In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton warned his countrymen of the disaster that awaits them if President Barack Obama does not change the course of US Middle East policy.
Bolton warned that Obama’s three-pronged policy, based on three negotiation tracks with Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians and Israel, will almost certainly fail in its entirety.
In his words, “Iran will emerge more powerful, verging on deliverable nuclear weapons, while still financing and arming terrorists worldwide. [Syrian President Bashar] Assad seems likely to survive, which is bad enough by itself, but it will be compounded by the affirmation it affords Iranian and Russian strength. Israel will trust Washington even less than now, and ironically, Palestinians will be even more anti-American, because Obama will not be able to deliver to them the Israeli concessions he predicted.”
Bolton concluded mournfully, “The increasing danger is that only another 9/11, another disaster, will produce the necessary awakening. There is tragedy ahead for our country if we continue on this course.
Writing for Stratfor the same day, strategic analyst George Friedman explain why Bolton’s warning will be ignored by the public.
Friedman noted that in previous years, recent events in Venezuela, Ukraine, Russia and beyond would have been the subject to intense public concern. But, he wrote, “This week, Americans seemed to be indifferent to all of them.”
Friedman argued that this popular indifference to foreign policy is not driven by ideological attachment to isolationism, as was the case in the 1930s. “It is an instrumental position,” not a systematic one, he explained. Because he sees no deep-seated attachment to isolationism among the American public, Friedman argued that their current indifference will likely end when circumstances change.
Friedman’s analysis of the American mood is probably right. And Bolton is certainly right about the dangers inherent to that mood. Every day the US is subject to greater humiliations and challenges to its power and prestige.
Declarations from Iranian leaders rejecting the dismantling of their nuclear installations, coupled with threats to attack US installations and Israel, bespeak contempt for American power and convey a catastrophic erosion of US deterrent capabilities against Tehran.
As subjects of intense US appeasement efforts, the Palestinians are second only to Iran. And as is the case with Iran, those efforts come at the direct expense of Israel, the US’s most important ally in the Middle East.
Yet like the Iranians, the Palestinians greet US efforts with scorn. Every day Palestinian leaders pile on their incitement against Israel and Jews and their derisive condemnations of the Obama administration’s efforts to force Israel to cater to their every whim.
Since 1979, Egypt served as the anchor of the US alliance structure in the Arab world. It shared the US’s opposition to Islamic terrorism, and waged a continuous campaign to defeat the forces of jihad in Egypt, while remaining outside the circle of war against Israel.
When protests began in Egypt three years ago, rather than stand with its ally, Obama dumped Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and sided with the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood.
After winning a popular election, the Brotherhood immediately set about transforming Egypt into an Islamic, pro-jihadist state. And yet, the administration opposed the military’s decision to oust the Brotherhood from power last summer even though the move prevented the most strategically vital Arab state from becoming the center of the global jihad. It then cut US military aid to Egypt.
So now the military regime is renewing its ties with Russia, after ditching Moscow for Washington in 1974.
AND SO it goes, throughout the world.
Japan is the linchpin of US power in the Far East. And today, the Japanese are openly attack – ing Washington as their frustration mounts over the administration’s weak response to Chinese adventurism.
Etsuro Honda, a key adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told The Wall Street Journal this week that Japan needs to develop the military capacity to defend itself by itself. The implication that Japan no longer trusts the US to defend it is obvious.
While Friedman is right that Americans don’t want to think about foreign policy, and Bolton is right that their indifference to Obama’s massive failures is dangerous, the truth is that another attack on the US of a magnitude comparable to September 11 is not the only thing that can end their flight from reality.
ALL THAT is needed to wake Americans from their slumber is an alternative to Obama’s foreign policy and a political leadership capable of convincing the public that its alternative is better.
Tragically, today the Republican Party vacillates between two foreign policies that have both failed, were seen to fail by the American public, and that on key issues have been aligned with central components of Obama’s failed foreign policy.
On the one hand, there is isolationism. Sen. Rand Paul is the most outspoken advocate of an isolationist foreign policy.
In furtherance of his position, Paul was one of only two Republican senators who opposed passing further sanctions on Iran in the event the current nuclear talks fail to produce an agreement that will neutralize the threat of a nuclear Iran.
As he recently put it, “I think the bottom line is we should give negotiations a chance. My hope is that sanctions will avoid war. We’ve been involved in two long wars in the Middle East. And I think it would be best if we can do anything possible to try to avoid another war now.”
The September 11 attacks discredited isolationism as a foreign affairs strategy. The attacks showed the American people that threats grow when they aren’t dealt with. Ignoring America’s enemies is not an option. Certainly enabling them to acquire nuclear weapons through useless negotiations is not a policy that most Americans support.
As most Americans are not isolationists, Paul’s isolationism is not a viable alternative to Obama’s policies of appeasement. Moreover, since with regards to Iran, his isolationism is aligned with Obama’s appeasement, Paul is in no position to mount a serious challenge to Obama’s foreign policy or rally the public to abandon Obama’s foreign policy and replace it with his own.
Opposing Paul and the isolationists is Sen. John McCain and the Wilsonian democrats. Their idea is that the US must intervene abroad to promote democracy.
While McCain opposes Obama’s policy of appeasing Iran and so enabling the mullacracy to acquire nuclear weapons, his neo-conservative ideological assumptions caused McCain to back Obama’s decision to end US support for Mubarak in Egypt. McCain also advocated for US participation in the NATO effort to oust neutered Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi from power.
Today McCain supports Obama’s decision to cut US military assistance to Egypt’s anti-jihadist military regime because the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood government the military ousted was popularly elected.
The war in Iraq discredited McCain’s Wilsonian neo-conservatism in the eyes of most Americans. And Obama’s McCain-supported abandonment of the Mubarak regime in Egypt destroyed US credibility in the Middle East and paved the way for Russia’s reemergence as a regional power broker for the first time in 40 years.
Due to the unpopularity among the American public of McCain’s ideological commitment to use US power to cultivate popularly elected governments in the Islamic world, and due as well to his periodic support for some of Obama’s most disastrous policies, like Paul, McCain cannot mount a credible, popularly supported alternative to Obama’s foreign policy.
THERE IS a third option, however, that is currently orphaned in the US foreign policy discourse.
That third option begins with understanding the ideological underpinnings of Obama’s foreign policy, and proceeds with offering an alternative policy, based on the opposite foundation.
From Russia to Iran, from Israel to the Far East, Obama’s foreign policy calls for the US to appease its adversaries at the expense of its allies. At its core, it is informed by the belief that the reason the US has adversaries is because it has allies.
By this line of thinking, if the US didn’t support Israel, then it wouldn’t have a problem with the Muslim world. If the US didn’t support Colombia and Honduras, it wouldn’t have a problem with Venezuela and Nicaragua. If the US didn’t sup – port Japan and South Korea, it wouldn’t have a problem with China and North Korea. And if the US didn’t support Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it wouldn’t have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots, or with Iran and its terror armies.
The proper response to this worldview and its corresponding policy is a policy based on supporting US allies and opposing US enemies. It is predicated on the recognition that strong allies deter and weaken enemies.
In several key cases, supporting US allies will require fewer, rather than more, US oversees deployments.
For instance, as Israel’s leaders have stated since the founding of the state, Israel has no interest in having anyone else fight its wars for it. All it requires is the strength – military, economic, territorial and political – to defend itself by itself.
Rather than seek to weaken Israel by coercing it to recede to indefensible borders in order to make room for a Palestinian terrorist state in its historic heartland, the US should abandon its support for Palestinian terrorists and ensure that Israel has the power to defend itself in a region marked by unprecedented instability and danger.
A strong Israel will be a force for regional stability and so advance US security while forming the firm foundation of a renewed US alliance structure in the region.
So, too, the US should embrace Japan’s readiness to defend itself, by itself. With no appetite to go to war for its allies, but with rising concerns about China’s military adventurism, the US should support Tokyo’s desire to stand on its own.
The same goes for South Korea. Rather than spurn Seoul’s desire to build uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing facilities, Washington should support South Korea’s goal of being a counterweight to Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and its hyperactive nuclear proliferation.
IT IS A schoolyard rule, but it is as true for nations as it is for 10-year-old boys: Be good to your friends and bad to your enemies. Then people will want to be your friends. And they won’t want to be their enemies.
Inspiring in its simplicity and tried and true through the ages, it can move the American people to recognize the dangers inherent to Obama’s foreign policy and embrace an alternative policy, and an alternative leadership, before disaster strikes.