By James Lewis
When Saddam Hussein's tank battalions brutally invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United States was able to knock Saddam's Air Force out of the sky in a matter of days. In the subsequent tank battles the United States ruled the air. After kicking Saddam out of Kuwait we maintained a no-fly zone over half of Iraq for the next six years, thereby stabilizing the Gulf on both sides. Where the USAF and USN ruled the skies Saddam could not launch a single plane or missile. The world's oil supply was protected, allowing European leftists to drive their cars at reasonable gas prices to noisy demonstrations to scream and rage at us, all because Uncle Sam was the good cop and kept them free.
Being the good cop has been our role for sixty years, ever since World War II; it's the single biggest reason we haven't had a World War III. Yet.
But Obama is now stopping the United States from being the good cop to keep the peace in the Middle East. Pax Americana is in retreat, step by step, and truly barbaric regimes are rearing their ugly heads all the way from Myanmar to the tip of South America. This administration is either grossly incompetent in foreign affairs, or it is genuinely self-destructive; it doesn't matter which. In the case of the mob-staged coup d'etat against Mubarak, Obama seemed more malevolent than ignorant, but the result is still the same. Egypt's reactionary Muslim Brotherhood is even now picking up all the chips Obama has lost in the latest farce. In Tahrir Square the new Ayatollah Khomeini of Egypt just came back from exile and addressed a million shouting supporters. Google's little twitter mobber Ghonim was kept off the stage. Only the US press was assaulted. The next time will be worse.
We are witnessing an exact copy of Jimmy Carter's abandonment of a pro-Western and fairly enlightened Iran in 1979. Carter allowed the first radical Islamist power to consolidate in the Middle East; more than a million people died in the war that followed. Jimmy still maintains his innocence, just as he's telling us now there's nothing to fear from the Muslim Bros, in spite of their famous five Rules for Islamic Radicals. They make Alinsky look like a guppy next to a Great White shark.
Obama has now pushing our thirty-year ally Hosni Mubarak out of power, letting the biggest country in the Middle East be radicalized. Meanwhile Turkey has fallen to another offshoot the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaza is under the thumb of Hamas after Israel gave in to US pressure to retreat, Lebanon is now run by Hezbollah, and Syria is allied with Ahmadinejad. No wonder all the bad guys are celebrating.
Every time Obama retreats, Ahmadinejad advances, step by step, like a chess master playing against a panicked rookie. You can see checkmate coming way ahead of time.
The United States still has overwhelming military and political power, but under Obama we have retreated from the Gulf, leaving the Saudis in a panic, ready to import nukes from Pakistan; we have retreated from our promise to defend Europe against Iranian and Russian missiles, and now we have allowed the biggest Arab power, Egypt, to be overthrown by what looks to be another Islamist radical fanatic, who will place Egypt on a war footing with Israel and the West.
In the last two years of Obama we given up five strategic bottlenecks, count ‘em:
1. The Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil flows. The Iranians have dug in very deep with ship-targeting missiles on their side of the Strait, and it will be like Iwo Jima to get them out of there. They can close the Strait any time they feel like it.
2. The Suez Canal, thereby putting pressure on the Mediterranean.
3. Somalia and the Atlantic bulge of Africa, where Somali pirates (protected by the Islamist forces in Somalia) are still free to blackmail world shipping.
4. Israel and its more peaceful Arab neighbors --- Lebanon, Egypt, and soon, perhaps, Jordan.
5. The missile flight routes from Iran to Europe.
At the same time the Obama administration has blocked and sabotaged domestic oil production.
This is a chess game in which we are simultaneously being threatened in five different places on the board, and we keep sacrificing our own pieces for no net gain.
After dithering for a week, the Egyptians are now allowing two Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean. There they can link up with Turkey and Syria, two big military powers controlled by radical Muslim ideologies. Or they can fire ship-borne missiles at Israeli vessels the next time Turkey stages another Mavi Marmara provocation. Or, for that matter, they can threaten US naval fleets that have protected free trade in the Med since the end of World War Two. All it takes is a single suicide attack against a US carrier, and the Iranians have carried out numerous suicide attacks in their war against Saddam. Or just a single dirty bomb on a freighter, to create worldwide panic and plunge the world into an economic freeze.
If Obama has any rational strategy, I assume it is to pressure Israel into a "peace agreement' with major territorial concessions. If Obama can time that just before the next election he may get enough media glorification to win a second term.
The trouble is that America has now abandoned three major Middle East powers to the radicals: Iran, Turkey, and Egypt. How much can you trust a superpower that will walk away from a 30 year ally like Mubarak? Only until Obama figures out another way to screw an ally -- maybe Taiwan as a favor to China. Why would the Israelis and Jordanians trust Obama's peace agreement if the US voluntarily weakens its control? Why would Europe trust in American defenses of their oil supply, even though they keep disarming themselves?
The Israelis are left with two unpalatable choices. One is to strike Iran, as the center of aggression in the Middle East today. The trouble with that is that without full American cooperation, Turkey and Egypt may sabotage an Israel strike, with their powerful armed forces that may soon be in the hands of radicals. Israel can also explode a nuclear bomb as a warning, which it is bound to do if Iran explodes a bomb (now predicted for 2012-2015). But those are last-resort measures.
The second option is to hold tight and wait, hoping that Obama will lose the next election and that a better US government will follow. There is little doubt that cyberwarfare is constantly going on in secret, with Stuxnet 2.0 and 3.0 being launched. There are no doubt Iranian counter-attacks, maybe with the help of China and North Korea. We may never know that.
Wars are dynamic, and what's going on right now is the first cyberwar in history, with a hot war to follow if Iran threatens to go nuclear. So far we have seen no indication that Obama is an effective defender of American and Western values. In public he has seemed comfortable with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Turkey, and with Ahmadinejad in Iran. This administration makes a specialty of proclaiming American weakness and moral inferiority.
That seems objectively insane, but that's what we see. Obama has indicated no real concern about our long-time allies. You can be very sure that the Chinese, North Koreans, Japanese, Russians, Iranians, and now the Sunni radicals in Turkey and Pakistan are taking careful notice. Obama just announced negotiations with the Taliban, who gave Al Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan to kill Americans on 9/11. Al Qaida is proclaiming victory in Egypt.
The United States is in retreat, step by step. Ahmadinejad has surrounded our ally Israel on almost all sides (Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, perhaps Egypt) as well as in the Mediterranean with the Turkish armed forces and Iranian war ships transiting the Suez Canal.
Obama is clearly letting it all happen, as no other American president has ever done. Europe has weakened itself immensely, and cannot defend itself. It lacks the will to do so, and increasingly, it lacks the military power. If they can't rely on us, they will look to Russia to be their new imperial master.
This is the biggest Western gamble since the Hitler appeasement policy of the 1930s. I don't know where the first major aggression will explode, but we are inviting attack on multiple fronts. We are playing the Weak Horse in Osama bin Laden's famous phrase. There is no need to do so, because we still have the raw military and political power. But we are signaling retreat and weakness all over the world, and the wolves and vultures are circling closer and closer.
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