Obama and John Kerry both styled themselves sophisticated globalists who would undo the damage of Bush’s “Cowboy Diplomacy.” But what they have in fact shown themselves to be is incredibly stupid ideologues, who do not have any sense that foreign policy depends upon cultivating people with common interests. This was even clear from their campaign rhetoric of “smart diplomacy,” as if all it took was a silver tongue. Content matters. Parties matter. Common interests matter. Instead of doing anything smart, we have supported a political procedure–elections–and gotten behind the would-be tyrants of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This is analogous to Bush’s democracy-obsession in Iraq, which led to the election of Shia theocrats allied with Iran. In Egypt, the country’s Christians, secularists, military figures, and moderate Muslims who supported Mubarak and also opposed Mohammad Morsi are our natural allies in that region. We have abandoned them, in spite many years of good will and friendship.
We have followed a similarly crazy course in Syria. Granted, Assad is no ally of the US, natural or otherwise. But he need not be an enemy either. After all, Syria cooperated in the FIrst Gulf war and, more important, we have a common interest with them in resisting the al Qaeda aligned rebels. But here too we have allied with the rebels and led to the weakening of the country’s more reasonable regime figures. We got involved, when we could have remained aloof.
We have reflexively embraced every random protest movement that made the right noises about democracy. The embrace of democracy without limits is part of the problem. The US understood after World War II that democracy was not an absolute principal, even if the US otherwise supported democratic regimes. Nonetheless, the Nazi Party and its key figures as well as Nazi propaganda and imagery were all forbidden from Germany’s post-war democracy. Much effort was made to write the Constitution of Japan as a pro-American, liberal one. In other words, we understood that the content and character and identity of a country’s rulers were equally important as the rule of law and democratic political processes.
At the same time, we cooperated with friendly non-democratic leaders in Chile and Egypt and South Korea because the alternative was totalitarian communist-led abuse of democratic political forms. In all these cases, our leadership remembered that we as a nation have our own interests, and that those interests do not necessarily line up with what 51% of some third world nation’s populace might want.
In any case, now Obama is widely spoken of as the enemy of our natural allies in Egypt and Syria. He is seen by many as a Muslim Brotherhood agent in that conspiratorial-minded part of the world. It’s clear for those who have seen him act in the US, rather, that he is simply misguided by a combination of instinctual anti-Americanism, naivete, excessive confidence in his ability to manage events, and a reflexive abandonment of our allies rooted in a desire to be “on the right side of history.”
It’s clear that we cannot manage events in this part of the world. I do not blame Obama for this. But under those circumstances, the superior policy is to withdraw our forces and reduce our attempted influence. It is too likely things will blow up in our face, as they have in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. To the extent we have any interest in the area, it is to support the forces that oppose al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. This would include the very regimes–Mubarak, Assad–whom we have decided to oppose. It’s a pathetic spectacle, where the US has stupidly and unwittingly empowered its declared enemies. Obviously, there will be no gratitude from the Muslim Brotherhood for our support. We are not natural allies, and their own declared ideology will not permit it. But there will be understandable ill will and distrust from the very secular forces whom we could have and should have cultivated, to the extent we did anything at all.