When it comes to Middle East policy, everyone will give you his opinion. Except, perhaps, President Obama. Whatever vision he has for it he feels compelled to hide. Either that or he’s an extremely stupid man, which I doubt.
One person with a lot of insight and study is Victor Davis Hanson. A student of history, Professor Hanson has lived long enough to balance what he has studied with his own personal common sense and observation. He has some definite, practical and good thoughts about what we should do in the latest dustup in Syria.
He writes in National Review:
Syria is turning out to be a sort of Spanish Civil War of our age, with Hezbollah and Iran playing the role of fascist Italy and Germany, and the Islamic nations and jihadists that of Stalin’s Russia, as the moderates disappear and the messy conflict becomes a proxy war for greater powers, with worse to come.
There were always problems for the Obama administration intervening in Syria besides the usual bad/worse choices in the Middle East between authoritarianism and Islamic extremism and the president’s own preference for sonorous sermons rather than rapid action.
For all of 2012, Barack Obama ran on the theme that he had removed the last troops from Iraq and soon would do the same in Afghanistan. So a third intervention in Syria was not to be a campaign talking point, especially after Benghazi…
U.S. influence in the Middle East and North Africa is at a new post-war low. That Iran supposedly plans to send 4,000 fighters to Syria suggests that it is not too afraid of anyone threatening its nuclear facilities or of the supposedly crushing oil boycott…
The president finally seems to want to do something. But that something is complicated by his past calls for Bashar Assad to leave, and his unserious red lines about the use of chemical weapons. It is said that Obama is finally prepared to act a bit, shamed by the two Clintons’ usual backstage politicking and his own worries of doing something to make his own scandals disappear under news bulletins of new national-security crises.
But Syria is hopelessly more complicated and messy than it was 18 months ago. The arrival of Susan Rice and Samantha Power into respective higher positions of power is said to be a sudden catalyst for action, but the former’s credibility is shot, and the latter’s Arab Spring portfolio is, too. The Kerry/Rice/Power team, led from behind by Obama on the back nine, cannot yet define how they would oversee a consensual government to replace Assad, given that under the protocols of American support for the Arab Spring even a pro-U.S. authoritarian would be unacceptable.
Most Americans do not favor intervention of any serious sort, and Obama is not up to drumming up public support. He announced a surge and then simultaneous withdrawals in Afghanistan; since then he rarely mentions the war or the brave Americans stuck there fighting it. A campaign theme was that the United States was all out of Iraq, without a small residual force to keep the Maliki government somewhat honest.
In short, Team Obama does not have its heart in doing much of anything in the Middle East — not in Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, or in the War on Terror in general. Given that the American people have no great love for most of those killing one another in Syria, we would be wise to stay out, and send food and medicine to alleviate the suffering of the innocent.
Obama’s foreign policy is a disaster. To add to the Middle East mess, add in Russia. That reset button was pushed, but pushed from good to terrible. The Brits dislike us and Europe has no respect for us. In parts of Africa Obama is somewhat of a hero, but he has done nothing to help them like GWB did. He has not stood on the side of democracy in South America either. In Asia he has allowed the Chinese to buy up great swaths of our economy even as they outperform us and take up more of a stand in the Pacific.
What’s left? Australia? Given his love for all things British (not!) that will probably go down the tubes, too.