The Wars: Big Ideas I

John Wohlstetter
Family Security Matters
October 5, 2013
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What President Obama and too many others miss....

Herewith recent Big Picture viewpoints:

Several top analysts, Michael Ledeen ("It's War, You Idiots!"), David Goldman ("America's Problems in the Middle East Are Just Beginning"), Roger Kimball ("Cairo is Burning? Where is President Obama?") shred the feckless Mideast policies & naive worldview of the Obama administration.

Ledeen writes:

[T]here's a global war, we're the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don't see it and therefore have no idea how to win it.

Any serious attempt to understand what's going on has to begin by banning the word "stability," much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists. If anything is fairly certain about our world, it's that there is no stability, and there isn't going to be any.  Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets (the old regimes, very much including the United States) have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it.  But things are changing, as always.

The war is easily described:  there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  The radicals include the Sunni and Shi'ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias.  Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, of the United States.

What if they win?  Some of them want to create a  (Sunni or Shi'ite) caliphate, others want Castro- or Kim-style communist dictatorships.  Like the five Mafia families in The Godfather, they have made their war plan, but, as with the Corleones and the Barzinis, they are driven by disagreements, some of which are fundamental.

War is foggy, and alliances are often very unstable, especially at moments when the whole world is up for grabs....

After charting the mess in Egypt, where a military regime is in a fight to the finish with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, with compromise not realistically possible, Ledeen charts the various shifting intra-Islamist alliances, country by country, as the Arab Spring utterly unravels:

Let's get outside these little boxes and look at the big board.  There's an alliance plotting against us, bound together by two radical views of the world that share a profound, fundamental hatred of us.  If they win, it's hell to pay, because then we will be attacked directly and often, and we will be faced with only two options, winning or losing.

That's the bad news.  The good news is that they're divided, and slaughtering each other.  And it's not always possible for us to sort out what "each other" even means.  But one thing is quite clear, and I know it's an unpopular idea, but it's a true fact:  they're not an awesome force.  The radical left has failed everywhere, and so have the radical Islamists.  Both claim to have history (and/or the Almighty) on their side, but they go right on failing.  The left is now pretty much in the garbage bin of history (you can hire Gorbachev for your next annual meeting if you can afford his speaking fee), and the "Muslim world"-sorry to be so blunt-is a fossilized remnant of a failed civilization.  Look at the shambles in Iran, look at the colossal mess the Brothers unleashed on a once-great nation.

ML calls for helping the oppressed inside Iran overthrow their Islamist tryant-masters.

Goldman writes:

It's 2015, and there is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas), financed by Iran, wins an election on a platform demanding the expulsion of the Jews from Israel. Iran, meanwhile, smuggles shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to terrorist cells in Palestine that can take down civilian airlines at Ben-Gurion Airport. With backing from the Egyptian military, Fatah throws out the elected Hamas government and kills a large number of Hamas supporters. What will Washington do? Given the track record of both the Obama administration and the Republican mainstream, one would expect America to denounce the use of violence against a democratically elected government.

Such is the absurdity of both parties' stance towards Egypt: the Egyptian military is doing America's dirty work, suppressing a virulently anti-modern, anti-Semitic and anti-Western Islamist movement whose leader, Mohammed Morsi, famously referred to Israelis as "apes and pigs." It did so with the enthusiastic support of tens of millions of Egyptians who rallied in the streets in support of the military. And the American mainstream reacted with an ideological knee jerk. America's presence in the Middle East has imploded.

Among other things, the American response to the events in Egypt shows the utter pointlessness of American security guarantees in the present negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority. Even in the extremely unlikely event that Mohammed Abbas chose to make peace with Israel, he would face a high probability of civil war....

Goldman warns that the violent youth frequently fight to the death.  This augurs vastly more killing taking place ere the third wave of Islamist jihad abates.

Kimball sees an "Alfred E. Neumann 'What, me worry?'" presidency, adrift:

On the links, naturally. Cairo is a long way away. No one there votes in the U.S. presidential election (not yet, anyway), so why shouldn't the Leader of the Free World respond to the crisis in Egypt by decamping to Martha's Vineyard, thus reinforcing his reputation as a latter-day Alfred E. Neuman? Why should he worry about Egypt, the churches being burned, the Christians being murdered, the chaos in the streets as the Egyptian military desperately attempts to deal with the anarchy that the Obama administration helped midwife with its support of the Muslim Brotherhood?...

Near the beginning of his first term, Obama, a bit like Cleopatra on her barge of burnished gold, floated into Cairo and told the world that he had come "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

Tolerance and dignity for all human beings, except for Jews, Christians, and other infidels, not to mention women, homosexuals, and those who have been enslaved by Muslims. Apart from them, there's tolerance and dignity galore.

RK concludes:

When it comes to Egypt, there is a lot of blame to spread around. The American people seem to be waking up to the shocking news that a large part of the blame for what is happening on the streets of Cairo - and for what happened in Benghazi and what is about to happen in Syria and Iran - must be laid at the door of the stupid "smart diplomacy" promulgated by the Obama administration.

They eagerly embraced the fairy tale of the "Arab Spring." When that spring turned out to be blood-red instead of pacifically verdant, their reaction has been one of confusion, obfuscation, scapegoating, and denial. America's reputation has probably never been lower in the Middle East than it is now. It turns out that there is leadership, on the one hand, and "leading from behind," on the other. Obama explicitly embraced the latter. The ensuing catastrophes are too multifarious and too profligate of blood and treasure to conceal for long. In the case of Obama, anyway, incompetence and malevolence have shaded into each other to form a single toxic confection. The narcissist-in-chief still moves from playground to playground in the world's most extravagant caravan. But his distance from the realities he has foisted upon the world is exceeded only by an arrogance bordering (on the wrong side of the border) on hubris. Hubris, as the Greeks knew, is followed reliably by Nemesis. A foreign policy that has sparked chaos in the Middle East, resentment among our allies, and belligerence among states like Russia and China, a domestic policy that nurtures the fiscal madness of "green energy" and the statist innovations of Obamacare: Nemesis cannot be far off.

Former adviser to Margaret Thatcher John O'Sullivan sees peril in a "too humble America"--one that incites our enemies to come after us:

In retrospect, we can see that the post-Cold War world ended in 2008, as a result of two events: Russia's unpunished invasion of Georgia and the financial crisis triggered by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Wall Street's fourth-largest investment bank.

The first marked the end of NATO expansion and the West's unquestioned dominance: Georgia had recently been backed by the United States for membership; Germany and France had effectively vetoed it. Soon afterward, Russia acted to demonstrate that Georgia, far from joining the West, was still very much in the Russian sphere of influence. The West acquiesced, France with enthusiasm, the rest of Western Europe with relief, the U.S. with reluctance, Central and Eastern Europe under protest.

The financial crisis, almost willfully misinterpreted as resulting purely from the absence of regulation, led to a collapse of confidence. Financial institutions, supranational structures, political leaderships, market theories, Western civilization itself and, of course, bankers all fell victim to popular alarmism, skepticism, even hatred. These self-destructive passions were further magnified by the Euro crisis, which proved even more damaging and intractable than the subprime mortgage crisis. But the U.S., as "hegemon" of the post-Cold War international structure, suffered the greatest loss in power and reputation, if not wealth.

In the United States itself, that loss translated into a desire to retreat from the arena of failure....

All in all, a mess en route to an even worse mess, indeed. 

Bottom Line.  An administration bereft of Big Ideas will ignore the counsel above.  But its critics should note carefully, for the next presidential election cycle.