BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Why has Obama Failed?


On August 29, 2009, I posted on this blog a somewhat long piece entitled “The September Deadline.”   The majority of the article elaborated on Israel’s military options, as the impending IEAE report and G20 conference in Pittsburgh had not yet taken place. Since the various Israeli military options have been discussed, there is no point in re-hashing them.  However, it is worthwhile to look at the failed diplomatic efforts and ask the question, “Why has Obama so far failed in the Middle East?”

The Promises of Obama’s Spring

Just five months ago, the Middle East was awash in optimism. President Obama had given his “historic” speech in Cairo.  Lebanon seemed to cast off the shackles of Hezbollah with the electoral victory of the March 14 coalition (backed by the US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia).  A week later, demonstrations and riots engulfed Iran in the wake of its bogus exercise in democracy.

Things looked promising for the so-called “moderate Arab camp.”  Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was compelled to acknowledge that a Palestinian state would be established in the West Bank and Gaza.  This is something that previous Likud leaders, such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, never would have stated.  To his credit, Netanyahu’s speech was not a blank check to either Obama or Abu Abbas.

But what happened next?  The promises of spring withered under the relentless Middle East summer.  Obama’s speech received lukewarm acceptance within the moderate Arab camp.  They were not as easily charmed as the doe-eyed sophomores at Al Azhar University.  Hariri’s coalition shattered against the implacable opposition of Hezbollah, and his Druze allies deserted.  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad answered demonstrators with a bloody crackdown and sweeping arrests.
Obama’s Folly

Why has Obama been unable to deliver significant concessions from the moderate Arab camp – his erstwhile allies – that would move the peace process forward?  Why does Hezbollah continue to exercise power completely out of proportion to the results of the Lebanese elections?  Why, instead of sitting down to negotiate over its nuclear ambitions does Iran instead test missiles?

In a word, this is because President Obama has no clear-cut conception of how to conduct foreign policy.  He wavers back and forth between the “One World” approach and the idealistic naiveté Jimmy Carter.  His folly is thinking that geopolitics is the same as Chicago ward politics.  Obama wants to use multilateral diplomacy, close cooperation with allies and negotiations with adversaries.  He ignores the fact that multilateral diplomacy seldom works until the all the antagonists are sufficiently weakened by a conflict.

China and Russia have made significant economic, military and technological investments in Iran.   They will not abandon their global aspirations; the change they believe in is written in the Pinyin and Cyrillic alphabets, respectively.

Western Europe is in an economic shambles.  It does not have the economic muscle, and hence lacks the diplomatic and military muscle, to do much more than hold Obama’s coat while he fumbles for his watch.

Similarly, direct talks with Iran and Syria have failed to materialize.  Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran have accomplished more in thirty years of opposition to American policy than have any previous coalition of Arab/Muslin leaders.  Why would they cooperate with America, which they believe is corrupt and evil?  Especially now, when there is a president in the White House who they view as weak and overly infatuated with himself?

Damascus is not a Chicago union hall filled with overweight, middle-aged ex-steel workers.  Teheran is not the Harvard Club where fine points of constitutional law are debated.  These are capitals of independent states with their own ambitions, foreign policies and admittedly, a string of successes in opposing America.   They are dictatorships whose strongmen rule via the torture chamber and truncheon, not the ballot box and debate.   Obama has frittered away what little political capital he had in vain a vain attempt to change the reality of weltpolitik.  At best, he has a year to change his policies and tactics accordingly.

September 28, 2009 - Posted by | Middle East, Obama | , ,


  1. Hey, great blog…but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me, please 🙂 🙂

    Comment by RobD | October 6, 2009 | Reply

    • Rob,
      I truly wish I knew what an RSS reader is!
      Truth is, PCs are just fancy typewriters for this old fart.
      I’ve been trying to figure out how to post jpeg & gif files, but still haven’t mastered that after six months.
      All the best!

      Comment by bigmo63 | October 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Bill Bartmann | October 9, 2009 | Reply

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