What legacy will Obama leave behind in the Middle East? Pretty much as bad as it could be. Tony Badran:
While the Republican National Convention was dominating headlines, the Obama administration’s management of the Syria crisis went from bad to worse.
Secretary of State John Kerry last week announced an agreement of military and intelligence cooperation with Russia in Syria to fight ISIS and the Nusra Front. No sooner had the deal been announced than NATO member Turkey, from whose Incirlik airbase the US conducts anti-ISIS operations, almost succumbed to a military coup that could’ve sent the country into chaos.
And on Sunday, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described the current situation in Syria as “the worst-case scenario” for American interests.
Specifically, he told CBS, the worst-case scenario “is that [Bashar al-] Assad continues to remain in power,” “that the Russians continue to have a presence there” and continue to attack moderate Syrian forces and, finally, that ISIS would benefit from the mess.
Those headlines — partnership with Russia as NATO and US allies come under increasing pressure — capture the essence of President Obama’s Syria policy.
To understand the president’s decisions in Syria, one must look to his signature foreign-policy initiative: the deal with Iran. Since Syrian dictator Assad is Iran’s strategic ally, Obama long ago decided he wouldn’t back the effort to topple him.
Before the rise of ISIS in Syria, regional allies had urged Washington to bolster the American alliance against Iran. But they misread Obama.
Allies in Europe and the Middle East watched in confusion and disbelief as the president constantly privileged Russian and Iranian interests in Syria over their own. Meanwhile, the Syrian disaster grew worse, the body count rose and refugees flooded out of the country in larger numbers.
As the crisis deepened, the White House subtly but unmistakably shifted the goalposts. By 2013, the administration had made it known that the president regretted his initial call for Assad to “step aside.”
Obama even went as far as publicly recognizing what he called Iran’s “equities” in Syria — shorthand for Iran’s ability to maintain its bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to supply it with missiles aimed at Israel. The White House then put our priorities in Syria in line with Russian and Iranian interests....
The latest agreement with the Kremlin, announced by Kerry, makes the US a partner in Russia’s war to save the Assad regime — the logical endgame of Obama’s policy.
Critics of the president’s Syria policy have often accused him of being too passive. This is a mistake.
The White House has been actively shaping the Syrian theater, both diplomatically and militarily. Only it has done so in a manner that has undercut and endangered US allies and interests. The worst-case scenario is what Obama will leave behind.
And that about sums up the pitfalls of a pseudo-oppositional stance on Syria, from the left—that is, a position informed by what one perceives the U.S. government’s stance to be, bolstered by talking points about another country honed during the Bush administration. It ignores the pleas for solidarity from progressive forces that are often erased from existence for ease of argument. “My impression about this curious situation is that they simply do not see us; it is not about us at all,” Yassin Al Haz Saleh, a leftist Syrian dissident who spent 16 years in a regime prison, said in an interview last year. “Syria is only an additional occasion for their old anti-imperialist tirades, never the living subject of debate.”
The intellectual laziness of some on the left (and many on the right) has led to the mechanical repetition of a tidy narrative of regime change, and a New Cold War with Russia, that frees the soap-boxer from having to learn or acknowledge any incongruent details...
More distressingly, treating Syria not as its own country but as Iraq 2.0 has led to the erasure of the millions of Syrians who demanded the downfall of their government, peacefully, and continue to dream of a democratic state amid almost unfathomable levels of state and non-state terrorism. Solidarity with oppressed peoples is too often exchanged for solidarity with those oppressing them, should those oppressors have the good fortune of not being upstanding members of NATO, taking us to a place where murdering doctors causes outrage or complacency depending on the manufacturer of the ordinance that killed them. Internationalism has been replaced by American narcissism and an inverted nationalism that’s deadly ironic, given that the misreading of U.S. intentions has led anti-imperialists to embrace multiple forms of imperialism, including that practiced by the enemy at home. There is the anti-imperialism of fools....
What is to be done about the wave of terror that washes over the world every damn day? If you ask The New Yorker’s George Packer, nothing much: “No revelations come from the massacre in Nice,” Packer wrote shortly after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel propelled a 21-ton truck down a crowded promenade, killing 84 and wounding hundreds more. “There is nothing to be learned. This is what we live with, what we are getting used to living with. None of it is surprising—that’s the most frightening thing of all.”
Here in the UK practically the same article was penned by - of course - Simon Jenkins. Sympathy for the victims, but beyond that...nothing. Anything we do beyond shrugging our shoulders will only make matters worse.
What we're all dreading apparently - what we're constantly being warned about - is this right-wing "Islamophobic" backlash.
To hear the guardians of the good-willed galaxy tell it, the universe we live in is a see-saw. On the one end, beastly terrorists, like zombies, mindlessly perpetrate their gruesome attacks; on the other, the brutes of the far right, just as mindless, react to the bloodshed with their own brand of bigotry, which would inevitably lead to more bloodshed and more madness. In the middle, keeping the balance and the peace, are the nuanced and mature adults on the center and the left, wise souls who believe that globalism’s hope will defeat terrorism’s fear.
This worldview has brought about a host of startling alignments. In France, Germany, Austria, America, and you-name-it, center and left political outfits are looking at the world and surmising that the chief threat to its stability and prosperity are the restless hordes of the far right. Through some absent-minded fit, the same scholastically minded folks all too ready to dismiss the new jihad as nothing more than a feeling believe, when it comes to their own backyard fascists, that the right-wing goons are well-organized, thoroughly disciplined, and dearly committed to disturbing the democratic order. Why Mark would obey a doctrine while Mohamed is merely capable of a whim is anybody’s guess, but the left’s tendency to see The Other as not entirely capable of possessing agency and therefore in constant need of the mindful white person’s protection is nothing new. With this dogma beating strong, the wise souls embrace immigrants even as they refuse to contemplate any safe and sane immigration policy, and court soft Islamists while demanding absolutely no denunciations of benighted beliefs. If you’re a Republican congressman, say, and you call homosexuals a small and extremely powerful group of transgressors who should be punished, the wise souls will rightly condemn you and call for your head; but be a Baltimore imam and say the exact same things, and the Democratic president of the United States may just come knocking for a friendly visit.
Such a double standard is not only morally revolting, it’s politically disastrous as well. Because any attempt to reform Muslim societies from the outside—using either soft power or the harder, militarized variety—reeks of American imperialism and calls to mind the ghost of George W. Bush, the political left has committed itself to a radically nonconfrontational posture toward anything pertaining to Islam. Terrorism strikes in Nice, Medina, or San Bernardino? Depend on stern pundits first urging you not to jump to conclusions and then, when the perpetrator is revealed to be another ISIS drone, writing off the attack to some external and more manageable force like mental illness, homophobia, or petty criminality. This is not a coincidence: Having resolved not to use force against Muslim states, even the ones openly and giddily sponsoring terrorism, and having committed to repenting for what they see as the Original Sin of American imperialism, those on the political left have very few options but to retreat further into their own narrative, into the hope that reason and temperance will somehow triumph over savagery. Like the world’s worst poker players, they’ve resolved not to check, bet, raise, or call—all they can do, all they do time and again, is fold....
[B]y her mere presence Qandeel Baloch was a one-woman revolution against religiously and culturally justified misogyny. This in a society where the cost of speaking out can be lethal betrayal by those who are meant to love you the most: your own family. So most of all let us remember Qandeel Baloch as a fearless Pakistani women’s rights campaigner who had zero fucks left to give.
For it is only by having zero fucks left to give that a woman in today’s Pakistan can be brave enough to post sexually suggestive videos of herself. It is only by having zero fucks left to give that a woman in today’s Pakistan could promise to strip online if her country’s national cricket team won against India. It is only by having zero fucks left to give can a woman in today’s Pakistan pluck up the courage to summon a leading member of her country’s mullah mafia to a hotel room, only to film him turning to putty in her hands, mesmerized by her flirtation as he allowed her to sit in his lap while she donned his religious hat. Apparently, Mufti Abdul Qavi even proposed to her in that fateful hotel room encounter.
This feckless mullah reacted to Qandeel’s murder by claiming it was a lesson to others. Apparently, no one should dare mock religious clerics in this way. Well, Mr. Abdul Qavi, Qandeel Baloch had zero fucks left to give about you.
What makes Qandeel’s emergence as a Pakistani rebel icon even more awe-inspiring is that she was not a wealthy scion of society who had the financial and social standing to country-hop every time the threats to her life became unbearable. Though rich in aspirations for herself and her country, Qandeel hailed from a poor village in Dera Ghazi Khan near Multan, in South Punjab. And it is only by having zero fucks left to give that a woman from Qandeel’s socio-economic background could stand up and stick two fingers up to the whole of society in the way she did.