President Obama, leader of the world’s preeminent economic and military power, called ISIS a “jayvee team” in January 2014. I’m not one who subscribes to the idea that ISIS, aka Islamic State (IS), is the biggest danger to the US or Israel, but ISIS is a major problem worldwide. It’s not that IS is an existential threat to any Western country. The problem is that IS attacks in Western countries terrorize whole populations, undermine their cohesiveness, while inflating the notoriety of IS. Unfortunately, Obama and other Western leaders have mostly failed to even define the problem for what it is: the Muslim jihad against the West, with a caliphate (Islamic empire) as its goal.
The attacks by IS, which views terror as both a long term strategy and a short term tactic, mostly impact its Muslim neighbors, allowing IS to gain territory in some countries and to energize proxy armies in other Muslim areas, in Asia and Africa.
In the West, the impact is felt by terrorized populations who fear being shot, blown up, crucified, or decapitated. Their governments fear that too, but also don’t know how to handle the deluge of immigrants that are crossing their borders as a result of Middle East mayhem. Besides the economic, religious, and cultural problems the immigrants bring with them, there are economic ones as well.
But what about the status of the world’s only superpower? Unfortunately, the US is looking decidedly weak to many people around the world, including a large percentage of American citizens. President Obama has often proclaimed that he believes in American exceptionalism. However, I and many others believe he talks the talk, but fails to walk the walk.
“You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Mr. Obama said at a 2014 news conference with [Philippine] President Aquino. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.” (sic) Using the president’s analogy, what happened to America, the home run hitter?
The Obama administration’s foreign policy hasn’t advanced American interests and partnerships. The Iran nuclear deal ensures that Iran will be a kosher nuclear power in just 14 years. The West should worry about that, because Iran hasn’t stopped proclaiming its goal to wipe out the US and Israel. Do other Western countries believe Iranian rockets would be limited to just these two countries?
An Israeli think tank reported in July: “A year after it was finalized, the nuclear deal with Iran has clearly made the region and the world more dangerous, notwithstanding the temporary respite won in Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration’s advocacy of warmer relations with Tehran appears totally removed from realities on the ground. Iran is using its new legal position to obscure, rather than clarify, past activities and present inventories; work on ballistic missiles and on the acquisition of materials for Iran’s non-conventional weapons arsenal continues apace; repression has worsened; regional subversion is at its peak; and exterminatory positions towards Israel are openly put forward. The JCPoA has in no way moderated Iran’s stance, nor made it a legitimate member of the community of nations.” (besacenter.org)
On the first anniversary of the JCPoA, the president stated that the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran is working – and Israel knows it. Israel’s Defense Ministry quickly refuted that statement, comparing the US-led deal that supposedly limits Iran’s nuclear capacity with the failed 1938 Munich Agreement which led Hitler to believe that Europe would not oppose his military ambitions. (jpost.com) It’s true that Prime Minister Netanyahu “apologized” for the retort, but the point was well made.
When President Obama continued to “lead from behind” and backed away from the “red line” he had drawn against Syria’s President Assad using chemical weapons, Russia’s Vladimir Putin filled the vacuum. Under Putin’s leadership, Russia is punching way above its weight. Russia is now the “go-to” power in the Middle East, with top officials from all the significant ME nations beating a path to his door, including even Israel’s prime minister.
Russia is building a “Russian Crescent” stretching all the way from the Caucasus to the the Eastern Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa through to the Indian Ocean. The retreat of American power under Obama has made it possible for Russia to achieve something she has sought since the reign of Peter the Great (1682-1725), but could never manage.
J.E. Dyer, retired US Naval Commander, has reported that Russian bombers are now operating in Syria from an Iranian base, in addition to its air base in eastern Syria. This new base suggests that the Russians could fly over and through Iran to targets further east. Russia is taking advantage of America’s retreat from power to put capabilities in place far beyond its prior abilities. Russia is doing this because she wants a hardened redoubt from which to manipulate the nations along its ever-expanding offensive perimeter, and to gain leverage over chokepoints and resources. Russia is acting to become the dominant power in the Eastern hemisphere.
Dyer says that many events, starting with China’s reaction, are likely to interfere with that plan. But the US is not in the driver’s seat after ending the Pax Americana. Dyer concludes, “There’s nothing holding a stable center for our geopolitical conditions today.” (libertyunyielding.com)
Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran (and Egypt and Israel to a much lesser extent) are aligning themselves with Russia because Russia appears to be the “strong horse” in the region. Because President Obama chose Iran – over Israel, Egypt and the Gulf States – to be America’s prime allies in the region, they have all turned to Russia out of necessity.
Perhaps IS is the jayvee team, as President Obama described it in 2014, because IS doesn’t threaten world stability. But Obama’s meekness towards the very significant threats from Russia and Iran does threaten the West. The big question is, what does this portend for US and for Israel, and will the next American commander in chief reassert Western leadership/dominance, which is far better than any alternative.
Political analyst Charles Krauthammer sums it up: “At the heart of this [global] disorder is a simple asymmetry. It is in worldview. The major revisionist powers — China, Russia and Iran — know what they want: power, territory, tribute. And they’re going after it. Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that these are vanities, nothing but vanities.” (nydailynews.com)
Let’s hope that the next president has a more realistic worldview.