A Defense of Obama’s Middle East ‘Balancing Act’ From the Iraq drawdown to chemical weapons red lines to Russia’s war in Syria, a conversation with Robert Malley, the president’s top Middle East policy official.
Naturally, considering the interviewer, David Aaron Miller, who repeatedly defended and justified Obama’s Syria policy, and the interviewee, a former peddler of the Assad-the-closeted-reformer-and-peacemaker myth in Washingtonian circles, the interview comes as another exercise of arrogant self-congratulatory self-deceiving sophistry. There is no balancing act in the interview itself and whatever balancing act that the administration is supposed to be doing in the Middle East has already facilitated the unfolding of the worst humanitarian tragedy of our century, and has left the world and not only the region unmoored and adrift at the mercy of extremist currents from the far right to the far left. And America is now more vulnerable than ever to attacks from that constantly morphing “JV team,” with the greater danger coming from the ranks of opportunistic hate-mongering fools in search of easy answers, which are almost always wrong.
But Malley, Miller and their colleagues look at the current mayhem and they project it back in time to justify the policies they advocated, blaming failure on others and insisting that what was shown as predictable was actually inevitable.
To me, this fatalism stands the truth on its head. For most of the predictable is often preventable, provided there is the will and the means to act. The administration had the means but lacked the will, because its members and advisers misread the situation and its implications for the region and the world at every step in its (d)evolution, and, rather than embark on some course correction, they’d rather intellectualize their failures: they got Russia, Iran and the Blob where they have intended them to be. The administration was not outmaneuvered. It behaved rationally even if amorally. For yes, Malley, Miller, Rhodes and Kerry, not to mention Obama himself, prefer to come off as amoral bastards, than dumb.
But dumb increasingly look as the most appropriate epithet of all.