Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In the Middle East, Where is the Indispensable Nation?

As President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly today many there were asking where does America stand on matters ranging from the crisis in Syria to Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons.  Others were asking where is President Obama?  He declined to meet any foreign leaders this week, averring with the excuse that if he met one, he’d have to meet ten.  He has nonetheless found time in his schedule over the last week to appear on the morning talk show The View, attend a fundraiser put on by rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyonce in a New York nightclub.  His multi-tasking White House staff found time in advance of the UNGA meeting to send out gags about the president meeting in the White House with a man dressed as a pirate (*).  

Of course, the President needn’t have met with ten leaders, but he might have met with the leaders of the handful of countries that are close American allies.

Meanwhile, across the pond two remarkable events have taken place in British diplomatic relations.  As reported in the Daily Mail, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6), travelled to Israel, not a particularly close ally of Britain, to confer with its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Until recently the holder of that post was never referred to publicly by name, but only as “C.”  Historically, the chief of the SIS, unlike his American counterpart (the director of the CIA), never travelled as a diplomatic messenger for the British government.  As far as I know, such a trip is unprecedented.

Additionally, and so far unreported, is that at about the same time a very senior figure in the British military embarked on a whirlwind tour of Arab countries with which Britain has cordial relations. 

These two trips, taken together, bespeak A Moment.

The civil war in Syria has now become a grave humanitarian crisis; it will also soon become a serious political and security crisis for many countries in the Middle East, issues I addressed weeks ago in a post here.

What’s more, whereas the Iranian ambition to develop nuclear weapons has, in the American press, been portrayed as a problem primarily for Israel, a country that the Iranian president has threatened to wipe out; it is in fact a problem also for a number of Arab countries in the Gulf that Iran has been actively trying to destabilize.  Saudi Arabia and these other countries do not particularly desire to have nuclear weapons but have made clear that they will need to develop or acquire them for deterrence’s sake should Iran do so.

Neither the Obama White House, nor its State Department, have declared, let alone put up for debate, a comprehensive plan for helping to shape the future of a Middle East in flux, or upheaval, since the onset of the so-called “Arab Spring.”  If one peers closely one can see the outlines of a sophisticated, long-range strategic plan... but so far, in practice, this plan has only meant “When in doubt, do nothing.”  Unfortunately, the US at this moment seems only ever to be in doubt.  Worse, events in Libya and Egypt on September 11 this year have revealed unsteady hands in communicating America’s aims and values, as well as in providing security for our diplomats and those locally who engage with our diplomats.

Meanwhile, this week President Ahmadinejad threatened “World War III.” 

In the past, at times like these, the world looked to the United States.  This month, America’s long-time allies in the Middle East searching for counsel or solidarity of purpose have had to turn to Britain, a wonderful but small country that for some time has wanted to leave in the past the modifier “Great.”  Perhaps the US now does too.

When then-Senator Obama was running for office he suggested that because of his background, life experiences and understanding, many of America’s problems in the Middle East and with Islamic countries would, upon his becoming president, settle down.  What’s more, his first foreign trip on becoming president was not, as is customary, to close historical allies Britain or France, but instead to Cairo, Egypt, to deliver an address offering a new beginning, or a “re-set” as it were.  At this moment, it appears that today’s Middle East has instead become a hostage to this president’s dysfunction and his ambivalences about both Islam and America’s role in the world.

Breaking news: The Emir of Qatar has just called for military intervention in Syria.

                                                      + see note below

Daily Mail: "MI6 chief made secret trip to meet Israeli PM to head off plans to bomb Iran's nuclear programme" here.
Intelnews: "MI6 chief paid ‘extremely rare’ secret visit to Israel" (background) here.
Spiegel: "Obama's Middle East Policy Is in Ruins" here.
White House staff Pirate Photo Communique here.

* So far as we know the president met neither with pirate nor clown this week.  Presumably that will teach news organizations not to believe everything the White House staff says.

+  A note regarding the accompanying image… the image was created as a White House tribute to astronaut Neil Armstrong following his death.  Some uncharitable commentators, noting the image's the foregrounding of the President, suggested that it was another example of President Obama's supposed narcissism (ie, "Wasn't it great that Neil Armstrong traveled to the moon and then died just so Obama could have a chance to think about the heavens").   At the time, I didn't understand why no one noticed that with the crescent moon and single star at the focal point of the picture, the White House was also, inadvertently or not, channelling classic Islamic iconography.

Insta-lanche!  In fact, instant Insta-lanche.  Thank you Instapundit, Michael Totten, and Glenn Reynolds.


Lee Dodson said...

The current Administration has more problems and fewer people to handle said problems than it ever has because the present employees have no idea what they would be able to accomplish without looking like idiots. Leadership in the highest echelon has become intellectual discussion ad infinitum, and action is paralyzed. One day someone has to move, do something. Mental constipation accompanied by overwhelming flatulence has that effect.

James Scott Linville said...

I think you're right, Lee Dodson, and I wonder if you have special insight into this issue.

Lee Dodson said...

I laughed my butt off at your riposte, and while I physically don't have the problem limned in my last line, I do know a thing or two about this Administration's over-think modus.

Before this group was sworn in, I had presented a program that would have had some effect on the employment situation. After lots of discussion, q and a, legal wrangling with the uniuons, and other trials too boring to tell, I was told by even my competitors that the idea was solid and would take wing shortly.


These people are so wrapped up in their intelectuality that when it comes time to get action, they are already to late by years.

Shovel ready? My program would have taken a mere three months to get moving for the construction industry sans the enormous drag of the unions. The first day, 300 office support jobs would have been filled. Three weeks later, 6000 field security jobs, 8000 engineering jobs underway at decent wages, not underemployment, concentrating on returning vets, gray heads, youth trainees at the first term.

Within a year, we would be directly paying over 200K in the construction trades. The ultimate goal was 300K jobs for a term of 5 to 10 years, but jobs were not the goal. We had a project in mind which would have benefitted the country at large. Infrastructure like nothing anyone has ever seen.

Using the figure of 300K total employment, one extrapolates that these people would require support at a ratio of 6:1, producing a work for pay framework of something in the neighborhood of over 2 million jobs, un-outsourcable jobs.

The trick of the funding was that all of it came from Stimulus Money that had already been repaid, costing the government no extra revenues, and generating taxpayer payments on the order of about 15% easily, perhaps more.

The people in this Administration did everything they could to keep it from happening. 97% of Congress loved it, and had already agreed to it.


I think that there's no way you can put this on your comments section because it is so far off topic, and perhaps because it sounds so totally outrageous, and that you may be dealing with an unhinged person, but I do offer, in my defense, a few nuggets of reality:


If you click on the top left piece of the menu, the business plan for my company Skoshi Tiger, Inc. reveals. Romney's people liked it, I'm told.


Another website I own for obvious reasons.



A couple of books I wrote. Just put out a huge pitch today on Infiltration which showed up on Yahoo News.

In short, yes, I know more about this Administration's dithering than I care to.

Probably shouldn't put this on the blog.


James Scott Linville said...

Skoshi Tiger! Looks like an interesting concept and a valuable project. It is rather off base for this posting though, so I should at some point take this down.

Patrick said...

I think The Won is in complete re-election mode, and doesn't want any photographs like the one with, oh, Chavez, for example.

He wants nothing that might disturb the somnolent electorate, so for him it's all "The View" and Jay-Z.

As he fiddles his re-election theme, the world burns. He doesn't care. All he wants is the "flexibility" of another term.