“End of the Dream: Obama and the Middle East”

That is the title of John Hannah’s excellent post at The Corner. Hannah is a former aide to Dick Cheney. You should read it all, but here are some key excerpts:

Inside the whirlwind of the Middle East’s current turmoil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Obama administration’s original strategy for the region has crashed and burned. Recall its key elements. …
All of it now lies largely in tatters. Obama’s outreach to Iran and Syria was greeted with predictable contempt. His quixotic fixation on the holy grail of a settlements freeze left peace talks dead in the water. The explosion of popular unrest that first shook Iran in 2009, and which is now sweeping Arab lands, exposed the intellectual vacuity of Obama’s studied disregard of the region’s freedom deficit. Similarly, the president’s seeming inability to grasp America’s vital interest in Iraq’s success, and his headlong rush for the exits by the end of 2011, has rendered that country’s democratic experiment increasingly untethered and at the mercy of Iran’s Islamic Republic.
An instinct for reassuring hardened enemies, disregarding longtime friends, and distrusting the exercise of American power. These were, unfortunately, the dominant notes that a troubled region heard emanating from Obama’s uncertain trumpet for much of the last two years. …
Multiple muses seemed responsible for the badly misguided framework that the president brought to office. A worldview heavily shaped by the leftist, anti-Western claptrap that pervades much of what passes for Middle East studies in the American academy. An obsession with distinguishing himself from everything Bush. And a remarkably naive conviction that simply by showing up on the world stage, Obama — by virtue of biography, personality, and charisma — could somehow transcend the immutable laws of an international system dominated by self-interested nation states, several of which happen to be ruled by tyrannical regimes that perceive their very survival as inextricably linked to the humbling of American power, influence, and prestige. The “Obama Factor,” like so much else in the president’s Middle East policy, did not survive first contact with the enemy.

The administration is now trying to regroup and come up with a more effective set of policies toward the region. To the extent that Obama’s Middle East 2.0 is exemplified by the Libyan adventure, one’s confidence is not inspired. Still, the administration can hardly do worse, or damage American interests more, than it did in its first two years.


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