Walter Russell Mead rants brilliantly on the subject of Barack Obama’s singular ineptitude at framing American Middle Eastern policy: “As so often in the past, but catastrophically this time, he found the â€œsour spotâ€: the position that angers everyone and pleases none.”
I had never thought there were many similarities between the pleasure-loving Charles II of England and the more upright Barack Obama until this week. Listening to his speeches on the Middle East at the State Department, US-Israel relations at the AIPAC annual meeting and most recently his address to the British Parliament the comparison becomes irresistible.
â€œHere lies our sovereign king,â€ wrote the Earl of Rochester about King Charles:
Whose word no man relies on.
Who never said a foolish thing
Or ever did a wise one.
This seems to capture President Obamaâ€™s Middle East problems in a nutshell. The Presidentâ€™s descriptions of the situation are comprehensive and urbane. He correctly identifies the forces at work. He develops interesting policy ideas and approaches that address important political and moral elements of the complex problems we face. He crafts approaches that might, with good will and deft management, bridge the gaps between the sides. He reads thoughtful speeches full of sensible reflections.
But the last few weeks have cast him as the least competent manager of Americaâ€™s Middle East diplomatic portfolio in a very long time. He has infuriated and frustrated long term friends, but made no headway in reconciling enemies. He has strained our ties with the established regimes without winning new friends on the Arab Street. He has committed our forces in the strategically irrelevant backwater of Libya not, as he originally told us, for â€œdays, not weeksâ€ but for months not days.
Where he has failed so dramatically is in the arena he himself has so frequently identified as vital: the search for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. His record of grotesque, humiliating and total diplomatic failure in his dealings with Prime Minister Netanyahu has few parallels in American history. Three times he has gone up against Netanyahu; three times he has ingloriously failed. This last defeat â€” Netanyahuâ€™s deadly, devastating speech to Congress in which he eviscerated President Obamaâ€™s foreign policy to prolonged and repeated standing ovations by members of both parties â€” may have been the single most stunning and effective public rebuke to an American President a foreign leader has ever delivered.
Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porterâ€™s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla â€” or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.
Read the whole thing.