You know things are bad when the president won’t even listen to his own advisors. And that’s exactly what’s happening now. Not only has President Obama refused to listen to potential improvements to the Administration’s policies regarding Syria, he has also closed his ears to those arguing for a no-fly zone. In his words (speaking of his previous Secretary of State), these people are nothing but peddlers of “mumbo jumbo.”
Obama’s contempt for others and unwillingness to listen to advice are two of his biggest weaknesses. This does not, however, prevent intelligent people from trying their hardest to get through to him. But if he continues to ignore these experts, their efforts are pointless. Prescribing tactics from an external position can indeed be a mistake, since not everyone has access to the data, but that does not mean that commentators should be blocked from discussing the big picture.
Eliot E. Cohen, former Counselor of the Department of State and current professor at John Hopkins SAIS, believes that Obama has a misconstrued idea of the Middle East. The following two paragraphs are Hopkins’ prediction of what Obama would say during a discussion about Russia and the Syrian Civil War:
We would do well to have nothing to do with the Middle East. The Bush Administration idiotically got us deeply involved in 2003 – the mistake from which most of our troubles have flowed. Our real interests, and in particular our economic interests, lie in Asia. The Europeans will have to learn to handle refugee flows on their own. Admittedly, many Middle Eastern terrorists would like to attack us, but they have their hands full with local enemies, and for those who want to target North America we have drones and special operators.
We have all the oil and natural gas we need: our geo-economic interests in the region are negligible. The Russians and Iranians want to pacify Syria? Fine. Let them try it and see what happens – both will get bled by it, which is fine with us. Besides, the Sunni Arab states will naturally act to balance Persian Shi‘a power … The Israelis can take care of themselves, not that we care for them all that much anyway. Humanitarian concerns about the rest? A pity, but we cannot go around solving all the world’s problems. We are, in a word, realists, unlike our soft-headed critics on left and right.
In reality, the current turmoil in the Middle East is only partially related to our initial invasion. The real culprits here are the Arab spring and our botched withdrawal from Iraq. And while it may seem like America has a large supply of oil, the commodity is always in flux. If our supplies are destroyed or fall into the hands of our enemies…goodbye gasoline.
The main point here is that we need a public discussion – before the next president takes office – detailing America’s interests in the Middle East and how we will secure them. Obama’s foreign policies have eroded America’s reputation and credibility. And he doesn’t even seem to care about the multiple times we’ve been humiliated by Russia.
The next president will be faced with many challenges, including how to make up for Obama’s shortcomings, how to restore this country’s reputation, and how to reconstruct American foreign policy.