Several Doses of Pessimism

If you need cheering up, read no further. Here are a couple of pessimistic evaluations of recent events. First, Frank Gaffney asks Who Lost Iraq?

Back in February, Vice President Joseph Biden declared: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” …
[U]nfortunately for the Iraqi people and others who love freedom, it looks increasingly as though the Obama administration will have the loss of Iraq as one of its most signal accomplishments.
Three murderous suicide bombings in Baghdad over the weekend are but the latest indication of the renewed reality there: Those determined to use violence to destabilize the country, foment sectarian strife and shape Iraq’s destiny can do so with impunity. …
There is an unmistakable vacuum of power being created by President Obama’s determination to withdraw U.S. “combat” forces no matter what, starting with the cities a few months ago and in short order from the rest of the country.
Increasingly, that vacuum is being filled by Iran and its proxies on the one hand and, on the other, insurgent Sunni forces, both those aligned with al Qaeda and those that have, at least until recently, been suppressing the AQI. …
The unreliability of the United States as an ally – a hallmark of the Obama presidency more generally – is reinforcing the sense that it is every man for himself in Iraq.
The prospects of any “great achievement” in Iraq are being further diminished by the direction to the Pentagon to shift personnel and equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan. The President himself reinforced that commitment during his speech to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base last week. The detailed planning and ponderous logistics associated with such a transfer increasingly foreclose options to change course. Our commanders will soon be hard pressed to preserve today’s deployments of American forces in Iraq, let alone to have them take up once again the sorts of positions in the urban areas that they held to such therapeutic effect during the surge.
The inadvisability of relocating U.S. forces from the strategically vital Iraqi theater to the marginal Afghan one is made all the greater by another grim prospect: The mounting evidence that our troops will be put in harm’s way in Afghanistan simply to preside over the surrender of that country to one strain of Shariah-adherent Taliban or another. There, too, President Obama has publicly promised to begin reversing his mini-surge by next summer, again irrespective of conditions on the ground. And his insistence on “engaging” at least some of those who allowed the country to be used as a launching pad for al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks augurs ill for the Afghan people (especially the female ones) – and for us.

Jonathan Spyer, meanwhile, observes the Druse and draws sad but logical conclusions. (Spyer is with the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel.):

The small and dispersed Druse sect has over time developed the most sensitive instruments in these parts for knowing in which direction the winds of political power are blowing. This ability derives from necessity. The Druse strategy for survival has been to spot which trend, leader, country or movement is on the way up, and to ally with it in good time. This explains, for example, the long alliance between the Druse of the Galilee and the Zionist Jews.
It also explains one of the most curious political turnabouts in the last half decade: namely, the transformation of Lebanese Druse leader Walid Jumblatt from a stalwart of the pro-democracy, pro-Western March 14 movement into a supplicant of Damascus.
Jumblatt, hereditary Druse warlord and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, met in Damascus this week with Bashar Assad, hereditary Syrian president. Assad is the son of the man who murdered Jumblatt’s father Kamal, a towering figure in modern Lebanese politics. …
The Syrian news agency SANA reported that the two discussed the “historic and brotherly ties” between Syria and Lebanon, and the importance of enhancing them. Jumblatt, according to SANA, had particular praise for Assad’s efforts to safeguard Lebanon’s “security and stability.” The two also agreed regarding the importance of the role played by the “resistance” (i.e. Hizbullah) in confronting the “schemes” of Israel.
Jumblatt’s company on the trip to Damascus was of note. According to the An-Nahar newspaper, he was escorted not by officials of his own party, but rather by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Hizbullah officials Wafiq Safa and Hussein Khalil. The Shi’ite Islamist group played the key role in mediating between Jumblatt and Assad.
ALL THIS represents an interesting journey for Jumblatt – both in the geographical and in the wider sense. It was he, after all, who previously referred to the Syrian president variously as a “snake,” a “tyrant,” “the one who killed my father” and a “monkey.” With regard to Hizbullah, Jumblatt, in January 2008, called the movement “savage people, not an opposition… declaring war whenever they want, and kidnapping soldiers whenever they want.” He accused Syria of responsibility for a wave of murders of pro-Western political figures following the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005. …
Nor did the matter stop at words alone. In the fighting in May 2008, which brought Lebanon to the brink of civil war, it was Jumblatt’s Druse fighters who put up the most impressive resistance to Hizbullah. …
So what has happened? What has transformed the formerly defiant Jumblatt into the humble, awkwardly apologizing figure emerging from the meeting in Damascus?
The answer is not complex. The Druse weatherman has taken a glance at the sensitive and vital weather vane maintained by his community, and has noticed that it is currently pointing toward Damascus and Teheran.
JUMBLATT TURNED away from Syria and toward the West in 2004, shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. For a moment, at that time, Iran and Syria were cowed. Their subject peoples shifted their hopes and their allegiances accordingly. But that moment looks rather remote now. Through a combination of cunning and murderous ruthlessness, Damascus and Teheran have rebuilt their power in Lebanon, in Iraq, among the Palestinians and beyond.
The change started at the top. The current administration in Washington has made clear from the outset that it seeks accommodation with its regional enemies, rather than confrontation with them. This has made its regional enemies happy and dismayed its friends. …
That the most sensitive instrument for the reading of regional trends is currently indicating that Iran and Syria are the people with whom it is worth being friends should be of concern to anyone who cares about the future of the Middle East. It is perhaps the strongest indication yet of where the current Western policy of punishing allies and rewarding enemies is likely to lead.

Then, of course, we have Karzai’s threat to join (some say re-join) the Taliban, which despite its air of low comedy suggests which way the winds are blowing in Afghanistan. The problems of the Middle East and Central Asia are intractable, to be sure, but at the moment we seem to be doing about the worst possible job of dealing with them. This is what I don’t understand: why doesn’t Obama bring to bear on foreign policy the lessons he learned in Chicago? Is “Be a faithless friend and a toothless enemy” the Chicago Way? Hardly. Maybe if Obama could just pretend that Ahmadinejad, Assad, Nasrallah et al. are Republicans….

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