Obama’s Post-American Smart Power Leads To Middle East Power Vacuum

Unsurprisingly, this has led to an even stronger Islamist movement and a more open spread of the Islamists (It’s been a while since Islamists has been defined. The term covers the hardcores, those who are interested in jihad, in forcefully spreading a hardcore version of Islam, in Sharia law. And before any liberal claims “Islamaphobia!!!! the NY Times uses the term, as well)

(NY Times) The images of recent days have an eerie familiarity, as if the horrors of the past decade were being played back: masked gunmen recapturing the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Ramadi, where so many American soldiers died fighting them. Car bombs exploding amid the elegance of downtown Beirut. The charnel house of Syria’s worsening civil war.

But for all its echoes, the bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.

Amid this vacuum, fanatical Islamists have flourished in both Iraq and Syria under the banner of Al Qaeda, as the two countries’ conflicts amplify each other and foster ever-deeper radicalism. Behind much of it is the bitter rivalry of two great oil powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rulers – claiming to represent Shiite and Sunni Islam, respectively – cynically deploy a sectarian agenda that makes almost any sort of accommodation a heresy.

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What we have is a delicate balance. The US has been the historical powerhouse across much of the world since the end of WWII, competing with the now defunct Soviet Union. Certainly some European nations played a part, particularly in the Middle East, but the US led the way. But, do we want lots and lots of bases across the world? Both Conservatives and Liberals can agree that the interference in countries around the world, including reducing bases, should occur, albeit for different reasons. However, like it or not, the United States is still the country so many turn to when guano hits the fan, as well as for attempted stability.

And the US has been somewhat absent or squishy in the Middle East under Barack Obama. From his wanting to run away in Iraq to refusing to take a stand during the Iranian Green uprising to his tepid and late response to the Arab Spring, to the baffling dealing with Egypt and Syria, to the mess regarding the “red lines” with Syria. Air strikes to nominally protect civilians in Libya but no Syria or other nations. Obama’s Smart Power seems to have no bearing on any doctrine, it’s more about off the cuff last minute academic decisions. In other words, it’s a mess.

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