Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Obama’s Top 10 Foreign Policy Disasters: The Final Two

 

090128-N-0696M-200In recent days, I’ve posted a couple of installments in my countdown of Barack Obama’s worst foreign policy failures as president. Today, the final entries: the two events that I consider examples of the president’s foreign policy leadership at its worst.

2. Ukraine

This one leaves a particular stench in my nostrils, and not just because it follows Obama’s serial sucking up to Putin’s hateful regime, all in the hopes of striking a nuclear disarmament deal that could only please the Union of Concerned Scientists and Code Pink. Letting Putin get away with territorial (and literal) murder is also historically offensive, because it’s happening in the region that suffered from appeasement at its most craven in the 1930s and from the creation of the Iron Curtain in the 1940s: Eastern Europe. Putin’s eaten Crimea; he’s about to devour Eastern Ukraine. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are clearly next on Putin’s list, just as they were on Stalin’s after the Nazi-Soviet Pact partitioned Poland in 1939. Only Putin doesn’t need a Hitler to stand by and watch this time; he has Obama.

Yet none of this would have happened (and Iraq would not be happening now) if it weren’t for the Number One foreign policy disaster of Obama’s presidency. 

1. Syria

This is a blunder that arguably sums up every one of Obama’s weaknesses in conducting foreign policy. But it’s also one that set the stage for his failure in Ukraine and what’s happening in Iraq. Indeed, it may be a blunder for the ages, far outweighing George H.W. Bush’s failure to drive to Baghdad in the First Gulf War or his son’s failure to fire generals soon enough in the Second Gulf War. 

Syria has shown us the many faces of Barack Obama.

First we had Obama the deer in the headlights, doing nothing for a year after the revolt against Bashar al-Assad broke out in April 2011 and people started dying—a period when there was a real opportunity to shift the balance of forces in the Middle East.

Then we had Obama the redliner in August 2012, promising swift action if Assad used chemical weapons against the rebels … then doing nothing when they were used.

Then came Obama the unilateralist, deciding he had to take military action so he wouldn’t look like a prevaricating poltroon. This was immediately followed by Obama the devious, leaving ultimate responsibility for the decision to Congress.

By then, of course, half a million people were dead and Al Qaeda was left to take over leadership of the rebellion against Assad.

Then came Obama, president of the Vladimir Putin fan club, gratefully taking up the Russian leader’s offer to broker the handover of Assad’s chemical weapons stash because it got Obama off the hook for military action. It also taught Putin that if he wanted to start reassembling the broken bits of the old Soviet Union, starting with Ukraine, Obama wouldn’t raise a hand to stop him.

The chemical weapons issue has also been a useful distraction for Obama from what he’s really let loose in Syria.

Future historians will compare the Syrian civil war in 2011-2014 to the Spanish Civil War 1936-9, in which an unhappy country was turned into a charnel house in a proxy war between two ideological monoliths, while the western democracies sat by and let it happen. 

The monoliths then were communism versus fascism; in today’s Middle East, it’s Sunni versus Shia, with Iran leading the Shia crusade to topple Sunni hegemony in the region, and the Saudis and Gulf states arming Al Qaeda-linked groups like ISIL to fight back in the name of the caliphate. That conflict has now spilled across the border into Iraq; it threatens to spill into Turkey and Jordan; it may still engulf Saudi Arabia itself. 

Obama’s feckless policy toward Syria has in effect triggered the Middle East equivalent of the Thirty Years War, a religious war that grinds on and on and draws one state after another into its maw, while creating millions of refugees and miles of mass graves.

Let’s just hope it’s not the equivalent of the Hundred Years War. Although, were that to be the case, Obama may have made up his mind on the Keystone Pipeline by the time it was over.

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  1. Ralphie Member

    I own a copy of “How the Scots invented the Modern World”, something I’m guessing Obama has neither read, nor heard of. Sending the bust of Churchill back to England should have been a big clue that he rejects America’s heritage. American history does not start at the revolution, something I think even a lot of conservatives mis understand.

    I would add the crisis at our southern border also as a failure. It has been reported in the news that the Russians are flying close to our western border, an indication of a lightweight leader in the WH.

    As Niall Ferguson told Mika B., a foreign policy based on “I am not George Bush” doesn’t cut it. And he also shocked her by telling her Obama had surrounded himself with second and third rate people, including Hillary Clinton.

    I think his number one action in my book, is the return of the bust. It’s all been downhill since. I’m just hoping we can somehow hold on a few more years, and the next president has an appreciation of western civ and is willing to defend it.

    • #1
    • June 25, 2014, at 9:33 AM PDT
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  2. Crabby Appleton Inactive

    The tragedy of these to foreign policy catastrophes is the manifest unreliability of the United States to keep its commitments and back up its threats. This is especially true in respect to Ukraine. What must all those nations of Soviet Bloc Europe, and former Soviet Socialist Republics of the great union be worrying about as the inevitability of History proceeds apace? I think they realize that the recent observation by that Polish Minister is spot on.

    • #2
    • June 25, 2014, at 10:03 AM PDT
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  3. The Mugwump Inactive

    I think your analogy to the Thirty Years War is spot-on. The question is how do you stop two peoples who want to slaughter one another over an argument still simmering since the death of the Prophet? I agree that Obama is a bumbler, but the intractable nature of the problem is probably something beyond the ability of even the most skilled diplomats and statesmen. Colonel T. E. Lawrence made the observation that Islam bursts into occasional frenzies of violence only to burn itself out once the madness subsides. We might very well be witnessing something that is simply endemic to the culture and religion of the region.

    • #3
    • June 25, 2014, at 10:32 AM PDT
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  4. Arthur Herman Contributor
    Arthur Herman

    Ralphie:

    I own a copy of ”How the Scots invented the Modern World”, something I’m guessing Obama has neither read, nor heard of. Sending the bust of Churchill back to England should have been a big clue that he rejects America’s heritage. American history does not start at the revolution, something I think even a lot of conservatives mis understand.

    I would add the crisis at our southern border also as a failure. It has been reported in the news that the Russians are flying close to our western border, an indication of a lightweight leader in the WH.

    As Niall Ferguson told Mika B., a foreign policy based on “I am not George Bush” doesn’t cut it. And he also shocked her by telling her Obama had surrounded himself with second and third rate people, including Hillary Clinton.

    I think his number one action in my book, is the return of the bust. It’s all been downhill since. I’m just hoping we can somehow hold on a few more years, and the next president has an appreciation of western civ and is willing to defend it.

     That almost started off my list, as well! Certainly it was a sign where this administration was headed. The sad irony is that, if Obama did it to show his displeasure with how Africa was treated by the British, and Kenya in particular, his own policy toward Africa has been nothing short of abysmal.

    • #4
    • June 25, 2014, at 2:14 PM PDT
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  5. Arthur Herman Contributor
    Arthur Herman

    Crabby Appleton 2.0:

    The tragedy of these to foreign policy catastrophes is the manifest unreliability of the United States to keep its commitments and back up its threats. This is especially true in respect to Ukraine. What must all those nations of Soviet Bloc Europe, and former Soviet Socialist Republics of the great union be worrying about as the inevitability of History proceeds apace? I think they realize that the recent observation by that Polish Minister is spot on.

     Good point. But there’s also a further danger, that when a responsible president does take office (assuming that happens….let’s not explore that issue right now!) and reverts to a more traditional, i.e. assertive US policy posture, it’ll trigger a blowback response from the aggressors who are used to having their way.
    As the Brits say, he’s queering the pitch for his successors, as well.

    • #5
    • June 25, 2014, at 2:19 PM PDT
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  6. Arthur Herman Contributor
    Arthur Herman

    The Mugwump:

    I think your analogy to the Thirty Years War is spot-on. The question is how do you stop two peoples who want to slaughter one another over an argument still simmering since the death of the Prophet? We might very well be witnessing something that is simply endemic to the culture and religion of the region.

    Can’t stop the problem, but you can control the dimensions of its spread, by reminding countries like Turkey they have obligations as secular allies not just as Sunnis–likewise the Saudis and Iraqis. In turn, we would reassure them that we intend to stand by them and will lend meaningful assistance as they protect their internal stability and their territorial integrity. But again that demands a strong US engagement; a president for example who would have visited Iraq, brought Al-Maliki over for a series of state visits to commemorate the passing of the constitution etc, worked out a holdover of US security forces, and generally made Iraqis feel their fate mattered to us, after having sacrificed so much to give them their freedom, as they sacrificed, Sunni and Shia, so much more in the same struggle–instead of treating them like lepers.
    Sigh. Such an opportunity if Obama had wanted it, and such a tragedy he didn’t.

    • #6
    • June 25, 2014, at 2:35 PM PDT
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