Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser, reminds us: “The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.” Add to that a new Rand Corporation study showing terrorist groups’ activity has increased 50 percent in the last three years and the near-collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture and you have a truly troubling conflagration: more terrorists, fewer functioning central governments and the potential widespread possession of weapons of mass destruction (already used multiple times with no consequences by Bashar al-Assad).
The irony is that the Bush administration had made some progress on weapons of mass destruction. As a result of the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, Iran halted its nuclear program. The Bush administration (although the Obama team never mentions it) obtained three resolutions from the United Nations on Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. Five days after Hussein’s capture, Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear stockpile.
Now consider the Obama record, noting that he set out the goal of ridding the world of nukes. Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons. Obama drew and erased a red line. Assad remains in power, is still using weapons of mass destruction and has not complied with the deal the Russians put together to get the administration off the hook. Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapons capability, does not take the threat of U.S. military action seriously and got the United States to agree to an interim deal that envisions continued enrichment by Iran. Meanwhile, the sanctions have been partially rolled back. If Iran gets the bomb, Sunni states in the region surely will follow. As for the arms treaty with Russia, it is widely suspected that Vladimir Putin is cheating.
In the 1990s, Ukraine exchanged its nuclear arsenal for the promise of U.S. protection. So much for that. Eastern European countries are eyeing that example carefully. Are they next? (Recall the president yanked out anti-missile sites from Poland and the Czech Republic.)
We had one president who was willing to use force and who was effective in getting weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of tyrants; this president is willing to give up U.S. stockpiles, and his policies may result in a Middle East where multiple regimes have nuclear weapons — even as these states collapse and territory falls under the control of al-Qaeda terrorists. This is one clear example of the problem endemic to the Obama administration. Even when its goals are lofty, it has no idea how to achieve them. In fact, through sheer incompetence and a refusal to act when necessary, the administration undermines those goals. Nonproliferation was a top priority for this administration, but, by any measure, it has lost ground.
The most important thing for a president is his results, not his intentions. The Obama-Clinton-Kerry-Rice foreign policy brain trust presides over the worst of all worlds, a Middle East with al-Qaeda on the rise and Iran closer than ever to a bomb and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty hanging by a thread. Whether liberal or conservative, one must deplore this state of affairs.