qatar, the Islamic group’s prime Arab protector and promoter.

It has also placed the United States in the awkward position of taking sides between its closest Gulf allies. Qatar hosts the Pentagon’s main forward operations center, while Saudi Arabia is the keystone of U.S. efforts to build an Arab military counterweight to Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Too little real estate promised to too many people often results in trouble. And nowhere more than in Egypt.  According to Adam Schatz, the fall of Morsi was the consequence of “leading from behind” two predatory regional powers, like a powerless lion tamer between the Ghost and the Darkness.  John Kerry’s vacation on the “Isabel” was symbolic of the administration’s abdication of American responsibility. The field was left to the Saudis and Qataris,  to the proxies who helped themselves to everything in sight and so began squabbling for the spoils. Schatz describes the fall of Morsi as a victory for the Saudis over Qatar:

The Morsi presidency now looks to have been a turbulent and highly contested segue between two eras of military rule. Qatar, which invested heavily in the Brothers, has lost a major ally. (The Saudis, who supported the more extreme Salafis against the Brothers, played their hand much better: the Salafis sided with the army and are likely to have a say in the transition.) Hamas, which reshuffled its regional alliances when its parent organisation came to power in Egypt, leaving its offices in Damascus for Doha, must be weighing its options. Bashar Assad is already gloating. Morsi was a passionate champion of the Syrian insurgency; only two weeks before his overthrow, he infuriated Assad (and, more fatefully, Egypt’s secular-minded generals) by appearing at a rally where one cleric after another called for jihad against the regime in Damascus.

It also exposes the rottenness at the core of Obama’s foreign policy. The cost of manipulating the region by proxy was loss of control. And now the Administration risks being blamed by all sides, as Shadi Hamid, writing in the New York Times, explains. The Muslim Brotherhood now believes Obama and democracy have betrayed them by denying them the elective dictatorship they so richly deserved.

Now supporters of the Brotherhood will ask, with good reason, whether democracy still has anything to offer them. Mr. Morsi’s removal will breathe new life into the ideological claims of radicals. Al Qaeda and its followers have long argued that change can’t come through the democracy of “unbelievers”; violence is the only path. As the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri once said, “What is truly regrettable is the rallying of thousands of duped Muslim youth in voter queues before ballot boxes instead of lining them up to fight in the cause of Allah.” …

When I spoke to one of Mr. Morsi’s top advisers on the night of June 30, he was already pre-emptively blaming the United States. If a coup takes place, he told me, it means that America either supports it or is willing to look the other way. …

Along with 1954 and 1992, 2013 will stand as a historic moment in Islamist lore, shaping future generations of Islamist activists and deepening their already powerful narrative of persecution, repression and regret. America is blamed for enough as it is.

By outsourcing events in the region to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, just as the Justice Department outsourced its pointless fast and furious campaign and hoped for the best, the Obama administration became the fall guy while the wheelmen drove off with the loot.

Like the man who withdraws the control rods from the nuclear reactor without knowing how to put them back, Obama started a chain reaction the limits of which he can only guess. He may be the first man in history to be blamed by both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda for the actions of each other. That’s so awesome that it beggars description.

However Victor Davis Hanson, ever the classical scholar, has just the right metaphor for the occasion. “In the old Dr. Faustus story, a young scholar bargains away his soul to the devil for promises of obtaining almost anything he wants.” Those who know the story will remember it is Faustus who gets shafted and the devil who winds up with the pile of chips in the end. The media, Dr. Hanson argues, also tried to lead from behind; to get something for nothing — engage in its own Faustian bargain —  with identical results.

In return for empowering a fellow liberal, the press gave up its traditional adversarial relationship with the president.

But after five years of basking in a shared progressive agenda, the tab for such ecstasy has come due, and now the media is lamenting that it has lost its soul. At first, the loss of independence seemed like a minor sacrifice. …

But then a Faustian thing happened. This year it was also revealed that the Obama administration had monitored the communications of Associated Press reporters on the suspicion that they were publishing leaks. For the first time, outrage arose: Liberal presidents were not, in Nixonian fashion, supposed to go after liberal reporters.

In one version of the tale, Dr. Faustus at least got 24 years of freebies before being hauled off to Hell. Our poor media did not even get five years of adulation before Obama called in their souls.

It’s soul-repossession time now, maybe not just in Mexico or the Middle-East but across the board. Terminat hora diem; terminat auctor opus.

Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo’s laurel-bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man.
Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practise more than heavenly power permits.

[jwplayer config=”pjmedia_richardfernandez” mediaid=”30013″]

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

Rebranding Christianity for $3.99
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe