Missing the point: Will Obama's naive foreign policies ruin the Middle East?
Have Barack Obama's policies ruined the Middle East? (AFP/File)
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"Saturday Night Live" has run a series of comedy sketches mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger -- "Pumping Up with Hans and Franz." "Weightlifters" Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon dressed up in sweat suits with inflated, fake muscles. The duo mocked those who didn't lift weights as "girly men." Emphasizing the importance of being fit, Hans or Franz warned, "Hear me now, believe me later."
Early in his first term, U.S. President Barack Obama announced two major foreign policy objectives. Those knowledgeable about the complexities of these objectives recognized the futility of pursuing them. But, an eloquent Obama made it sound possible. For "SNL" fans, it was "Hear me now, believe me later" all over again.
With three years remaining in office, Obama has yet to achieve either -- his plea now falling on deaf ears. Ironically, one objective -- announced in Cairo in June 2009 -- was doomed the same day, ultimately sealing the fate -- and failure -- of the other.
U.S. manufacturers are held accountable for faulty representations; unfortunately, rarely are our presidents.
In the Middle East, Obama sought to establish a new relationship with a region of the world condemned to turmoil for centuries by its dominant religion. Obama's Cairo speech sought to engage Muslim extremists and moderates alike in a new beginning with the United States.
A student of Islam, Obama should have known better. The likelihood of success for this objective was "zilch" -- for it not only involved bridging the great divide between Muslim and Western world mindsets but also between extremist and moderate Muslim mindsets. If 1,400 years of sectarian strife proved Muslims incapable of bridging the latter to start a new beginning among themselves, how could Obama expect to be successful?
Many outlandish statements were made in Cairo by Obama in direct contravention of Islam's holy book. He suggested, "I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning ... Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree and civilizations are doomed to clash."
Clash is exactly what the Koran orders, requiring all non-Muslims convert to Islam or be put to death. Thus, a clash of civilizations based on different religions is unavoidable. Obama made no effort to stress all religions demand mutual respect.
Praising Islam's major contributions of long ago, Obama failed to emphasize its failure to contribute much to mankind's advancement since then.
In seeking to "reset" the United States' relationship with the Muslim world, Obama neglected to remind his audience that that relationship got off to a bad start more than two centuries earlier solely due to unprovoked attacks on U.S. ships by Muslim pirates.
Nor did he explain, seeking to avoid war then, the United States opted to pay the pirates tribute -- only to have them renege, forcing America to fight a war in which it prevailed.
In 2011, the Arab Spring ravaged the Middle East. "New beginnings" in affected countries saw Muslim women and non-Muslims victimized. As established leaders fell, Obama never quite grasped who should and shouldn't be supported -- in most cases, opting to do nothing. In Egypt, Christians were put to the sword.
On Dec. 17, the Saudi ambassador to Britain wrote an op-ed in the New York Times lambasting Saudi's "Western partners" for inaction against Syria and Iran. He noted, "rather than challenging the Syrian and Iranian governments, some of our Western partners have refused to take much-needed action against them. The West has allowed one regime to survive and the other to continue its program for uranium enrichment, with all the consequent dangers of weaponization."
The ambassador continued: "We expected to be standing shoulder to shoulder with our friends and partners who have previously talked so much about the importance of moral values in foreign policy. But this year, for all their talk of 'red lines,' when it counted, our partners have seemed all too ready to concede our safety and risk our region's stability."
That last sentence references Obama's failure to act against Syria should it use chemical weapons.
Rarely has Saudi Arabia publicly criticized the United States but the ambassador's scathing comments left no doubt -- Obama may be eloquent but he is a "girly man" when it comes to acting in the Middle East. The op-ed -- entitled "Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone" -- is Riyadh's recognition the United States has surrendered its leadership role there. Such an opinion would only have been expressed by the ambassador with the Saudi king's approval.
Saudi Arabia's "go it alone" decision brings to the fore Obama's second announced foreign policy initiative failure.
In an April 2009 speech, Obama announced the United States' "moral responsibility" to work toward "a world without nuclear weapons." With North Korea and Iran both engaged in nuclear weapons programs they wouldn't surrender, only a fool believed such a world possible.
Today, having failed to stop either nuclear program, Obama has created an arms race. With the United States no longer a reliable partner, Saudi Arabia is acquiring such weapons from Pakistan. Other countries are joining the race, recognizing Iran seeks such weapons to secure Shiite dominance over Sunni nations.
Obama's vision of a "world without nuclear weapons" and initiative to get there has only created a more dangerous world as multiple regional players are securing nuclear weapons to protect themselves due to an American lack of leadership.
Looking back on Obama's 2009 foreign policy initiatives brings to mind the Miss America contestant who, when asked what she would do if elected president, responded she would pursue world peace. While such naivete may be acceptable from a beauty contestant as a hypothetical U.S. president, it isn't from an elected one -- unless, of course, he is a girly man.