President Obama and his two secretaries of state leave for the next White House resident a destabilized, war-torn Middle East. It’s what comes from their “lead from behind” or “strategic patience” hooey that substituted for an adult foreign policy.
Don’t take my word. Here’s former Obama senior adviser Dennis Ross:
This was not an American invasion of a country but an internal uprising against an authoritarian leader. Assad consciously made it a sectarian conflict, believing he could survive only if the Alawites, and other minorities, saw their survival depending on his. Soon, thereafter, it was transformed into a proxy war largely pitting Saudi Arabia and Turkey against Iran. A vacuum was created not by our replacing the Assad regime but by our hesitancy to do more than offer pronouncements—by overlearning the lessons of Iraq, in effect. And, that vacuum was filled by others: Iran, Hezbollah and Iran’s other Shia militia proxies; Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar; Russia; and ISIL. Unless the U.S. does more now to fill this vacuum, the situation will spin further out of control.
In many ways, the vacuum in Syria has been compounded by the sense that the U.S. is retrenching in the region, creating a larger void that has helped to produce the increasing competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Too bad Ross could not bring himself to definitively oppose the Iran deal, which accelerated many of the most disturbing trends, especially the loss of confidence in the U.S. by our Sunni allies.
Just as Ross cautions that “we should be tempered by the Iraqi debacle, but we should not overlearn the lessons of the war and misapply them,” we should recall Hillary Clinton did just that in facilitating the complete pullout from Iraq in 2011, cheering Obama’s retreat from the red line and now refusing to consider any significant ground force to defeat the Islamic State.
The real test as to who has been spooked by Iraq is whether they are willing to reverse disastrous policies both with regard to the Islamic State and Iran. Indeed, our passivity on the former has emboldened Iran, scared our Sunni allies and damaged our credibility. We now have a disastrous Islamic State policy and a disastrous Iran policy.
Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton observes, “The Vienna nuclear deal was an unprecedented American diplomatic surrender. Obama’s subsequent behavior is cementing appeasement as the central theme of his Iran policy, thus compounding the dangers for ourselves and our friends in the Middle East and globally. Tehran knows full well that Obama’s successor will inherit a dangerous modus vivendi, a behavior pattern where Tehran establishes the rules and the United States acquiesces. The ayatollahs expect the next president will follow suit.” They certainly would expect Clinton, who supported the deal, to do so. (“Barack Obama repeatedly acquiesces in Iran’s egregious behavior; President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton shows no sign of breaking with him or the Iran policies she initiated as Obama’s secretary of State.”)
The same liberal elites who assured us in 2008 (and refused to admit error in 2012) that Obama was pro-Israel and fully within the bipartisan tradition on foreign policy now say Clinton will be terrific, much tougher, I suppose. But why — if she is not publicly disagreeing with the president and was a co-conspirator in the abandonment of the Middle East — should they think she will be any better?
Well, self-delusion is a powerful force for liberals who never dream of demanding their candidates do more and then threaten to withhold support if they don’t. That does not mean the rest of us have to take their counsel.