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    Middle East
     Nov 30, 2010


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The lunatic who thinks he's Barack Obama
By Spengler

Napoleon was a lunatic who thought he was Napoleon, and the joke applies to the 44th United States president with a vengeance. What doesn't the president know, and when didn't he know it? American foreign policy turned delusional when Barack Obama took office, and the latest batch of leaks suggest that the main source of the delusion is sitting in the Oval Office.

From the first batch of headlines there is little in WikiLeaks' 250,000 classified diplomatic cables that a curious surfer would not have known from the Internet. We are shocked - shocked - to discover that the Arab Gulf states favor an invasion of Iran; that members of the Saudi royal family fund terrorism; that Pakistan might sell nuclear material to malefactors; that Saudi Arabia will try to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does; that Israel has been itching for an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities; that the Russian government makes use of the Russian mob; that Turkish

 

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tilts towards radical Islam; or that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mixes politics and business.

American career diplomats have been telling their masters in the Obama administration that every theater of American policy is in full-blown rout, forwarding to Washington the growing alarm of foreign leaders. In April 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia's envoy to the US Adel al-Jubeir told General David Petraeus that King Abdullah wanted the US "to cut off the head of the [Iranian] snake" and "recalled the king's frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program".

Afghani President Hamid Karzai warned the US that Pakistan was forcing Taliban militants to keep fighting rather than accept his peace offers. Pakistani government officials, other cables warn, might sell nuclear material to terrorists.

The initial reports suggest that the US State Department has massive evidence that Obama's approach - "engaging" Iran and coddling Pakistan - has failed catastrophically. The crisis in diplomatic relations heralded by the press headlines is not so much a diplomatic problem - America's friends and allies in Western and Central Asia have been shouting themselves hoarse for two years - but a crisis of American credibility.

Not one Muslim government official so much as mentioned the issues that have occupied the bulk of Washington's attention during the past year, for example, Israeli settlements. The Saudis, to be sure, would prefer the elimination of all Israeli settlements; for that matter, they would prefer the eventual elimination of the state of Israel. In one conversation with a senior White House official, Saudi King Abdullah stated categorically that Iran, not Palestine, was his main concern; while a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, Iran would find other ways to cause trouble.

"Iran's goal is to cause problems," Abdullah added. "There is no doubt something unstable about them." There never has been a shred of evidence that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would help America contain Iran's nuclear threat. The deafening silence over this issue in the diplomatic cables is the strongest refutation of this premise to date.

How do we explain the gaping chasm between Obama's public stance and the facts reported by the diplomatic corps? The cables do not betray American secrets so much as American obliviousness. The simplest and most probable explanation is that the president is a man obsessed by his own vision of a multipolar world, in which America will shrink its standing to that of one power among many, and thus remove the provocation on which Obama blames the misbehavior of the Iranians, Pakistanis, the pro-terrorist wing of the Saudi royal family, and other enemies of the United States.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. With a Muslim father and stepfather, and an anthropologist mother whose life's work defended Muslim traditional society against globalization, Obama harbors an overpowering sympathy for the Muslim world. He is not a Muslim, although as a young child he was educated as a Muslim in Indonesian schools. His vision of outreach to the Muslim world, the most visible and impassioned feature of his foreign policy, draws on deep wells of emotion. I first made this argument in this space on February 26, 2008 (Obama's women reveal his secret, Asia Times Online), seven months before he was elected president.

Think of Obama as the anti-Truman. As David Brog recounts in his 2006 book Standing with Israel (which I reviewed on this site on June 20, 2006 (You don't need to be apocalyptic, but it helps ), president Harry S Truman overruled the unanimous opposition of his cabinet and made America the first country to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948.

His secretary of state, war-time chief of staff George Marshall, had threatened in vain to resign and campaign against Truman in the next presidential election over the issue. Personal religious motivations, not strategy, guided Truman's decision. He was a Bible-reading Christian Zionist who supported Israel as a matter of principle. Obama has the same sort of loyalty to the Muslim world that Truman had toward the Jewish people. He cannot bring himself to be the American president who ruins a Muslim land.

It is wishful thinking that the Iranian problem can be managed without bringing ruin to the Persian pocket empire. In many respects, Iran resembles the Soviet Union just before the collapse of communism. It turned out that there were no communists in Russia outside the upper echelons of the party. There are very few Muslims in Iran outside of the predatory mullahcracy. According to Zohreh Soleimani of the BBC, Iran has the lowest mosque attendance of any Muslim country; only 2% of adults attend Friday services, a gauge of disaffection comparable to church attendance in Western Europe. Iran's fertility rate of about 1.6 children per women, coincidentally, is about the same as Western Europe's. Iran has a huge contingent of young people, but they have ceased to have children. They have faith neither in the national religion nor in the future of their nation.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, meanwhile, reports that fully 5% of Iran's adult non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opium. Alcoholism also is epidemic, despite the Islamic prohibition on alcoholic beverage, which must be smuggled into the country.

The US won the Cold War by ruining Russia. Russia may never recover. In 1992, three years after the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of pensioners gathered daily near Red Square in the winter cold to barter old clothing or trinkets for food, and the tourist hotels swarmed with prostitutes. The collapse of communism did not usher in a golden age of Russian democracy, and the new government into the most rapacious plague of locusts ever to descend upon a vulnerable economy.

Break the Iranian mullahcracy, and Iran most likely will fall into demoralization and ruin. Punish Pakistan for its machinations with the Taliban, and the country likely will descend into civil war. Iran's nuclear ambitions and Pakistan's dalliance with terrorism both stem from the sad fact that they are failed states to begin with. Push them into a corner, and the failure will become manifest.

In fairness to Obama, he simply carried forward the George W Bush administration's benign neglect of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Bush confirms in his just-published memoirs what was evident at the time: he followed the advice Defense Secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to avoid open conflict with Iran. If provoked, Iran was capable of producing a large number of American casualties in Iraq in the advent of the 2008 elections.

The difference between early 2008 and early 2010, to be sure, is that Iran has had two years to enrich uranium, consolidate its grip on Syria, insert itself into Afghanistan, stockpile missiles with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and build up its terror capabilities around the world. The window is closing in which Iran may be contained. Covert operations and cyber-sabotage might have bought some time, but benign neglect of Iran has reach its best-used-by-date.

The cables, in sum, reveal an American administration that refuses to look at the facts on the ground, even when friendly governments rub the noses of American diplomats into them. Obama is beyond reality; he has become the lunatic who thinks that he is Barack Obama.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman senior editor at First Things (www.firstthings.com).

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) Napoleon was a lunatic who thought he was Napoleon, and the joke applies to the 44th United States president with a vengeance. What doesn't the president know, and when didn't he know it? American foreign policy turned delusional when Barack Obama took office, and the latest batch of leaks suggest that the main source of the delusion is sitting in the Oval Office.

Continued 1 2  


Why not call it a 'Petraeus Village'?
(Oct 18, '10)

What really bugs Iran (Oct 12, '10)

 

 
 



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