Steve Kramer

Leading from behind – Again

You wouldn’t think that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah would be the go-to guy to lecture about the feckless policy of the U.S. in the Middle East – but he told it like it is: “The failure of America and the international coalition to bring defeat to Daesh [Islamic State] was one of the reasons which called or pushed Russia to also come, and to get directly involved. We welcome any force which intervenes and supports the [pro-Assad] front in Syria, because through its participation, it will contribute to pushing away the major dangers that are threatening Syria and the region.” (Reuters 25/9) What Nasrallah was talking about is the result of the infamous Obama strategy of “leading from behind.” Anything that Nasrallah “welcomes” affects Israel negatively.

Leading from behind necessarily leaves behind a vacuum, especially when you are talking about the world’s sole superpower abdicating its position as chief power broker. There is a huge price being exacted on American values by the Obama administration’s stepping back in the Middle East. Others, less moral and less idealistic, have rushed in to fill the vacuum that Obama created.

David Rothkoph, CEO and editor of the FP Group – publisher of Foreign Policy Magazine, has taught international affairs at Columbia and Georgetown Universities. A Democrat, Rothkoph admits to voting twice for President Barack Obama. He had this to say on September 28,
“Obama, for his part, is still reportedly trying to figure out what the heck his next halfway measure should be in Syria — should he dial up more tweets from the NSC or perhaps give another speech about how bad the options are in that country? Certainly, his U.N. address on Monday did not offer any clear answers — about anything. (For those of you who missed it, here is a summary of Obama’s U.N. remarks: ‘Good morning. Cupcakes. Unicorns. Rainbows. Putin is mean. Thank you very much.’)
Perhaps I am being unfair. Despite the fact that our efforts against IS are clearly not working, cooked intelligence notwithstanding, and that the extremist group is actually gaining strength in important ways, it may be that this is all part of a grand plan on the part of the U.S. president. He wanted out of the region. He did not want to put U.S. boots on the ground. He wanted someone or a group from the region to pick up the slack. And that’s exactly what he’s getting.”
( [emphasis added]

Rothkoph went on to say that since Putin has shown that he isn’t reluctant to put Russian boots on the ground in Syria, and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) is fighting there, as well as Iran’s Lebanese proxy army, Hezbollah, “[I]t seems clear that the president was perfectly comfortable giving them the room to do as they have done… [the United States has] gone from the victory-at-any-cost mindset of World War II to the exit-at-any-cost mindset of the Obama years.”

Regardless of the outcome in Syria, Muslim migrants will continue to storm the gates of Europe for the next few decades, if not longer. While I place the responsibility for the flood of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa primarily on the Muslim proclivity for living under backward and autocratic rule, the Obama administration certainly, by leading from behind, has done nothing to improve the situation in Libya or in Syria for the benighted Muslims.

In September, 2013, President Obama had a problem. Bashar al-Assad had crossed the president’s “red line” by using chemical weapons against the Syrian people. Secretary of State Kerry opened up a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis by pledging to persuade the Assad regime to hand over to international supervision its chemical arsenal for destruction, thereby averting an American attack on its chemical weapons capabilities. Obama was looking for a way out of retaliating against the Syrian dictator.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, quickly took advantage of the situation, offering Russia’s help to supervise Syria’s destruction of its WMD arsenal. The Obama administration and its Western allies quickly took the bait, subordinating their position to the Russians, a fine example of leading from behind. How did that turn out? (Answers: U.S. military options are not taken seriously, Syrians and Kurds are further victimized by Assad barbarism, Islamic State has taken additional territory, “Syria” is no longer a country.)

In his recent address at the U.N., President Obama spoke harshly of al-Assad for dropping barrel bombs on innocent children and using chemical weapons. That’s rich, considering that the American government has acquiesced to Russia, hardly a beacon of democracy, which has put its military might to use in Syria backing al-Assad. Simultaneously, Putin has carved out an actual sphere of influence in the Middle East which includes a port and naval and air bases on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This is the result of the U.S. leaving a void in the region by stepping back.

What the rise of Russian power just to the north of Israel portends for Israel is not yet certain. But Russia’s alliance with Iran cannot be a good thing. What is clear is that the eastern Mediterranean coast, the Levant, is now in play.

Largely because of a unassertive American president, Israel finds itself in a precarious position facing a resurgent (at least in our region) Russia, a revivified Iran, and a powerful and growing Islamic State.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.