01/08/2014 12:32 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

Enough of the Handwringing: The Loss of American Influence in the Arab World Is Programmed

The Punditocracy, especially on the Right, is lamenting the fact that the United States has lost much of its clout in the Arab World. But this was to be expected.

Troop presence means influence. And troop presence is something the U.S. doesn't have what it once had in the region. American forces left Iraq in December 2011. The U.S. has just now promised to help the Iraqi government with military supplies in its struggle with al Qaeda elements in Anbar Province. But this means little in terms of influence compared with "boots on the ground." In Afghanistan, American troops are due to be out of the country by the end of this year. Whether there will be a small residual force remaining is still not determined. In the Libyan campaign in March 2011, the U.S. preferred to "lead from behind," leaving it to the French and the British to carry out the air attacks initially.

President Obama, when he entered office, committed himself to ending American military participation in Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter an unnecessary war and the former an unnecessarily prolonged war. This has now been nearly accomplished, and posterity will reward the president.

Since Obama entered office, a new civil war arose in Syria, beginning in early 2011. According to Mark Danner, writing in The New York Review of Books of November 7, 2013 (p. 92), the death toll in this conflict has exceeded 115,000; two million civilians have fled Syria; and four million others have been made homeless within it.

At the end of August 2013, President Obama backed away from an air attack on Syria with unknowable consequences, a move that clearly had the support of the American people.

These successive de-escalations have led in train to a lessening of American influence in the Arab World. You can say it has been programmed, as what else could have been expected?