Where Obama failed in the Middle East

That’s the title of a lead story in today’s Washington Post regarding the president’s hugely unsuccessful effort to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. That Obama failed is a given. As the Post puts it: “After a year and a half of politically costly pressure on Israel, Obama had nothing to show for it, except far less capital to work with at home and a damaged reputation among the Middle East veterans directly involved.”

Why Obama failed is not difficult to explain. As the Post’s article makes clear, Obama was clueless about the Middle East. As we and many others have argued since Obama first took on his fool’s errand, “the enduring traits of the conflict [between Israel and the Palestinians], whose resolution Obama elevated to ‘a vital security interest of the United States,’ made it particularly resistant to [Obama’s] preferred method of diplomacy,” namely “appeals to the shared interest of countries at war and at peace.”

The Post also finds a connection between this particular failure and Obama’s first term as president:

The way Obama managed the Israeli-Palestinian issue exhibited many of the hallmarks that have defined his first term. It began with a bid for historic change. But it foundered ultimately on his political and tactical misjudgments, on a lack of trusted relationships and on an outdated view of a conflict that many of his closest advisers imparted to him. And those advisers — veterans of the Middle East peace issue — clashed among themselves over tactics and turf.

Thus has our “smartest president” turned out to be one of our most foolish.