President Obama’s Middle East strategy began some three years ago with apology and appeasement . He expressed disagreement with past U.S. actions and characterized our policy as self-serving and exploitative. Instead, he called for consultation with Iran and Syria. He retreated from decades-old support for Israel, apparently hoping that a “more balanced stance” would give the U.S. more credibility. He expressed profound respect for the religion of Islam, ignoring its obvious human rights violations, its suppression of women and its historical stance toward people who do not embrace its teachings.
He expedited the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Although he initially supported a surge in Afghanistan, he also broadly advertised a U.S. troop removal date that dispirits our allies and encourages the enemy who is quite willing to wait until the only significant opponent is removed.
He stressed war zone rules of engagement for U.S. forces that jeopardized their safety and enabled the adversary to adopt tactics that shifted the odds decidedly in their favor.
He has ordered significantly reduced defense spending, a clear signal to anyone paying attention that our future capability will be diminished.
None of this has worked. The apology and appeasement have been viewed as weakness by Arabs steeped in a male-centric culture that respects only strength and the willingness to use it.
Iran and Syria have ignored our offers to negotiate. Israel now feels increasingly abandoned by a nation that has been its only reliable ally in the past. The U.S. stance toward Israel has not enhanced our negotiating position, but instead has emboldened Israel’s enemies and will likely speed the process toward confrontation.
Now, we have demonstrations in at least eight Middle Eastern countries with thousands of protestors storming our embassies and shouting, “Death to America.” We have lost four Americans in the process. Our perceived weakness has come full cycle. Our appeasement has not reduced but magnified the clear distinctions between our two societies.
The handling of the crisis has been equally inept. Reports are surfacing – naming senior U.S. State Department sources – that we had at least 48 hours of warning before the initial demonstrations began in Eqypt. We apparently did nothing. Took no precautions. In fact, numerous sources have indicated that our ambassador to Egypt would not allow her Marines to carry loaded weapons.
The initial reaction from the Obama administration was not to condemn the demonstrations but to apologize for an anti-Islamic video produced by an obscure handful of people in California that presumably led to the regional unrest. We are learning that the video was merely an excuse used as cover by committed Islamic terrorists to retaliate against the U.S. on the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on our homeland.
It is time for a change. We gain nothing in the Middle East by sweet reason. We must be strong and we must appear to be strong. We will never be “liked” by the rank and file in that part of the world. But we can seek to be respected.
So far, that respect has waned badly in recent years and the events of this week are clear proof. It is time we took steps to restore it.