America’s Middle East Dilemma

Roundup
tags: Iraq, Iran, ISIS



 Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.

... President Obama has announced that we will pull all troops out of Afghanistan in 2016. But Afghanistan is even less stable now than Iraq was when we left. We can assume what Kabul will look like when the last American leaves.

Most believe that Libya is now worse off after the U.S. and European bombing of the Moammar Qaddafi regime that led to its removal and subsequent sectarian fighting. The U.S. was unwilling to send troops openly to restore order. The subsequent rise of al-Qaeda terrorists led to the destruction of the American consulate in Benghazi and the death of our ambassador and three other Americans.

Al-Qaeda affiliates have slowly taken over the resistance to the barbaric regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad. Syria is now a wasteland like Libya — and perhaps soon most of the Middle East. Obama threatened to intervene, issued red-line threats, backed off, and then asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for face-saving help.<

There is a common theme to the repeated messes in the Middle East. Invading countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq to topple genocidal anti-American tyrants doesn’t result in long-term advantages unless there are years of American postwar occupation — which is costly and deeply unpopular with voters.

Letting Middle East factions kill each other off — and kill tens of thousands of innocents in their way — poses a humanitarian disaster and can lead to the sort of chaotic badlands that allowed Osama bin Laden and his gangsters to plan attacks on the U.S.

Just bombing and leaving is not always that much better. A chaotic Libya is now worse than under Qaddafi.

Whichever bad choice the Obama administration prefers, it should at least level with the American people. Every postwar occupation in our history has dealt with unappreciative and unstable allies such as Maliki — from difficult South Korean strongmen of the 1950s and 1960s to Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. Pulling completely out of a mostly quiet Iraq just because we had to work with unsavory characters made no sense.

Airbrushing the Middle East or the War on Terror also leads nowhere. The administration can create mythologies about Islamic history, as in Obama’s unfortunate Cairo speech. It can bow to sheiks, commit NASA to Muslim outreach, emphasize the Muslim roots of Obama’s father’s family, invent euphemisms for the war against radical Islam, and dub the Muslim Brotherhood “largely secular.”

The result will still be that Middle Eastern factions hate us. Polls reveal that Obama is as unpopular in the Middle East as George W. Bush was....




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