Features Australia

Obama’s Legacy

No president has ever been such a disaster for the Middle East

7 January 2017

9:00 AM

7 January 2017

9:00 AM

Mark Steyn, in After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, branded Barack Obama a ‘symptom rather than a problem’. Steyn compared Obama to HG Wells’s ‘insular myopic Eloi’ in The Time Machine; a decadent, overindulged caste, clueless about how the wider world of ‘dark, feral and subterranean’ Morlocks – or reality – works. The Left Power Eloi Elite are likely to confuse appeasement with genuine peace and their own narcissism with nobility of spirit.

This might go some way to explaining President Obama’s hubris when pushing the reset button on Putin’s Russia. Obama’s initial one-sided accommodation of the Kremlin’s demands, starting in October ‘09 by reneging on missile interceptors and a radar station for Poland and the Czech Republic, did not evoke the respect of the Master of Realpolitik – quite the contrary. And so the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ends his days in the Oval Office (or Hawaiian golf course) trying to start a diplomatic meltdown with Moscow. Vladimir Putin, with no need to take his opposite number seriously, has chosen not to retaliate.

But Obama is more than an out-of-touch narcissist, as Stanley Kurtz observed in Radical-in-Chief. It’s hard to think of a major New Left figure – from Frank Marshall Davis or Edward Said to Jeremiah ‘God damn America!’ Wright – who did not leave a lasting impression on the young Obama. A central tenet of these thinkers was that US foreign policy constituted the root cause of all catastrophes. Not surprisingly then their modern-day followers often ascribed the attack of September 11 to ‘blowback’.


Obama was never so crass, and yet his foreign policy has the hallmarks of one long mea culpa, with the exception of hunting down al-Qaeda kingpins. His formula for eradicating Islamic terrorism or ‘violent extremism’ might be summarised as: apologise, accommodate and appease; remove US troops from Iraq; and assassinate Osama bin Laden. The narrative was already coming undone by Election Day 2012. The Benghazi massacre, which took place on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, was a case in point. Obama, addressing the United Nations prior to the 2012 election, and two weeks after the attack, rationalised the motivation for the murder of Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in terms of The Innocence of Muslims, an amateur film made by an Egyptian-American Copt: ‘There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy.’ The slaughter, as Obama already knew, was not the result of locals outraged by ‘the sin of provocation’ but violent jihadists made bold by the chaos of the Arab Spring and the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Fortunately for Obama, the rise and rise of Isis came after his re-election. Two-and-half years following the fall of Mosul in 2014 Isis remains in control of most of the city. Without US boots on the ground, the Iraqi army continues to be battered and humiliated. This has consequences. The survival of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s ‘Caliphate’ fuels the psychosis of Islamic terrorism in the world.

Barack Obama has played the role of Appeaser-in-Chief for eight long years. Why insist on front-row seats for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood leadership at his 2009 Cairo Speech and then apologise to these Islamists for America’s reaction to 9/11? Could Barack actually be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? His equal opportunity appeasement suggests otherwise. No agent of the Sunni Brotherhood would have given us the nuclear deal with Iran. The Saudis and Gulf states are furious about the $150 billion windfall to their Persian/Shia rival. And there’s no guarantee Iran won’t achieve nuclear weapons capability down the road. What convinced Obama there could be friendship with fanatics who believe the US is the Great Satan? As Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pointed out on national television twelve months after the nuclear deal: ‘We have many small and big enemies, but foremost among them are America and this very evil Britain.’

The one positive in Obama’s Middle East policy has been the provision of air cover for the YPG/SDF in Syria, resulting in victories against Isis in Kobanî (Jan ‘15), Tel Abyad (June ‘15) and Manbij (Aug ‘16). Now the President of the United States has tasked the SDF with liberating Raqqa. The problem for the secularist Syrian Democratic Forces is that Obama continually appeased and accommodated Turkey’s Erdogan, a product of his country’s Muslim Brotherhood, who backed ‘moderate terrorists’ in Syria’s civil war. Obama even gave Erdogan a green light to invade Syria under the cover of Operation Euphrates Shield. Today, as the SDF closes in on Raqqa, the militia’s rearguard is threatened by the Turkish Armed Forces. State Department spokesmen, like characters out of a Marx Brothers movie, are aware of a ‘problem’.

We continued to endure the effects of a Global Islamic Jihad, from Brussels to Orlando and from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Egypt’s Sinai, while Obama doubled down on appeasement and accommodation. Thus the bizarre circumstances surrounding the release from Guantánamo in May, 2014, of five of the Taliban’s top operatives in exchange for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, the young soldier who went AWOL in Afghanistan. To make their case more palatable for the public, the Obama administration mischaracterised Bergdahl as having served his country with ‘honour and distinction’ and the release of the Taliban’s Dream Team as ‘not a security threat to the United States’.

Geraldo Rivera defended the president’s thinking at the time with this line: ‘Wars end when you negotiate with your enemy’. The truth, of course, is that when wars end, then you negotiate with your enemy. Obama and John Kerry’s dangerous delusion explains their complicity in the passing of UN Resolution 2334. If Netanyahu did unilaterally gift the entirety of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, to zealots who fantasise about eliminating ‘Zionist Entity’ from the map, the State of Israel would be doomed. Should we be surprised that the Healer-in-Chief has once again confused suicide with ‘peace for our time’?

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