...and into the Fire

We need to revisit that George Freeman piece from earlier today, particularly two grafs on the last page.

This relieves the United States of the burden of containing Iran. We continue to regard the Iranian sphere of influence as a greater threat to American and regional interests than Iran’s nuclear program. The decline of al Assad solves the major problem. It also increases the sense of vulnerability in Iran. Depending on how close they are to creating a deliverable nuclear weapon — and our view is that they are not close — the Iranians may feel it necessary to moderate their position…

But perhaps the most important losers will be Russia and China. Russia, like Iran, has suffered a significant setback in its foreign policy that will have psychological consequences. The situation in Syria has halted the foreign-policy momentum the Russians had built up. But more important, the Russian and Chinese hope has been that the United States would continue to treat them as secondary issues while it focused on the Middle East. The decline of al Assad and the resulting dynamic in the region increases the possibility that the United States can disengage from the region. This is not something the Russians or Chinese want, but in the end, they did not have the power to create the outcome in Syria that they had wanted.

This is a huge threefer win for us, if Assad falls. (Less so for Israel, but that’s another story.) So what does that tell us about the Arab Spring, and President Obama’s foreign policy? Let’s look at the three countries most affected by it.

There was Egypt, where our interest should have been to help keep a lid on things. The two most likely outcomes there were — and still are — against our interests. The first, is the Egyptian military keeps a lid on things, right up until it can’t. In that case, Egypt becomes Somalia-on-the-Med, a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented scale. In the second, the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, and the Islamists add a country of 80 million to their roster. Currently, it’s a contest between the Army and the Brotherhood for ultimate control over the world’s next failed state.

So what did Obama do? He threw Mubarak under the bus, and helped to pave the way for our own little Middle Eastern Kobayashi Maru.

Then there’s Libya. We don’t really have any interest at all there, so long as Gaddafi remained in his cage, more or less. Since he gave up his nuclear program, quite coincidentally, just after US forces pulled Saddam Hussein out of his hide hole, he posed no threat to us whatsoever. And given the state of Libya generally, none of his likely replacements would pose any threat, either.

So what did Obama do? He led from behind in an embarrassingly long war against a weak opponent, and in the process caused the Brits and the French to over-use their tiny air forces. It will be a good while before either of them will be able to fight again — even in places where we really do have strong interests.

Now we come to Syria. As we discussed earlier, removing Assad from power removes Iran from the Med. It weakens Hezbollah. It embarrasses Russia and China. It strengthens the Iraqis while weakening the Mullahs’ position in Tehran. You can’t get much more Winning! than that.

So what did Obama do? Well, other than a sure-to-be-vetoed UN resolution, he sat on his hands. Now, I don’t advocate getting involved at all in the Arab Spring. Not one bit. But Obama did chose, and he chose poorly. He wasted our reputation and our allies’ strength pointlessly in Libya, he sealed the fate of the only man able to keep a lid on Egypt, and he refused to do anything to push for change in Syria, where change is our friend.

This SCoaMF has no clue what our interest are or how to pursue them, and if things do turn out rosy somehow, it won’t be because of anything he’s done. It will, like his Presidency, be the most unlikely of accidents.