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Why the US has lost its presence in the Middle East

As if it wasn’t obvious, Gary Kasparov summarizes it very well in today’s WSJ:

Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

In other words, Mr. Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Mr. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway.

And that final sentence is the best capsule of the two opposing foreign policies you’re likely to see.  Mr. Obama has always been long on words – that is “talking the talk”.  But he’s almost never bothered to “walk the walk”.  In international politics that’s interpreted as a huge weakness.  Consequently, his lack of action (i.e. backing up his words) has been constantly tested for reaction.  And the reaction has always been … more words (or more “red lines”).

One of the major reasons for the rise of ISIS is the poorly thought out American withdrawal from Iraq after the Obama administration took over.  With the withdrawal came the abandonment of the Sunni minority there that had been key to the Anbar Awakening that had helped make the surge a success and stabilize Iraq.  ISIS was a direct result of that abandonment.  One of the key questions asked by Sunni leaders to American commanders before they committed to the Awakening was, “are you going to stay”.  Obama’s policy put “lie” to their promises.  Now, after failing to act when ISIS first rose and trying to blame others for the rise, the administration wants a part in the defeat of ISIS (which, by the way, will have to be much more of an effort that an occasional air strike, if it is to succeed).

But there’s this “words over action” problem that Obama suffers from that certainly erodes any confidence in the viability of any US involvement.  In international politics, action speaks louder than words and Mr. Putin is and has taken action.  Whether or not you agree with his action or want to see Russia involved in the Middle East isn’t the point.  The point we should all understand is the weak and indecisive Middle Eastern policy that this administration has pursued has handed over it’s predominant role in the region with barely a whimper.  Putin hasn’t forced his way through the door there.  The US has willingly opened it and all but welcomed him in.

Kasparov has a brutal conclusion which I find hard to fault:

Mr. Putin didn’t say anything new at the U.N., because he didn’t need to. He knows that he has concrete assets that are more effective than mere words. He has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House.



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15 Responses to Why the US has lost its presence in the Middle East

  • Maybe this is that flexibility that Obama wanted Medvedev to tell Putin there’d be more of.

    Putin took him at his word. He wants to see how much more pretzel twist he can get from the Mis-leader of the Free World.

  • It’s fair to say we didn’t “lose” our presence in the ME. We gave it away. Or Barracula gave it away, more aptly. Now he’s responsible for the displacement of millions of people, along with the death of at least a million. ISIS will continue to expand. Russia will continue to consolidate its influence, and Iran will continue to become the hegemon in the region.

    Way to go, Barracula.

    • On wonders how much more of his leading from the blind greatness we will be able to endure.

      ah well, I’m absolutely sure history will remember him…
      to paraphrase the bard, “and then shall his name, familiar in their mouths as a daily curse, be by sight of the bloody corpses freshly remembered”.

  • “We must not and we will not be confused in our fight against ISIL,” Kerry said, before repeating assurances made by President Obama to Vladimir Putin earlier this week:
    “If Russia’s recent actions and those now ongoing reflect a genuine commitment to defeat [the Islamic State], we are prepared to welcome those efforts and find a way to deconflict and therefore multiply our efforts.”
    However, he said that any Russian actions that “should strike targets where ISIL and affiliated targets are not operating,” would raise “grave concerns,” for the U.S.”

    What’s this! More red lines in the offing! More unbelievably small attacks to come!
    Don Quickoats Kerry rides again!

    Stay tuned! Especially since reports indicate the Russians have already struck targets where ISIL and their affiliates are not operating.
    “But U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter countered that claim.
    “I want to be careful about confirming information, but it does appear that they (Russian airstrikes) were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces,” he told reporters. ISIL is another acronym for ISIS.
    “The result of this kind of action will inevitably, simply be to inflame the civil war in Syria,” Carter said.
    A senior U.S. administration official told CNN’s Elise Labott that a Russian airstrike near the Syrian city of Homs “has no strategic purpose” in terms of combating ISIS, which “shows they are not there to go after ISIL.”

    • The Pentagon said Friday that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had a “constructive conversation” with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, on the situation in Syria and that the two military chiefs had “agreed to further discuss mechanisms for deconfliction in Syria and the counter-ISIL campaign,” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by an alternate acronym.

      • Yes we will talk more Amerikansky, and if it makes you feel good to think we will yield one inch from what we have always intended to do, good for you.

        Vlad told me to tell you to tell Barack he’ll be around for his lunch money at about 11:00, have it ready, and maybe today, something a little extra would be nice.

    • Ultimately, this all could stop in a few months if there were no arms sales to the Middle East, so you have to ask .. “just where are each of the parties getting their weapons ?”

      Is it the Chinese, the Russians the North Koreans (or the Iranians) .. I mean, afterall, except the stuff the US left behind in Iraq, it is all Soviet-style weapons.

      It always comes down to follow the money.

      This story of the Russians in Syria seems to make one think that perhaps the ISIL folks are buying from the Russians.

      • I’m sure whole depots and arsenals were ‘liberated’ in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

  • And the announced induction of another 150,000 troops in to the Soviet…errrrrrr Russian army – which is about a 20% increase in paper strength above what they have as a declared reserve – another 15 divisions for the Crimean/Syrian beach volleyball league I guess.

    • … to top off the humiliation of Obama …

      One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty.

  • “Obama got everything he wanted in Syria!” = Obama wanted to get his ass handed to him. LOL!

    • Hey – that looks very much like a quote from a deluded Moose squeezer.

      • He also dismissed the Kermit Gosnel abortion clinic atrocities as an isolated incident! There’s nothing he ain’t wrong on! 🙂

        • What do you expect from a guy who had to taught here the significants of the Frankfurt School, BUT who’s an “expert” on German stuff?

          LOVED that little vignette…!!!

  • UNITED NATIONS — President Obama called upon a conclave of world leaders on Tuesday to fight violent extremism not just with weapons but with ideas, jobs and good governance, a strategy he has long advocated. There are few signs that it is succeeding.

    It’s too bad the shooter at the community college hadn’t interacted with the VA, the IRS, the FCC, the NLRB, the OPM … for those ideas and good governance. Hey, wait … he probably had some interaction with the ATF.

    Did anybody mention if the shooter seemed to be “Fast and Furious” ?