Dear Obama – the Middle East is Your S—Show


5758494605_5dacf07623_Barack-Obama-David-CameronIn a recent interview with The Atlantic, US President Barack Obama has attempted to shift the blame for the mess in Libya onto British Prime Minister David Cameron. Since the 2011 NATO campaign which toppled former dictator Muammar Gadaffi, Libya has descended into a chaotic civil war and has become a haven for the Islamic State. Obama has claimed that Cameron became “distracted by a range of other things,” and privately refers to Syria as a “s—show.”

Although Obama is right to expect his allies to contribute more to security operations (he had insisted that the British spend 2% of their GDP on defence), this attempt to pass the buck is extraordinary, even for Obama. The Obama administration “led from behind” during the intervention in Libya, but recent experience with toppling a Middle Eastern dictator left no excuses for thinking the country could be stabilised without a significant and sustained commitment from the US military.

This did indeed occur in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein – it took six very bloody years, at tremendous cost to the US and particularly the Iraqis, but it was worth it. Saddam was overthrown, Al Qaeda in Iraq was destroyed, multiple democratic elections had been held, and by the last month of the US occupation, there were no US combat casualties – the country was more or less at peace. But it was Obama’s withdrawal of all US forces, without leaving any behind by way of a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, that created the security vacuum in Iraq which the Islamic State was able to fill.

The lesson of this is the prescience of the old adage, “you break it, you bought it”. It is downright dense to expect that Libya could have been successful post-Gaddafi without a US-led occupation.

The same thinking which led to Obama’s creation of security vacuums in Iraq and Libya – the underlying assumption that US military engagement in the world is always bad – led to the missed opportunity in Iran during the Green Revolution of 2010-11, when he essentially betrayed and left for dead the fledgeling democracy movement, and the missed opportunity in Syria – again, if the US had intervened to overthrow Assad when the Syrian revolution began, and then committed troops to stabilising Syria, it could now look as Iraq did in 2009. Instead, Obama’s inaction has created space for the Islamic State in Syria, and has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Thus, it is America’s disengagement from the Middle East which has turned it into a s—show.

Furthermore, the last eight years have been among the worst to be an American ally. The Obama administration deliberately tried to influence the outcome of the 2015 Israeli election, as revenge against Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to Obama’s policies. Obama betrayed the Ukraine, failing to fulfil the US’s treaty commitment to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukraine in return for the handing over of its nuclear weapons to Russia at the end of the Cold War. He betrayed the Poles by abandoning the Missile Defence System in Europe, which the Poles had stuck their head out a very long way to support – interestingly, the Polish Defence Minister has been quoted as saying that the American alliance “isn’t worth s—.” And in Australia’s backyard, American weakness has allowed the Chinese room to throw their weight around, and Russian President Vladimir Putin was even able to get away with visiting Australia with a small Russian fleet in tow.

And it gets worse.

David Cameron has indeed become distracted – by the exponential rise in illegal immigration into Europe and the UK, caused primarily by the US’s disengagement from the Middle East, as the people of the Middle East attempt to flee the chaos which the US’s – read Obama’s – neglect has caused.  This unprecedented influx of illegal migrants from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe, and the demographic and cultural shift which it is accelerating, is likely to finish Europe off, at least as it has existed for the last couple of millennia. The US was able to save Europe twice from destruction during the Twentieth Century, but not this time.

Not that Obama will ever acknowledge his own culpability.

Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office