For the last few months I have been pointing out that the current administration appears to have no strategy for the Middle East. The Obama administration fumbled in Egypt and couldn’t seem to be able to make up its mind whether the coup was a public uprising – or really a coup. To avoid cutting off funding, they finally decided it wasn’t a coup – after the entire world knew it was a military coup. Even worse indecision paralyzed any action in Syria until Putin pulled Obama off the hot seat. Following that mess, Israel declared they would go it alone in responding to Iran’s nuclear program (Because they couldn’t count on the Obama administration to act with any backbone) My question has been, “where is this going and are greater disasters ahead.”
For the first time, we are now catching a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Sunday, October 27th New York Times had a front page story detailing where the Obama administration now seems to be headed. Entitled “Rice Offers A More Modest Strategy for Mideast,” the story describes the influence of former Ambassador Susan E. Rice’s term that have now articulated an American position in the Middle East.
Ms. Rice has now made it clear that there are limits on what the United States will do to nurture democracy in countries like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc. George Bush promised to raise the flag and start democracy in Iraqi. We now know how disastrous that idea was as religious war continues. Some voices will decry this change as a retreat from responsibility, but it reflects a new realism. The United States has learned that an educated and informed electorate is necessary. Many parts of the Muslim world simply prefer a religious system with imams at the top. However, the shift reflects President Obama’s personal concern that Middle East events could swallow his foreign policy agenda as it did with Bush.
Obama appears to be embracing pragmatism while eschewing military force except in a direct attack on American soil. The American public will embrace backing away from war. However, making this position a known policy has its problems as it does appear retreating from where the country has been. Holding back also makes the administration venerable to being kicked back forth between crises.
It is clear:
- America will make settling the Iranian nuclear issue a priority.
- Creating peace between Israel and Palestine remains at the top of the list.
- More attention will be given to Asia.
The situation in Egypt remains up for grabs and the administration still remain uncertain about how to respond. They will allow the turmoil in that country to settle before acting.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia appear to be backing away from their previous positions as major allies. Not good.
Is the new Obama position an improvement? Only time will tell.