Obama’s Failed Middle East Strategy

By Sal Bommarito

The New York Times interviewed President Obama last Sunday in the Magazine Section. In it, President Obama attempted to salvage his disastrous Middle East legacy.

From his first days in office, the president planned to change America to reflect with his own worldview. He said the America was responsible for the sad state of foreign affairs around the world attributing no responsibility to those who hate America.

Obama believes that U.S. policies in the Middle East, and in particular the historic support of the State of Israel, is causing great consternation among Arab nations. Peace in the region, in Obama’s opinion, will never be a reality unless the U.S. ceases to dote over Israel and speak out against its policies relating to the Palestinian state.

Obama explicitly indicated he wanted America to be more evenhanded and to afford Palestinians more say in future peace negotiations. The problem with this new policy was that every president since the end of World War II unconditionally supported the interests of Israel.

The proof is in the pudding. Obama’s attempts to bring parity to Israel/Palestinian negotiations only served to alienate Israel, our most important ally in the region. And, the region is even more destabilized after eight years of fruitless bargaining by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry with interested Arab parties.

As everyone knows, Obama decided to bring  American troops home to make good on a campaign promise regardless of the consequences of doing so. In retrospect, this was a terrible decision. Understandably, Americans wanted to end U.S. troop casualties. But, announcing publicly our plans to withdraw at a critical moment created havoc and a void that was ultimately filled by a new radical child of Al Qaeda known as ISIS.

Now, slowly but surely, Obama has sent our soldiers back into the firestorm , supposedly these troops are not in direct combat situations. Obama has increased the number of soldiers to about 4,000 without giving our military a green light to aggressively attack ISIS. Just recently, the third U.S. serviceman was killed in combat by ISIS since last Fall. It almost seems like the Obama administration is stalling and trying to pass the baton to a new president without making any tough decisions. In the meantime, our greatest firepower is not being deployed while ISIS continues its murderous reign of terror.

Obama and many Americans believe that collateral damage trumps all other considerations when it comes to the use of deadly force in military conflicts. The U.S. does not bomb if there is a credible risk that civilians will be killed in the crossfire, despite the fact that it is difficult to distinguish innocents from the enemy.

Knowing this, the enemy embeds itself among civilians and are protected against our weaponry. The result has been that ISIS is still a strong and effective occupier of Iraq and Syria, and its influence is spreading around the world.

There is a realistic, yet problematic, solution to this dilemma. It is to send ground troops to root out the enemy. This strategy has been a non-starter for Obama and Congress because it puts our soldiers in harm’s way. And, Obama is insistent on Arab nations fighting their own wars. However, many military experts believe that ground force will be necessary to eliminate ISIS.

The truth be known, the U.S. is the most adamant of all countries relating to collateral damage. The enemy, and every country in the Middle East, is prepared to use deadly force even if it impacts civilians. Additionally, newcomers to the region, including Russia, have the same attitude about avoiding civilian casualties.

The hypocrisy of this policy is too great to ignore. The U.S. fought two world wars in the 20th Century during which bombing was employed extensively. It enabled us to to win both conflicts, but we killed thousands of innocent in the process.

The most glaring examples are the nuclear bombs used against Japan in WWII. Many Japanese civilians were incinerated in the interest of decreasing American casualties and ending the war quickly.

The war with ISIS is not progressing towards any reasonable conclusion because the U.S. is not leading the charge. Moreover, every country in the western world is on perpetual high alert frightened that ISIS may soon attack them.

Obama has been dead wrong in every major decision he made in the Middle East. Most importantly, he is too protective of radical Islam. The American people are similarly on edge relating to potential terrorist attacks. Some call this xenophobia and racism. Others think it makes sense to be more thoughtful about who we allow into our country.

We need a stronger and more decisive president to end the threat of ISIS.


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