Arthur Herman: Obama's Mideast retreat

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Arthur Herman, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is writing a book on the Arsenal of Democracy.]

When President Obama made his Cairo speech two years ago, apologiz ing for nearly everything America had done in the Mideast since Jimmy Carter, some of us worried that the goal was nothing less than terminating US influence there. Two signal events last week at either end of that volatile region suggest that's exactly what's happening.

The first was the decision to pull US ships and planes out of combat operations in Libya and to leave the rest to NATO unless the rebels are on the brink of destruction. The second, even more disturbing, was the report that, at the height of the anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain two weeks ago, the Pentagon ordered our ships and personnel at our naval base there to clear out, leaving only a skeleton staff.

Our naval base at Manama is the biggest in the region. It's the home of the Fifth Fleet, the guardians of Persian Gulf stability, and plays host to successive US carrier groups that keep watch over a hostile Iran.

Yet it seems the administration was ready to hand the place over to any anti-American or pro-Iranian demonstrators poised to take over in Bahrain, until the Saudis finally intervened and sent in troops -- thus saving our strategic bacon as well as their own...

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