OJ Simpson, still in prison, is reportedly converting to Islam, and that is just what Muslims need: a veteran beheader to supplement their growing roster of rookie beheaders. Islam’s latest recruit is not unusual – for years, Islam has successfully spread its gospel in America’s jails and attracted thousands of new adherents – but it does underscore the dangers that the US and the civilized world are facing and, led tepidly and hesitantly by President Obama, facing without much success, direction or energy.
Obama’s foreign policy blunders will be the subject of dissertations for decades to come. He has stumbled in every region which he has entered, an unblemished record of failure. The “reset” with Russia now looks amateurish, if not a bad joke; Putin simply does not take Obama seriously, and rightfully so. The only limitation on Putin’s expansionist ambitions is Putin himself. He could have Ukraine tomorrow if he so chooses, and Lithuania the day after. Obama has offended allies as diverse as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Japan, none of whom have any confidence in his willingness to do anything more than offer canned rhetoric, vacuous clichés and bad advice. Each country therefore pursues its interests on its own, alternately humoring and ignoring Obama as needed.
The “red line” threat issued to Syria and then blithely ignored encouraged Assad and emboldened Putin. No one seriously believes that all of Syria’s chemical weapons are gone, and Assad will likely still be in power long after Obama has written his fourth or fifth autobiography. Obama’s (and Hillary Clinton’s) repeated demands that “Assad must go,” were rightly perceived as risible. Surprise! Their wish is not his command; finally, someone who is immune to Obama’s charms and unimpressed with his words.
China is flexing its muscle in Asia, North Korea continues to taunt and threaten, and even Mexico holds in captivity for months already a former US Marine who mistakenly crossed the border (he, apparently, is the only person on the planet who cannot sneak from Mexico into the United States). An American president who was respected would have solved this crisis long ago, but first he has to take an interest in the fate of this soldier and then be seen as a force with whom other leaders must reckon.
The planned withdrawal from Afghanistan will produce there the same mayhem that the unilateral retreat from Iraq engendered – a grand opening for terrorists, marauders and murderers of all stripes. Obama’s participation – from “behind” of course – in the war on Libya and the demise of Qaddafi has resulted in the birth of a radical Islamic and anti-American regime there, whose thugs just this week captured the US Embassy in Tripoli and cavorted in its swimming pool.
That outcome should offer us a lesson that is instructive today: be careful what (and who) you overthrow.
The labyrinthine web of shifting alliances across the world boggles the mind. Last week’s Wall Street Journal featured a tangled chart of all the convoluted relationships – adversaries that are allied to fight one common enemy while fighting each other on other fronts. For one example, the US is allied with Iran against ISIS, but mindful of Iran’s malevolence in other spheres. Russia is a wild card in many regions. It is enough to make one’s head spin, but a good reminder that, contrary to the common aphorism, sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy.
Rather than punt, kick the can down the road, admit the absence of strategy years into the existence of the problem, golf, fund-raise, vacation or analyze a situation until it causes policy paralysis, Obama, the US and friendly countries simply have to prioritize. Life is about making choices, and often disagreeable choices, choices not between good and bad but between better and worse. In retrospect, much of the recent anarchy in the Middle East has come about because of the overthrow (or attempted overthrow) of radical dictators – like Qaddafi or Assad – who, for all the violence and turmoil they spawned and innocent people they killed, at least brought some measure of stability to their countries and immediate vicinity.
For sure, neither man deserved (or deserves) to live or remain in power. Both were brutal killers, Jew-haters, and fomenters of terror across the globe. The only virtue in having either remain in power was that the vacuum caused by their downfall (in Assad’s case, of course, his decline) brought to the fore far more radical, anti-American, Jew-hating and violence-loving maniacs. Libya is today controlled by radical Muslims (that phrase is becoming a redundancy) who gleefully murder, maim and terrorize without compunction. As awful as it sounds, wasn’t Libya, the region, or the world a better, more stable place when that murderous nut Qaddafi was in power? The correct answer is yes.
The same can be said for Bashar al-Assad. For sure, this psychopath has played a double game for years (along with his late psychopathic father). For all their rhetoric, Israel’s border with Syria has been its quietest border for 30 years. That is not the case anymore, as the deranged rebels have captured part of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and shelled Israel. Israelis have already been evacuated from that area to a safer zone more inland on the Golan. Assad has been quite discreet in his direct dealings with Israel, avoiding any confrontation that could induce an Israeli strike on his territory and instead relying on the use of proxies like Hezbollah to slake his thirst for Jewish blood.
Hezbollah remains a problem, although it has been greatly distracted by other wars in the region. But now that ISIS controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq, isn’t it fair to say that the status quo ante (ante ISIS in particular) – a stable Syria ruled by the iron-fisted Assad – was preferable to the bedlam that exists today? The correct answer is yes.
It needs to be said that the same does not apply to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, notwithstanding that he too kept an uneasy peace among the various factions that comprise Iraq. Nevertheless, the world is a better place without him. For sure, with Saddam Hussein in power there never would have been an ISIS. But Hussein – unlike Assad or even Qaddafi in his later years – had pretensions to be more than just a regional power. He was a genocidal lunatic who had already massacred tens of thousands of Kurds with poison gas and hundreds of thousands of others. He harbored ambitions to obtain weapons of mass destruction – several times; once, of course, famously thwarted by Israel – and would surely have obtained them within a few years once the world’s attention shifted elsewhere. Even the level of factional violence in Iraq after Hussein’s demise did not reach the level of violence sustained by Hussein while he was in power, and the US left Iraq a far better place than before. The shame is that the US pulled out precipitously, allowing Iraq to collapse and all sorts of unpleasant actors to seize power.
The primary mistake made in Iraq was made with good intentions but was a mistake nonetheless: it was the notion that an Arab state could sustain a democratic system. It is hard to escape the realization – sad but true – that the Arab world is not ready for and presently incapable of democratization. It is not in their culture or history, and it is not even perceived as a value. We have long deluded ourselves into believing that freedom as we perceive it and the concomitant liberties that democracies safeguard are cherished and universal values. Would that it were so! But it is not. For years, many Americans celebrated (and exaggerated) glimmers of democratic processes anywhere – look! The Saudi local councils allow simple people to petition the rulers, even women! But the truth is that the Saudis, Russians, Chinese and many other people simply do not embrace democracy as a value. Indeed, many people would largely prefer stability and security to freedom and personal responsibility, something that has historically been anathema to Americans.
Democracy has not worked out well in Egypt, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and other such entities. It has bred discontent and allowed the creation and sometimes the election of even more radical elements. So, choices have to be made. The civilized world – and even a good part of the uncivilized world – has belatedly recognized that ISIS is the primary threat today, not that it has anything more than light weapons but because its ideology is utterly genocidal. It threatens everybody – even other killers and kooks. If defeating ISIS in the long-term means strengthening Assad in the short term, so be it.
The old world order cannot be restored but far-sighted diplomats such as once existed (but are no longer extant) would be able to use the current disorder to fashion (or impose) a more stable environment. Iraq as it once existed is gone. Rather than forcing it to regain its old form, it should be partitioned. The Kurds in the north have earned and thus deserve their own independent state. Much of the rest of the territory should be divided into separate Sunni and Shiite states, with the oil revenue equitably distributed between them. Western Iraq should be designated for the “Palestinian” refugees and the state that we hear they so desire.
And clever diplomats will be able to structure governments in Shi’a Iraq that look westward for alliances instead of north to Iran. For as America spins its wheels in search of a strategy, the Iran’s centrifuges also continue to spin, and its genocidal sociopaths edge ever closer to their own nuclear bomb.
That might not concern President Obama or even OJ Simpson, but it should concern Jews, Americans and the free world.