Syria: Obama's Worst Mistake?
by Ian R Thorpe, 11 August, 2016
Syria: Obama's Worst Mistake?
Ian R Thorpe, 11 August, 2016
As the presidency of Barack Obama moves into its final moths, like most presidents of The United States he is becoming obsessed with his legacy. His fans point to failed policies like Obamacare, the illusory recovery and the reduction in unemployment as his great achievements in domestic politics, although all of these are very dubious milestones in what is otherwise a catalogue of failure: the USA is more deeply divided racially than at any time since the 1950s, the gab between rich and poor is growing and with civil unrest rife in cities that country seems on the verge of social breakdown.
What is most often touted as a great triumph for Obama, the socialised healthcare policy known as Obamacare is in fact in a state of collapse as service providers quit the system. Another flagship policy, the greening of the American economy is almost as great a disaster with huge bankruptcies in sustainable energy schemes back by Obama and set up with taxpayers money. Multi million dollar bankruptcies in the sustainable energy sector include Abengoa, Solyndra, Abound Solar, First solar (not actually liquidated but trading at a heavy loss)and many more (Solar companies continue to go bankrupt - Forbes) while deindustrialisation has accelerated.
The real legacy of Obama's administration of course will be in the area of foreign policy, where the utter ineptitude of Obama and his terrorist loving liberal cronies have reduced his promise to be the peacemaker and joybringer who would user the world to an era of harmony and prosperity to ridicule as he has stumbles from one disaster to another. A very special kind of incompetence was required to make the messes created by his predecessor George W Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan worse, but Obie managed to pull it off.
It was his very own war that cemented his reputation as the worst president ever, particularly the one in Syria. This was a problem that cried out for American leadership, and Obama showed he was not capable of leading, thus allowing Vladimir Putin's Russia to re-establish itself as the dominant power in the middle east and along with China, challenge America's assumptions about its unassailable position as the dominant global power..
In fairness, Obama was right to be cautious about military involvement, and we don’t know whether the more assertive approaches favored by Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus and many others would have been more effective. The likelihood is that early military involvement would have ensnared the USA in a Vietnam style quagmire. But Obama and Americans in general were wrong suggest that the Assad regime was horrible therefore the right thing to do was support a motley crew of terrorists, religious fanatics and gangsters, pretending that they offered a viable alternative to Assad. One of the things that has always struck me about Barack Obama is that he does not learn from past mistakes. His policy in Syria, in obsessing over bringing down a tyrant without thinking about what would follow the removal of a nasty and oppressive government repeated the folly of Libya, where Obama led foreign intervention created a failed state
“There are many things we can be doing now,” James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We can do many things to create security in selected areas, protect and stabilize those safe zones and allow them to rebuild their own country even as the conflict continues in other parts of the country.”
Cartwright, who has been called Obama’s favorite general (probably because of his talent for using a lot of words to say absolutely nothing, acknowledges that his proposal for safe zones carries risks and that the America would have faced a protracted involvement of a decade or more. But he warns that the risks of doing nothing in Syria are even greater.
While caution within Syria is understandable, Obama’s lack of public global leadership is not helping its refugees who are swamping Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, is harder to explain. The international appeal for Syrian refugees this year is only 41 percent funded.
“If you care about extremism, you’ve got 200,000 Syrian kids growing up in Lebanon with no education,” notes David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary, now head of the International Rescue Committee.
Perhaps it’s unfair to reproach Obama when other politicians and other countries are also unmoved — and the U.S. has been generous with financial aid — but ultimately the buck stops on Obama’s desk. He instigated the projects to remove Gadaffi in Libya and Assad in Syria, just as he instigated the project to remove Egyptian dictator Honsi Mubarak. That misadventure resulted in a short lived Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship which began the ethnic cleansing of Shia and Alawite Muslims, Jews and Coptic Christians before the Egyptian military re - established the old regime under a new leader. With these results under his belt, Obama will host a summit meeting on refugees next month and will almost certainly seize that chance to 'lead from behind' as other heads of state seek to address the crisis.
It is perhaps too simplistic to blame Obama for not alleviating the suffering of Syrians, by setting up "no fly zones" and demilitarised areas which would require intervention on a large scale to ensure that fighting is brought to an end. UN-recognised intervention to create such safe zone would also require a UN Security Council resolution, which Russia and China would certainly veto, particularly after the USA / United Nations stitch up that saw what was adversitsed as a 'humanitarian mission' turned into a regime change campaign by the FUKUS axis. The problem in Syria is not only that Assad has no desire to step down but that should he be forcibly deposed, there would be no coherent alternative to replace his regime. Now, as Obama has vacillated while France and Britain, fearing a public opinion backlash, have pulled back from their commitment to end the Assad regime, the Syrian dictator, supported by Russian airstrikes and Irainian ground troops is on the verge of recapturing all the territory lost to ISIS and staying in power. As we have seen in Libya, to depose a tyrant when there is no organised opposition to take the place of the regime and the foreign powers responsible for the fall of the dictator are not prepared to put in place an interim government led by foreign military officers and bureaucrats and supported by an army of occupation tasked with maintaining rule of law through the transition to representative democracy, disaster is inevitable. Turkey's President Erdogan and Hillary Clinton have long supported a no-fly zone, but the White House had been reticent. A no-fly zone would only ensure that aircraft of the warring parties are not allowed to enter the designated space. It would not prevent the continuation of hostilities on the ground. Therin lies a problem, while Hillary Clinton might embrace all the politically correct causes of American 'liberals' when dealing with domestic politics, she is a foreign policy hawk. Turkey's President Erdogan and Hillary Clinton have long supported a no-fly zone, but the White House had been reticent. A no-fly zone would only ensure that aircraft of the warring parties are not allowed to enter the designated space. It would not prevent the continuation of hostilities on the ground. foreign policy hawk, and worse, a small minded and vindictive promoter of US global hegemony. Erdogan of course has been exposed as a human rights abuser and an ally and facilitator of ISIS even before the recent failed coup in Turkey which gave him an excuse to transfer the powers of the elected government to himself as president. Some have compared the world's turning a blind eye to the suffering in Syria to the delay in addressing the crisis in Bosnia in the 1990s. But then NATO did intervene decisively to stop the onslaught and force Serbia to the negotiating table after the massacre of Srebrenica and the shelling of Sarajevo. In 1995, the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica took place in a Nato-enforced no-fly zone. In the 1990s, Russia was mired in domestic problems and was absent on the world stage. Today Putin seeks to restore its dominance in the Middle East and eastern Europe, Russia's backyard.
We (the western powers) previously intervened in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, funding mujahideen and helping them the jihad leading to their "victory over a superpower" and in doing so inflamed the Islamic world, reawakened Islamic fundamentalism and destabilized the Islamic world. Now terrorist and jihadist groups flourish under theocratic governments and fundamentalist leaders like the aforementioned Erdogan, who believes it is his destiny to become the Sultan of a new Islamic Caliphate. It it any wonder ISIS, through its supporters in secular western societies, attacks us in the srteets of our cities, with no end to the conflict in sight.
By insisting on "Assad must go" and then lacking the testicular fortitude to actually make it happen, thus allowing the civil war in Syria to become a regional war, our leaders have, as usual, made a bad situation worse. It is not as though the opposition to Assad is less unsavory than his tyrannical regime, and at least Assad is a secular Muslim and has protected Christians, Jews, other non Muslims and people whose only crime was to be the wrong sort of Muslim from the excesses of Sunni fundamentalists.
If we insist on peace, but only on our terms, as Washington always has and continues to do, then the USA and NATO have to exert some muscle. And military strategists have warned that it is far from a foregone conclusion that the alliance could beat Russia or China, and would certainly lose a conflict in which those two allies stood together. The only other option is to accept peace on whatever terms are possible, allow Assad to stay in power and patch up diplomatic relations with Russia. Those are our options in the middle east.
Like most of his mainstream media and academic supporters in both North America and Europe, Obama just 'doesn't get it' on foreign relations. Every time the USA backed by the UK and France (the FUKUS axis) meddles in the domestic politics of sovereign states (particularly in the middle east) the 'humanitarian' invasion . bombing campaign seems to make things worse, both for the people of the unfortunate nation and for western interests in the area. The mindset that the western powers are the "good guys in white hats" and should save the world from Russia, China and Iran (bad guys, black hats) is insane. Albert Einstein, supposed by many to be the most intelligent human being of the twentieth century, said "the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior in the hopes of getting a different result?" Yet after the failures in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and Afghanistan, Obama and his anointed successor Hillary Clinton want more interventions, "boots on the ground" in Syria (they are already on the ground in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan), and confrontation with China and Russia.
The point that is missed in Washington is that the Arab, Russian and Chinese mindsets are very different to the European and American mindests. Europe and USA are culturally similar though not the same, so American politicians can talk to Europeans as they would to other Americans, Canadians or Mexicans. Get into negotiations with people of a very different mindset, and they are walking through a minefield. And people have long memories when they feel their nation and culture has been insulted. For example, when there was a push to admit Turkey to the EU recently, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece and several more balkn states swore to veto the move. Brussels bureaucrats and national leaders such as David Cameron, Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel rather condescendingly reminded the opponents of Turkey that the Turkish Empire had broken up a hundred years ago and any injustices to Christian Europeans should be forgotten, while Barack Obama opined that He wanted Turkey in the EU.
This only hardened opposition. As a British person I cannot understand the animosity between east Europeans and Turkey, but I do understand that I have no right to tell people in nations once ruled by the Turks to 'get over it' unless I grant them the right to dictate to Britain on how we should conduct our national affairs.
In regard to the Syrian disaster, it is unlikely an iteration of Obama's well-worn, all purpose apology is unlikely to repair the devastation in Syria. Involving the USA in that country was the mistake that really showed the world his true incompetence and lack of resolve. Combine that with pulling out of Iraq too early and we see what a shallow man he is and what mayhem his vacillation and politically correct angst is capable of causing. His determination to be passive and give the appearance of an intellectual who never gets involved directly is limited to the racial strife in the US and his unsought and unwelcome advice to allies on how to conduct their domestic politics.