The Obama Doctrine and the Middle East

Thankfully, the term of America’s 44th President is coming to a close. Through eight years, we have seen our position as the world’s lone superpower challenged time and time again. Across the Bering Sea, Russia and strongman Vladimir Putin have resurrected Cold War strategies of putting the United States and Russia in competing spheres of influence over Middle Eastern states. China is expanding their presence in the South China Sea by the day.  Iran and its theocracy of Ayatollah Khamenei and radical mullahs are not even afraid to flaunt their violations of the disastrous JCPA (Iran nuclear deal). Saudi Arabia has said they do not think President Obama is the right person to reassert America’s commitment to the Kingdom as our chief Muslim ally in the region. As the Middle East becomes more and more problematic every day, it is clear the Obama Doctrine has dangerously imperiled our traditional allies and national interests.

Beginning in 2009, Obama did not mince words when, in Cairo, he linked Israel’s existence to the horrors of the Holocaust.  Saying, “The aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied” is both false and insulting.

No, Mr. President, the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in the thousands of years of historical, religious, and spiritual connection to the land of Israel.  Zionism began 30 years before the Nazi’s rose to power in Germany, and a full four decades before the horrors of Auschwitz were revealed to the world.  By saying that Israel’s roots lay in the Holocaust, Obama stoked the flames of radical Islam that believe Jews only came to Israel as a result of the Holocaust.

Mr. President, what about the centuries old Jewish community in Safed (Tzfat)?  What about the fact that Jews were lynched in Jerusalem in 1929 just because they had the audacity to pray at the Western Wall, their holiest site?  By his own admission, President Obama actively worked to create “daylight” in the one alliance that needs no daylight.  Israel has been on the front lines combating radical, extremist Islam since 1948 and has never given up that fight because they can not afford to, despite Obama’s abandonment of realism that has made the neighborhood more dangerous for Israel.

The effects of the Obama Doctrine are not confined to the Jewish state. Syria, which at this point is essentially a failed state that has fallen into chaos has been at the center of Obama’s failure on the military and geopolitical level.  In August 2013, Obama refused to back up his own threat of Syria’s violation of his “red line” in the use of chemical weapons.  Immediately the world knew that this was not a President who would assert America’s military might to stop the rise of rogue nations, violent militias, or the influx of foreign (Russian) influence into the region. From that moment on, US credibility was destroyed to our traditional allies and enemies alike. Our allies no longer felt could depend on the United States to protect them, nor our enemies to defeat them.  Russia and China were quick to catch on, expanding arms trading with states traditionally in the United States sphere of influence.  The recent Russian sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran are a direct result of Obama’s failure to assert American might onto the international stage.

American foreign policy is a complex equation based on a simple formula.  Siding with our allies, backing down our enemies, and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons are the tenants built into our foreign policy formula.  All of this has been jettisoned by an arrogant President who believed he could achieve the same level of détente with Iran as Nixon did with the Soviets. The only issue is that Iran is not the Soviet Union. The Soviets were held in check because neither us or them believed in an extreme ideology bent on spreading terror and wiping sovereign states off the face of the earth through nuclear annihilation.  This same arrogant President was content to blame other people for his ultimate failure, the deposing of Muammar Gaddafi without a plan to secure the country in his exit.  In recent history, when has a US President ever actively engaged in foreign regime change without a coherent exit plan?  Even if you believe the Iraq war was misbegotten, at least President Bush had a clear goal of changing the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein for a democratically elected regime. Predictably, Libya has become a failed state as ISIS (Obama’s “junior varsity terrorists”), and other terrorists have carved out territory.

As it relates to Israel, President Obama did not have to go along with everything Prime Minister Netanyahu said to avoid betraying our staunchest ally.  Many Israelis believe President George W. Bush was the most pro-Israel President, yet Bush purposely exempted Fatah and Hamas in his fight on global terrorism.  President Bush’s State Department played an active role in pressuring Israel and Prime Minister Olmert to end the Lebanon War before completing stated objectives.  Israel does not need a patsy in the White House, they just want someone who is competent when it comes to foreign policy, and sadly, Obama could not even muster that.  Israelis want someone who understands that Israelis fight a daily battle against an enemy bent on their destruction.  As an Israeli friend told me, all she wants is a “president who understands I am scared sometimes to walk down the streets in my own country.”

Obama undercut Prime Minister Netanyahu at every chance.  Most recently, he sent Vice President Biden to J-Street to directly condemn the democratically elected Israeli government and the policies of the Knesset.  This is the Obama Doctrine in a nutshell.  Insult, condemn, break away from our allies while trying to appease radical regimes which will never moderate.  When Iran underwent their short-lived Green Revolution, Obama did not utter one word to nurture democracy in Iran despite videos of violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, yet he has a problem with the policies of the democratically elected Israeli government.

As the Obama Administration begins its final few months in the White House, one can only hope they have no more opportunities to put the Obama Doctrine into motion.  As the Middle East continues to fragment along national, religious, and sectarian lines, a strong, resolute, and effective President can do wonders to restore American power and credibility to the region.  Unfortunately, we may not see the true effects of Obama’s failure to adhere to rational foreign policy for years to come.  Iran has a head start on building a nuclear bomb.  Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan will need countless reassurances that the new President is not as feckless as Obama.  Israel will seek an Administration not ready to capitulate to the hostile anti-Israel forces that are a dime-a-dozen across the Middle East and Europe.  Putin will need a stern reminder to stop causing problems in the Middle East.  After eight years of weak, almost pathetic foreign policy, it will take a complete change in how the United States supports our allies and fights our enemies to help restore order and confidence in the American ability to defend those allies.

About the Author
Saul Mangel is a political consultant for top officials in the United States and Israel. He specializes in international relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Originally from Philadelphia, Mr. Mangel holds a bachelor's degree in political science and is a former IDF combat soldier.
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