Barack Obama promised to change America’s Middle East policy. He traveled to Cairo, delivered a speech designed to reassure the Arab Street, and reset American policy. However, his efforts failed resulting in the assassination of America’s ambassador to Libya. Continued drone strikes and celebrations over bin Laden’s death inflamed Middle Eastern passions. In the end, Obama’s well intentioned Middle East initiative literally burnt to ashes.
Critics, including Senator Obama, attacked the Bush Administration for its handling of foreign policy. Protecting American lives became Bush’ s overriding concern after 911. He initiated a preemptive war policy and waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many Arabs believed the U.S. was really waging a war on Islam. They believed the western word “terrorist” meant Muslim.
In addition to keeping America safe, Bush attempted to instill democratic values in the region. Afghanistan and Iraq held elections. These elections influenced the Arab Spring, but resulted in Islamic governments hostile to the west and Israel and supportive of terrorism. President Obama enthusiastically supported the Arab Spring and the forces behind it.
Obama wanted to reassure the Middle East. During the election, he emphasized his experiences in Islamic Indonesia and claimed to be “uniquely” qualified to deal with Muslims. Upon election, he granted his first television interview to an Arab network. On March 19, 2009, he delivered a video message to Iran and its people. The Iranians scoffed at the American president while the world swooned.
The president’s efforts met skeptical ears in the Middle East and raving applause around the world. On June 4, 2009, Obama officially changed America’s direction with a speech at Cairo University. The speech apologized for western transgressions and praised Islam’s accomplishments. He promised to “extend a hand” to those willing to “unclench” their fists.
The Arab street may or may not have been hopeful in the speech’s aftermath. However, Obama shattered any illusions with drone strikes. Although he continued the Bush Administration policy of winding down the twin wars, he did not end military involvement. The Obama Administration chose to use drones to kill enemy agents and fighters. Collateral damage became a problem as civilians were caught in the crossfire. Additionally, Middle Easterners believed Obama lied to them about a new beginning because he continued to kill Muslims.
Obama did not use a drone strike to kill Osama bin Laden. Instead, he initiated a raid on bin Laden’s compound. Apparently, the sheik died before Seal Team 6 arrived. He had asked his followers to kill him if the Americans ever appeared. America celebrated bin Laden’s demise and the administration openly touted the criminal’s death.
The 2012 Democratic National Convention mentioned bin Laden’s death 21 times. The convention’s macabre celebration touched off a new round of Middle East violence from fed up Arabs. Obama promised a new beginning and ended up parading bin Laden’s body around like a trophy. Terrorists launched a preplanned strike on the American embassy in Libya and assassinated the U.S. ambassador. Many protesters screamed, “we are all Osama Obama” in defiance of the American president.
Ironically, protesters also struck the Egyptian embassy. The birthplace of Obama’s new direction fell under siege. The president tried to blame a YouTube video for the attacks, but they were premeditated. The administration’s fixation on the video might have led the violence to spread. Now, the Arab world is in full revolt.
The attacks may never have happened if not for President Obama. In addition to angering the Arab street with his bin Laden victory dance, he helped remove strongmen from power. Obama ordered Hosni Mubarak out of office in Egypt and supported a rebellion in Libya leading to Muammar Gaddafi’s death. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton celebrated Gadhafi’s death, “We came. We saw. He died.” Had these men been in power, it is unlikely the attacks would have occurred. They represented stabilizing forces in an unstable region.
Interestingly, Obama supported insurrections in Libya and Egypt, but allowed government forces to slaughter people in Iran and Syria. Iranians begged Obama for help and he ignored them. The Syrian government has massacred thousands and the president occasionally pays lip service to the problem, but essentially ignores the problem. If Syria and Iran fell, Middle East peace might be possible. Obama backed the wrong revolutions.
While interfering in Libya and Egypt, ignoring Iran and Syria, and dropping drone bombs on civilians, Obama has been openly hostile to America’s only ally in the region. The president seems to support the Palestinian cause while eschewing Israel’s plight. Obama has made it difficult for Israel to ensure its security and even snubbed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when asked for a meeting to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and potential Middle Eastern war. Iran has nuclear ambitions and wants a bomb. Israel is determined to stop them. Obama seems indifferent. The president chose to appear on The View instead of meeting with Netanyahu. A conflict in the region over Iran could result in a third world war.
No president has ever been so incompetent in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter suffered an energy crisis, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Iran Hostage Crisis. However, the energy crisis and Soviet aggression were out of his hands. Carter worked hard to gain the hostages’ freedom and managed to bring peace to Egypt and Israel. Obama’s Administration destroyed Carter’s work to bring peace to the region. No matter how events transpired under Carter, President Obama has been much worse. He has completely destabilized the region.
President Obama’s Middle East policy began with good intentions. However, it has been dangerously incompetent. Drone strikes have incited the region. He removed an American ally in Egypt and stabilizing force in Libya resulting in the first major terror strike against America since 911. His callous disregard of Israel and aloofness on Iran is irresponsible. In 2012, the Arab world burns in Obama’s wake.