What Me Worry?
It's as horrifying as watching a train wreck. As predicted in yesterday's post Obama's foreign policy has nowhere to go, but he's prepared to go there with considerable velocity. The New York Times says that Obama will go all out against the Israeli prime minister and may switch sides in the UN on the Palestinian issue.
now that Mr. Netanyahu has won after aggressively campaigning against a Palestinian state and Mr. Obama’s potential nuclear deal with Iran, the question is whether the president and prime minister can ever repair their relationship — and whether Mr. Obama will even try.
On Wednesday, part of the answer seemed to be that the president would not make the effort. ... And with Mr. Netanyahu’s last-minute turnaround against a Palestinian state alongside Israel, several administration officials said that the Obama administration may now agree to passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution embodying the principles of a two-state solution that would include Israel’s 1967 borders with Palestine and mutually agreed swaps of territory.
Those borders, the subject of contentious negotiations for decades, include the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Most foreign policy experts say that Israel would have to cede territory to the Palestinians in exchange for holding on to major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank.
Hell hath no wrath like Obama scorned. Michael Crowley at Politico writes that "angered by Netanyahu’s hard-line platform towards the Palestinians, top Obama officials would not rule out the possibility of a change in American posture at the United Nations, where the U.S. has historically fended off resolutions hostile to Israel." Russia and China will probably be delighted to accommodate Obama, doubtless remembering Napoleon's adage: "never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
Any chance that such an action will win the everlasting gratitude of Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood range from slim to none. Destroying Israel is one of those zero-coefficient variables. You can expend as much energy on it as you like -- even hurt a lot of people -- but it won't improve America's strategic position by a single iota. It's like one of those actions people do when they're angry at losing their girl friend. They throw the TV out the window and kick the dog. The usual result is a broken TV and dogbite, but still no girlfriend.
The administration has reached the stage of pointless self destruction and even Tom Friedman knows it. In a doleful, despairing editorial he says it's hopeless. Nothing works. Everything has failed. It's all for nothing. "Have I ruined your morning yet? No? Give me a couple more paragraphs."
O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb ... why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran? ... In 2003, we destroyed Iran’s main Sunni foe in the Arab world (Saddam Hussein). But because we failed to erect a self-sustaining pluralistic order, which could have been a durable counterbalance to Iran, we created a vacuum in both Iraq and the wider Sunni Arab world. That is why Tehran’s proxies now indirectly dominate four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Sana and Baghdad.
ISIS, with all its awfulness, emerged as the homegrown Sunni Arab response to this crushing defeat of Sunni Arabism ... Why is it in our interest to destroy the last Sunni bulwark to a total Iranian takeover of Iraq? Because the Shiite militias now leading the fight against ISIS will rule better? Really?
If it seems as though we have only bad choices in the Middle East today and nothing seems to work, there is a reason: Because past is prologue, and the past has carved so much scar tissue into that landscape that it’s hard to see anything healthy or beautiful growing out of it anytime soon. Sorry to be so grim.
We have come a long way from Hope and Change. In fact Friedman's catalog of woes isn't the half of it. Obama has managed the amazing feat of losing everything and gaining nothing and being despised by every side to boot. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians, Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, Turkey, Libya -- and what used to be called Yemen -- have learned one searing lesson. There are people who are all hat and no cattle.
And now he's managed the impossible. He's actually on the verge of an open breach with Israel. There's Russia and China on the periphery, circling like vultures, but let's leave them out of the reckoning for the moment because if Friedman hasn't ruined your morning, I'm not about to.
From a psychological point of view the president has to double down on Netanyahu -- hurt him somehow -- if only to demonstrate to anyone still interested, perhaps even to himself, that he can bite with his gums in the absence of teeth. But it's pointless. Even Obama's revenge is pointless. None of his proposed sanctions against Israel will move the needle in any direction that matters.
As I pointed out yesterday, the president has no winning hand left. He doesn't even have the semblance of a game. It's over.
And for the moment it is over for everyone else too. There is no mechanism which can arrest the growing religious conflict in the region; nothing which stands in the way of an Iranian bomb; no further obstacle to a matching Sunni purchase of weapons of mass destruction. There is no chance that Palestine will get a state, or Lebanon free itself of Hezbollah. Egypt will continue to slide downhill. North Africa will fall apart as ISIS extends its franchise. The Kurds -- well what of them? And as for the region's Christians, they'll be fed to the lyins.
The one power that could have made a difference has shot itself in the foot. Nothing to do but to see if there's any beer left in the refrigerator and drink it.
This batter has struck out. And every pitch will slide past until a new man steps up to the plate in January, 2017. In the meantime the world will make shift as best it can. It survived World War 2. With any luck it will survive the messiah in the Oval Office.
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