Lee Smith writes in Tablet Magazine about the mess Obama has made of US Mideast policy.
… Obama is simply a representative man of the post-World War II American Ivy League intelligentsia, which came to see the United States in a context shaped by the collapse of the European colonial empires under the weight of greed and barbarity.
It was the furies of Europeâ€”its anti-Semitism and racism, its need to dominate and destroyâ€”that drove its people to war twice in the last century while inflicting a series of revolting indignities on the so-called â€œlesser racesâ€ whose lands they colonized and plundered. Americans believed they were different, both at home and abroad, because they were anti-colonial from birth, and with the 20th-century advent of the decolonization movement they instinctively if sometimes cautiously sided with the new nations of the world against their former European overlords. The American sympathy for decolonization began with Woodrow Wilson and was passionately held by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and most of his top aides and by their successors in the U.S. foreign policy establishment of the 1950s, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen, head of the CIA, none of whom can be dismissed as left-wing academics.
Anti-colonialism was the motor driving the Middle East policy of the American warrior who won Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose administration wished to make friends in the region by distinguishing itself from the great European powers and showing that Washington had no colonial ambitions. Ike put that premise into practice when he demanded England, France, and Israel stand down after invading Egypt in the Suez Crisis of 1956. Obama seems to understand the world similarlyâ€”the established order is wrong for us and wrong for the people of the region, morally and politically.
Obama may also reasonably believe that a United States in the grips of a financial crisis simply doesnâ€™t have the money to meddle in the Middle East anymore. This country gets less than 25 percent of its energy resources from the Persian Gulf, so why should it be up to us to make sure that affordable oil transits the region? Let China, India, and Europe share the burden. Combine a bad U.S. economy, American exhaustion with our post-Sept. 11 commitments in the Middle East, and the nostalgic logic of decolonization and you can, finally, understand the origins of Obamaâ€™s regional policy.
But then you must tackle its consequences. The problem with this philosophy is that anti-colonialism is not a response to the realities of the Middle East but rather an exercise in self-congratulatory and often delusional nostalgiaâ€”and the results in practice have been awful. Eisenhower called his stance on Suez the worst foreign policy mistake of his tenure, and the results of Obamaâ€™s updated version of Ikeâ€™s policies have also been poor. After all the early enthusiasm for Mubarakâ€™s ouster, Egypt is in deep trouble and spinning out of the U.S. orbit. If the Muslim Brotherhood isnâ€™t rushing in to fill the vacuum, perhaps itâ€™s just because theyâ€™re too savvy to want to claim ownership of a country that may be on the verge of bankruptcy and famine, as some analysts argue.
Pushing out Mubarak has made both the Israelis and Saudis wary of Obamaâ€”a move that has proven bad not only for Washington but for Riyadh and Jerusalem as well. The notion that several thousand libertine and/or fundamentalist Saudi princes are capable of formulating a coherent regional strategy is more fantastical than a J.K. Rowling novel. The Saudis on their own are a danger to themselves, the Middle East at large, and the worldâ€™s largest known reserves of oil. Leaving them to their own devices is easily the worst option among an array of bad choices…