Foreign Policy: Obama’s map

**Posted by Phineas

Mark Steyn is back, this time with a column about the crumbling of the post-colonial American order in the Middle East. As one would expect from a old-school and highly literate conservative, Steyn’s view is a depressing one:

Iran is nuclearizing, Turkey is Islamizing, Egypt is …what exactly? Well, we’ll find out. But, given that only the army and/or the Muslim Brotherhood are sufficiently organized to govern the nation, the notion that we’re witnessing the youthful buds of any meaningful democracy is deluded. So who’ll come out on top? The generals or the Brothers? Given that the Brotherhood got played for suckers by the army in the revolution of ’52, I doubt they’ll be so foolish as to make the same mistake again – and the hopeychangey “democracy movement” provides the most useful cover in generations. Meanwhile, James Clapper, the worthless buffoon who serves as the hyperpower’s Director of “Intelligence”, goes before Congress to tell the world that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “secular” organization. Americans ought to take to the streets to demand Clapper vacate whatever presidential palace in DC he’s holed up in.

Amidst all this flowering of democracy, you’ll notice that it’s only the pro-American dictatorships on the ropes: In Libya and Syria, Gaddafy and Assad sleep soundly in their beds. On the other hand, if you were either of the two King Abdullahs, in Jordan or Saudi Arabia, and you looked at the Obama Administration’s very public abandonment of their Cairo strongman, what would you conclude about the value of being an American ally? For the last three weeks, the superpower has sent the consistent message to the world that (as Bernard Lewis feared some years ago) America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.

I’d be more hopeful if I had any confidence in the Obama administration’s handling of foreign affairs, but I don’t. From Inauguration Day forward, Obama and his entire team have shown themselves to be dunderheaded incompetents whose philosophy of foreign policy can be summed up by “Kiss your enemies, backhand your allies.”

As for The One, himself, outside of a bizarre fixation on arms-control with Russia, which was au courant when he was in college but is a hopelessly retrograde priority in the modern day, I really don’t think he cares a whit about foreign affairs, even though that is a primary responsibility of the presidency. The Egyptian revolt was Obama’s 3AM phone call, that moment that Joe Biden told us we should gird our loins for, and he let it go to the answering service. When his aides, his Secretary of State, his vice-president, and even he, himself, all said confusing and contradictory things day after day, it was because he doesn’t care enough to learn what he needs to know in order to come up with an effective strategy. As Niall Ferguson writes in an essay for The Daily Beast ripping Obama’s handling of Egypt:

Grand strategy is all about the necessity of choice. Today, it means choosing between a daunting list of objectives: to resist the spread of radical Islam, to limit Iran’s ambition to become dominant in the Middle East, to contain the rise of China as an economic rival, to guard against a Russian “reconquista” of Eastern Europeβ€”and so on. The defining characteristic of Obama’s foreign policy has been not just a failure to prioritize, but also a failure to recognize the need to do so. A succession of speeches saying, in essence, “I am not George W. Bush” is no substitute for a strategy.

Bismarck knew how to choose. He understood that riding the nationalist wave would enable Prussia to become the dominant force in Germany, but that thereafter the No. 1 objective must be to keep France and Russia from uniting against his new Reich. When asked for his opinion about colonizing Africa, Bismarck famously replied: “My map of Africa lies in Europe. Here lies Russia and here lies France, and we are in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Tragically, no one knows where Barack Obama’s map of the Middle East is. At best, it is in the heartland states of America, where the fate of his presidency will be decided next year, just as Jimmy Carter’s was back in 1980.

At worst, he has no map at all.

Nor any desire to buy one.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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