Sunday, July 12, 2009

Obama creates a deadly power vacuum

July 12, 2009
Obama creates a deadly power vacuum -
By Spengler, Asia Times

Reprinted in full:

There’s no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself.

The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider. Obama doesn’t want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America’s enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi’ite majority.

America also sought Iran’s help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama’s imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington’s turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi’ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama’s face. Iran already has made clear that casting America’s enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America’s enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America’s terms. Iran’s verbal war with the American president over the violent suppression of election-fraud protests leaves Washington with no policy at all.

The premise of Obama’s policy was that progress on the Palestinian issue would empower a Sunni coalition. As the president said May 18:

  • If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians - between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with the potential Iranian threat.

Israel’s supporters remonstrated in vain. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a prominent Obama supporter, wrote, “If there is to be any linkage - and I do not believe there should be - it goes the other way: it will be much easier for Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank if Iran does not have a nuclear umbrella under which it can continue to encourage Hamas and Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli civilians.”

No matter: America made clear that it had annulled the George W Bush administration’s promise that a final settlement would allow most of Israel’s 500,000 “settlers” to keep their homes, in order to launch the fantasy ship of Iranian cooperation with America. That policy now is in ruins, and Washington has no plan B.

David Axelrod, Obama’s top political advisor, told television interviewers on January 28 that Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who spent the last week denouncing the United States, “Did not have final say” over Iran’s foreign policy and that America still wanted to negotiate with Iran. This sounds idiotic, but the White House really has painted itself into a corner. The trouble is that Obama has promised to withdraw American forces from Iraq, and Iran has sufficient influence in Shi’ite-majority Iraq to cause continuous upheaval, perhaps even to eventually win control of the country. [..] What will the administration do now?

As all its initiatives splatter against the hard realities of the region, it will probably do less and less, turning the less appetizing aspects of the fighting over to local allies and auxiliaries who do not share its squeamishness about shedding civilian blood. That is the most dangerous outcome of all, for America is the main stabilizing force in the region. The prospect of civil wars raging simultaneously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq is no longer improbable. The Israel-Palestine issue is linked to all of these through Iran, whose credibility depends on its ability to sustain such puppies of war as Hezbollah and Hamas.

The last thing China wants at the moment is to undercut the US dollar, for three reasons. First, as America’s largest creditor, China has the most to lose from a dollar collapse. Second, Americans would buy fewer Chinese imports. And third, the collapse of the dollar would further erode America’s will to fulfill its superpower function, and that is what China wants least of all. America remains the indispensable outsider in Asia.

No one likes the United States, but everyone dislikes the United States less than they dislike their neighbors. India need not worry about China’s role in Pakistan, for example, because America mediates Indian-Pakistani relations, and America has no interest in a radical change to the status quo. Neither does China, for that matter, but India is less sure of that. China does not trust Japan for historical reasons that will not quickly fade, but need not worry about it because America is the guarantor of Japan’s security. The Seventh Fleet is the most disliked - and nonetheless the most welcome - entity in Asia.

All of this may change drastically, quickly, and for the worse. Obama’s policy reduces to empowering America’s enemies in the hope that they will conform to American interests out of gratitude. Just the opposite result is likely to ensure: Iran, Pakistan and other regional powers are likely to take radical measures. Iran is threatened with a collapse of its Shi’ite program from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and Pakistan is threatened with a breakup into three or more states.

Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely to create a void in the region by withdrawing American power. The result is likely to be a species of pandemonium that will prompt the leading players in the region to learn to live without the United States. In his heart of hearts, Obama sees America as a force for evil in the world, apologizing for past American actions that did more good than harm.

My Latin American friends who still mourn the victims of Pinochet’s “night and fog” state terror will not like to hear this, but the several thousand people killed or tortured by the military government were collateral damage in the Cold War. Like Iran, Chile became the battleground of a Soviet-American proxy war. The same is true in Nicaragua. (Full disclosure: I advised Nicaragua’s president Violeta Chamorro after she defeated the Cuban-backed Sandinistas in the 1990 elections; I did so with no tie to any government agency.)

Obama’s continuing obsession with America’s supposed misdeeds - deplorable but necessary actions in time of war - is consistent with his determination to erode America’s influence in the most troubled parts of the world.

By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did.

We are entering a very, very dangerous period as a result.

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