On the eve of President Obama’s first visit to Israel as chief executive, I have just returned from briefing a high-ranking official of country x about the Middle East. We kept coming back to a vital theme: the incredibly shrinking power of the United States. Try to explain American behavior to neutral, open-minded third parties for whom U.S. policy activities have become just plain bizarre!
One of my recent articles for example, published here, shows how terrorists, including the murderers of four American officials in Benghazi, are literally laughing at the United States and its inability or unwillingness to do anything effective to defend its interests.
This item in a CBS News report particularly caught my eye:
“U.S. officials [in December 2012] lamented the lack of cooperation with the governments of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in their ongoing investigation into the [Benghazi] attack, saying most of the suspects remain free.”
–Tunisia, where the U.S. government supported not only the overthrow of a regime allied to itself but also elections that led to a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. Helpful hint: You should have intervened behind the scenes to get the four non-Islamist (secular, if you wish) parties to work together, run their campaigns successfully, and win. They got 60 percent of the vote but lost the election.
–Libya, where the U.S. government installed the current regime, which is basically an American client regime, by military (NATO, technically) force and pumped in support yet feared to send in a rescue mission to Benghazi. Obama should have called the Libyan leader on the evening of September 11, 2012, and said, “We’re on our way and expect your cooperation.” And the only reason for not doing that would have been knowing the Libyan government could rescue the Americans, which it was unable to do or even to try doing. The Libyan government has now said it would not cooperate in further investigation of the Lockerbie airplane bombing by Libyan intelligence under the previous regime.
–Egypt, where the U.S. government was cheerleading for the Muslim Brotherhood as early as Obama’s Cairo speech and backed it all through the revolution. There was the alternative of backing the military to get rid of Husni Mubarak and then make reforms. Or there was the alternative of backing the disorganized, under-financed moderates (and helping them to unite, get money, and be effective). But Obama did neither and his administration for all practical purposes endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood.
And now we see that these three governments won’t even cooperate in getting terrorists responsible for murdering Americans. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was booed by the moderates when she visited Egypt! And now the main, moderate coalition says it will boycott her successor, John Kerry’s visit.
Remember that Tunisia and Egypt, even if they are Islamist-ruled, have no direct interest in helping these Libyan terrorists—the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t like al-Qaida, which it correctly views as both a rival and a group willing to attack its own regimes—but won’t help the United States due to anti-Americanism, a generalized Islamic solidarity, and knowledge that they can stick their finger in America’s eye and taunt, “What are you going to do about it?”
How the mighty have fallen! But what’s most amazing is that this isn’t a process of murder but of suicide, it is voluntary. Is it reversible? Nobody knows but it isn’t going to be reversed in the next four years.
You have to understand, I tell the diplomat, that there’s been for all practical purposes a profound–albeit possibly temporary–transformation in the governance of the United States. Regarding foreign policy, all the old rules don’t apply—credibility; punishing enemies and rewarding friends; deterrence; don’t leave your men behind to die; don’t appoint a muddle-headed fool to be secretary of defense. In each case there is a nicely crafted rationalization for going against centuries of diplomatic and security practices. But so what? It’s still wrong.
Obama isbusy in apologizing for real or imagined past U.S. bullying, proving he only believes in multilateral action, showing his respect for local customs, and trying to demonstrate to those who hate it that America is their buddy in order to win them over.
The language above is harsh but it is also true.
Once upon a time there were two superpowers, the United States and USSR, in the Cold War. Then there was one superpower, the United States. Now there are none.
And yet what this means from Israel’s standpoint may be very different from what you’d expect.
Israel can cope with this situation, especially since it continues to receive U.S. military aid, intelligence-sharing, some diplomatic backing, and nice rhetoric about the ironclad special relationship between the two countries. Simultaneously, the U.S. government has taken leadership in setting strong sanctions against Iran.