The Cuban Missile Crisis of 2016

 

“Just as Iraq was President George W. Bush’s catastrophic legacy,” writes Maajid Nawaz, in an article headlined How Obama Lost the Mideast to Putin,

Syria will be Obama’s. Bush’s sins of commission wrought no less chaos than Obama’s sins of omission. If the Stop the War lobby’s primary motive was to avoid civilian casualties, then by any standard they should slither away shamefully into voluntarily redundancy.

By latest human rights accounts, Syria’s five-year civil war has left 470,000 dead. To add to our disgrace, we don’t even know how accurate these figures are because—as if in despair—the United Nations gave up collecting statistics 18 months ago. Syria has spiraled into the biggest humanitarian, political and security challenge of our time. The Cuban Missile crisis of 2016. …

Hearing of Turkish and Saudi ground troops, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev responded by threatening “permanent war”. Hypocritically, Russia has already committed her own ground troops, and flies up to 510 combat sorties a week inside Syria from its airbase near Latakia.

Putin is pursuing his aim of dividing Europe, and dividing NATO, by championing the Kurds. As Turkey downed a Russian jet last year, Russia retaliated by amassing her forces on the Turkish border to secure a base in the Syrian Kurdish region. The two countries’ militaries are currently fighting on the ground “mere kilometers from each other” and if a clash occurs NATO could either be unwillingly dragged into war or — to Putin’s delight — lose all credibility as a common defence pact. …

This is how it came to be that the region now stands precariously at the cusp of World War III. But so much of this could have been avoided, if President Barack Obama had displayed two qualities in his foreign policy: leadership and strategic vision. …

The consequences of Obama’s stunning lack of vision will be felt in Europe, too, in more ways than one. As Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kurds, Turkey, Russia and various jihadist terrorist factions such as ISIS and al Qaeda fight over the Middle-Eastern jewel, half of Syria’s population has become displaced. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing to Europe, and the resulting cultural civil strife this has sparked will only bolster those — like Putin — who seek to break up the European Union. …

It’s too late for Obama now, but not for the next American president to recoil from this record of failure. American leadership and strategic vision should, first and foremost, have recognized that the intervention pendulum has swung too far the other way, to pacifism. A global power vacuum, by definition, would soon be filled by another power. Enter Russia. …

American leadership would have called Putin’s bluff over that “red line,” and recognized that Putin’s position in Moscow was weaker than it looked. American leadership would have recognized that the recent center-left trend towards isolationism — far from being true to the principles of liberal internationalism — has always been symptomatic of parochial conservative populism. This is why it eventually gave way to Donald Trump.

American strategy would have exploited the opportunity of talks with Iran to force a compromise over Assad. American strategy would have exploited the Egyptian, Saudi and Israeli common foes of Iran and Assad, to unify them instead around a deal over Palestine. American strategy would have long ago supported an independent Kurdish state before Russia began to seize that opportunity, too. A Kurdish state would have been the Middle East’s only secular, democratic Muslim-majority country, and could have acted as a torchlight for the entire region against insurgent Islamism.

Instead, none of this happened. But Obama did receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

Congratulations, Mr. President.

Nawaz believes it’s too late for Obama, but hints that perhaps it’s not too late for America.

Is it?

There are 9 comments.

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  1. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    EDs,

    It’s not too late for America. The anti-interventionist’s archetypes of failed interventions, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, must be understood in the light of Cambodia and Syria. There is a price to be paid for accepting a vacuum of Good power. Evil power will fill the vacuum. The loss of life in the vacuum is far greater than the most aggressive intervention.

    I believe that the problem is our natural tendency toward Nation Building. As a pure Republican Constitutional Democracy, we tend to assume consciously or unconsciously that we can recreate another society in our own image. Sometimes less is more. If we lower our expectations we might still see the results we want but over time.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #1
  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Conservatives need to quit this incessant whining about what might have been and what could be if Obama wasn’t President. It happened. He happened. So where do we go from here?

    Can we even anticipate what the situation will be when the next President is sworn in (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the next President is a Republican)?

    • #2
  3. Lazy_Millennial Inactive
    Lazy_Millennial
    @LazyMillennial

    Aaron Miller:Conservatives need to quit this incessant whining about what might have been and what could be if Obama wasn’t President. It happened. He happened. So where do we go from here?

    Can we even anticipate what the situation will be when the next President is sworn in (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the next President is a Republican)?

    That second paragraph is exactly WHY we SHOULDN’T stop talking about what happened. The Dems failed completely. Until we convince the public of this, they won’t give us a chance to face whatever the situation is in 2017. Same reason we harp incessantly on how bad Obamacare is, and talk little about our alternatives. Our candidate will need to know principles, but the main point has to be the failure of Dem leadership and vision.

    • #3
  4. Richard Fulmer Inactive
    Richard Fulmer
    @RichardFulmer

    The key part of deciding where we go from here, which Aaron identifies as the proper focus, is to decide what America’s interests are in Europe and the Middle East.  Presumably, we want to hold NATO together.  Does that force us to back Turkey in the event that it goes to war with Russia?  Or can we address the question of whether Turkey – which is hardly a liberal democracy – should even be in NATO?  Or has that ship already sailed?

    Does the United States have an interest in keeping the EU together?  I’m not sure that we do.  What are the pros and cons of EU dissolution?  Or does the necessity to defeat Putin’s aims and interests preclude such considerations?

    Presumably, a stable Middle East in in U.S. (and the world’s) interests.  What is the best way to achieve that given the current situation?  Do we back the status quo by keeping Assad, the Saudis, et al in power?  How do we curb Iran’s hegemonic goals?

    • #4
  5. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    Speaking of losing the Middle East, Hizballah is gaining the upper hand in Lebanon: http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0VV1NC

    • #5
  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Lazy_Millennial: That second paragraph is exactly WHY we SHOULDN’T stop talking about what happened. The Dems failed completely. Until we convince the public of this, they won’t give us a chance to face whatever the situation is in 2017. Same reason we harp incessantly on how bad Obamacare is, and talk little about our alternatives. Our candidate will need to know principles, but the main point has to be the failure of Dem leadership and vision.

    And how has the fight against Obamacare gone? It took Republicans only a year to accept the Democrats’ premise that the situation before Obamacare was worse than Obamacare, so it must be replaced with a similarly comprehensive (intrusive and financially unsound) plan. Voters who initially supported Obamacare still support Obamacare.

    Voters respond to optimism and promises of leadership. Republicans cannot replicate the sort of media assault that made President Bush a cartoonish devil who symbolizes all Republicans, because Democrats still generally run the media. Republicans must focus on selling a vision of the future, as Obama did and as Reagan did.

    In elections, ideas will always win over facts.

    • #6
  7. She Member
    She
    @She

    Aaron Miller:In elections, ideas will always win over facts.

    And, my goodness, isn’t this election cycle proving it?  The ideas don’t even have to be particularly well-thought out or supported at all by any of those pesky little “f” word things.

    The fact is, we’ve largely become an Earl Landgrebe nation.

    Can I start a sentence with “the fact is” and not lose everyone before the end of it?  Or did I mess up?

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Interesting post.

    May I just say that when I saw the title, my first thought was that it was about Cruz and Rubio . . . .

    • #8
  9. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Are we now merely accepting the ridiculous premise that the catastrophe in Iraq is Bush’s legacy, not Obama’s?

    And this is hardly a Cuban Missile Crisis.  This is a bunch of trouble over there — wa-a-ay over there.  Being at loggerheads with Russia over this does not constitute the literally existential crisis, perhaps for the human race (if we believe the nukes = extinction crowd), that Kennedy faced.  The only existential part of this for anybody outside of Syria is voluntary, through stupid immigration policies.

    • #9
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