President Barack Obama has driven the United States deep into a situation of submission to fear mongering, threats, and truce seeking, based on appeasement and overlooking violations. Obama had entered the political arena representing a model of renewal and change. Yet here he is today, perpetuating the same old traditional methods of governance, from relying on the covert operations of intelligence services as a basis for his foreign policy, to breaking his promises of respecting personal freedoms and privacy at the domestic-policy level. He started out as a world leader, and ended up as one fleeing the responsibility of leadership. He had represented, in the minds of the new generation in different parts of the world, a source of inspiration and of belief in principles. Today, he has become the object of disappointment with the leadership of the United States on the world stage, and with the myth he had ingrained in the imagination of young people everywhere. He has suddenly, while standing at the pinnacle of political power in the world, turned into merely another politician from the Third World, where candidates make tons of promises then reduce people's aspirations to the realism of the priorities of power. Barack Hussein Obama is today no longer the extraordinary man who took people's breath away everywhere. Today he has become an ordinary man, and people everywhere wonder who he is, what lies behind his failure, what he has done with America's greatness, and why he has diminished it. Yet the world's opinion of the US President also bears a certain amount of importance, especially if the general impression of the US President's stances is that he is fleeing forward. This raises a fundamental question: who is Barack Hussein Obama and what does he want?
Former President George W. Bush was clear. Whether one hated him, loved him, agreed with him, or opposed him, the man was clear. He said what he wanted and made clear who he was. He defended his stances, fulfilled his promises, and stuck to his pledges. He was a coherent man, even in his mistakes. George W. Bush was transparent and that is why he was under a microscope. He paid a high price for his policies, as he became a president hated by his people because of policies which the majority in the United States did not approve of. George W. Bush laid out a survival strategy as well as an exit strategy from Iraq and from Afghanistan, leaving them to his successor.
President Barack Hussein Obama today intentionally surrounds himself with ambiguity. He was clear at the beginning of his term, when he headed to Cairo and Istanbul at, a knight riding a white horse, confident of rebuilding the history of relations between the West and the Muslim World. But reality and realism quickly caught up with him, exposing his political childishness, far from the skill he displayed during his experience in Chicago. He quickly backed down on his promises. He dismantled with his own hands that backbone the world had thought extraordinary and promising. He became ordinary. He became the object of questions and accusations, making light of him and of the United States of America.
Barack Obama's historical biography for the American people today may well be a narrative of saving America from getting implicated in the wars of others, of withdrawing American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and of protecting American cities from terrorism. Yet Barack Obama's historical biography is also one of reducing America's influence worldwide, and of the regression of American values, based on refusing to stand idly by and watch horrific violations being committed, including massacres. Indeed, the United States of America has under Barack Hussein Obama turned to seeking to make truce with and appease both the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Both represent a relationship of investment in the worst for the United States, for the Middle East, and for American-Islamic relations equally.
It will be said that the skillfulness of the Obama administration resides in it having opted for and adopted a war of attrition and mutual exhaustion in Syria, where al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have fallen into the quagmire of a battle to eliminate one another. It will be said that there is no better policy for the United States than that of distancing itself from the arena of mutual exhaustion and attrition, because that is precisely what would serve America's interest. It will be said that Iran and Russia, and perhaps China as well, are setting for themselves the trap that will bring their downfall in Syria, and that Syria will become Iran's "Vietnam" and Russia's second "Afghanistan." It will also be said that there is no better scenario than the war in Syria as an arena to get rid of both Sunni and Shiite terrorism, from the al-Nusra Front to Hezbollah. Why is this then not the best policy for America's higher interest?
The answer is equally an ethical and a strategic one. Ethically, the United States, the world's sole superpower, seems in a state of moral bankruptcy, approving of massacres of women and children in a "convenient" war, instead of taking stances that would earn it moral leadership in refusing to use civilians as means in a strategy of exhaustion and attrition. In other words, this is a horrific and shameful investment for the future of the United States. This is a superpower we are discussing here, not a "banana republic." It is a leading nation on the basis of its strength and its ability to lead morally, and not on that of moral and political cowardice.
Strategically, wagering on mutual exhaustion is a short-lived bet, because such an investment will produce additional enmity. It is therefore a mistaken policy, one that buys temporary stability and peace of mind, not a strategy based on long-term thinking. The Obama administration's mistake is multiplied manifold, not just because it is ignoring the repercussions of producing enmity towards the United States by encouraging terrorist confrontation, but also because it is dealing with Iran and Russia with "Obama-flavored" naivety.
Russia had sniffed out such a flavor, and that is why President Vladimir Putin seized this ripe opportunity and exploited it to his advantage. Indeed, he has no claim to moral leadership, does not hide his bias in favor of the regime in Damascus, and does not pretend to care about the people's reaction in the Arab region. His wager is on the weakness of the United States under Obama - "Old Man America", as his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov puts it. And his political instinct tells him that Barack Obama wants him to be obstinate, to cripple the Security Council and to obstruct any effort to stop the war in Syria with what would be required to stop it - i.e. direct military intervention by the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO), imposing a no-fly zone, establishing humanitarian corridors, and taking all other necessary measures to stop this bloody war. Indeed, they are both in agreement: such a war, at the expense of over a hundred thousand victims from among the Syrian people, keeps terrorism away from American and Russian cities - and this suits them and satisfies them both.
Regarding Iran, the policy adopted is quintessentially one of truce seeking, submission, and satisfaction. Barack Obama does not want to fight Iran no matter what - and he in this has recognized that Israel too shares a relationship of truce, or even alliance, with Iran, as long as the Arabs are their common enemy. They both find in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt the two Arab countries that represent a challenge to them, after Iraq was subdued to Iran's benefit and at a time when the battle is taking place in Syria. And Russia is not at all a stranger to such an equation.
Vladimir Putin was heard saying about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, justifying clinging to him until the end: "that young man has made the whole world come to me." This is true. It is also true that it is Barack Obama who has allowed Bashar al-Assad to be the means by which the whole world would flock to Vladimir Putin. Barack Obama gave China the opportunity to act stringently and to strengthen its strategic relationship with Russia everywhere. This is to such an extent that, according to some sources, it has been sending unmanned drones to aid Russia in Syria. This is a strategic mistake of historical proportions committed by Barack Obama while he was distracted with the notion of "turning eastwards," far from the Middle East, to forge new relations with China. He weakened his assets in the East when he wasted them in the Middle East, particularly by giving China valuable assets in Syria.
In Egypt too, Barack Obama has committed mistakes which history will remember, when he chose to endorse the Muslim Brotherhood, believing it to represent the moderate response to the likes of al-Qaeda. He blatantly disregarded the composition of the Egyptian people, and thought himself a genius when he tried to import the Turkish model to Egypt. He adopted truce seeking out of fear of revenge. And here he is today, again engaging in frightened truce seeking, instead of conducting the necessary analysis of the events in Egypt in their entirety.
Indeed, this approach of threatening to cut off economic aid and suspending joint military exercises only bears testimony to his shortsightedness and his mistaken investment in relations of the utmost importance between the United States and Egypt, and between the United States and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
To be sure, American aid to Egypt, to the tune of 1.3 billion dollars, does not consist of donations devoid of a frame of reference. Rather, the Camp David Accords, which established the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, represent their frame of reference. As for the details, they are essentially military in nature and benefit both sides. Let us then stop pretending that cutting off aid would only harm the Egyptian side, because it would harm the United States as much as it would harm Egypt, since the benefits are mutual.
As for anger at the funds provided by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, it represents an insult to Egypt and to the entire Arab region, while it goes through a corrective phase of not just its domestic affairs, but also its foreign relations. And it is of the greatest necessity for the Obama administration to realize the dimension taken by its traditional stances, which fail to account for the change that has taken place in the Arab region.
The Obama administration has the right to choose to withdraw from the Middle East, but it does not have the right to purposely leave the Arab region in a state of collapse which the United States of America is contributing to producing. Indeed, this would be the worst American investment in the future of American-Arab relations.
What is happening in Syria today, against the backdrop of talk of chemical weapons being used, represents perhaps the worst testament of the United States of America's ethical and strategic regression. President Obama had pledged to draw "red lines" on August 20, 2012, and Barack Obama erased those red lines on August 20, 2013, when he backed down, clinging to the robes of Russia and China as they prevented the Security Council from insisting on immediate investigation. Indeed, in his statement, he considered the chemical massacre to represent "claims," instead of insisting on finding out the facts. He has thereby provided additional ammunition for further massacres, while fleeing from challenges he does not want to face.
For President Barack Hussein Obama to lose credibility is one thing. But for him to adopt a policy of fleeing forward for the United States, that is the worst investment in the future of both the United States and the Middle East equally.