Obama is playing a dangerous game with Russia and Iran, and Washington's realists and neo-isolationists are making it worse
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, Washington has been divided in raucous debate. Is Syria the next Vietnam? Will Obama get bogged down in Syria? In doing so, America relinquished leadership and failed to show resolve at a critical moment. We can see the ramifications of that failure to act today throughout the region but perhaps most poignantly inside Syria itself. Assad is emboldened and remains in power. Iran meddles in both Syrian and Iraqi affairs with impunity. And Russia continues to assist in both helping Iran develop nuclear weapons and ensuring Assad stays in power.
At every decision point, this administration--an administration that holds the controversial view they must disengage from the Middle East entirely, so as to let Iran 'manage' it as a sort of regional administrator--has capitulated time and again. This cannot happen with regards to Iran's nuclear program or Russia's continued aggression.
Russia and Iran are our adversaries. They are enemies, and the White House would be wise to view them as such. Obama has, in a very real sense, ceded American hegemony to these two expansionist powers over the course of his presidency. And libertarians within the Republican party, like a Paul or Amash, are just as complicit as the most idealistic progressive Democrat. Congress has done very little to arrest the momentum of the Obama administration's failed policies and reliance on capitulation and restraint. While there is hope in some corners of the political commentariat that will change, I have little faith in that coming to fruition.
America is restrained. America demonstrates, if anything, too much restraint, and has invited conflict, mayhem, and now regional destabilization. Russia and Iran's activities threaten territorial integrity and they threaten order--namely, the global order, of commerce and relations between nations. They are national security threats, not allies to be courted and brooded over. Views to the contrary advance our adversaries views, not America's.
President's Obama's remarks regarding both Russia and Iran have been extremely dangerous. When specifically asked what his red line is with regards to Russian aggression, Obama did not articulate one. And when pressed to draw a scenario in which the White House would back away from a nuclear deal, the President stated the negotiations "should be able to get to yes...but we don't know if that's going to happen."
This plays right into both Iran and Russia's hands. It is time to hold Russia and Iran accountable with the vast optionality afforded the president short of overt military action. Proportionality is not a concern because of the covert nature this response should take; attribution is fine, but after America's red lines are reestablished.
Russia and Iran are in bed together and keep hammering away at the same theme--America is the enemy. America and NATO cannot afford to cede Ukraine to Russia and also cannot tolerate a nuclear armed Iran exporting terror around the globe.
We saw what happened when Obama refused to draw a red line on Syria.
Do we really want to take that chance again?