Writing this morning in Asia Times Online, I draw out the implications of the power vacuum left by the collapse of American foreign policy with the Iranian elections. The editors’ summary is:
President Barack Obama has not betrayed the interests of the United States to any foreign power, but he has done the next worst thing, namely, to create a void by withdrawing American power. By removing America as a referee, he will provoke more violence than the United States ever did. A very, very dangerous period is about to begin, and it could start with Iran.
There’s a joke about a man who tells a psychiatrist, “Everybody hates me,” to which the psychiatrist responds, “That’s ridiculous - everyone doesn’t know you, yet.” Which brings me to Barack Obama: one of the best-informed people in the American security establishment told me the other day that the president is a “Manchurian Candidate”.
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That can’t be true - Manchuria isn’t in the business of brainwashing prospective presidential candidates any more. There’s no one left to betray America to. Obama is creating a strategic void in which no major power will dominate, and every minor power must fend for itself. The outcome is incalculably hard to analyze and terrifying to consider.
Obama doesn’t want to betray the United States; he only wants to empower America’s enemies. Forcing Israel to abandon its strategic buffer (the so-called settlements) was supposed to placate Iran, so that Iran would help America stabilize Iraq, where its influence looms large over the Shi’ite majority.
America also sought Iran’s help in suppressing the Taliban in Afghanistan. In Obama’s imagination, a Sunni Arab coalition - empowered by Washington’s turn against Israel - would encircle Iran and dissuade it from acquiring nuclear weapons, while an entirely separate Shi’ite coalition with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would suppress the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This was the worst-designed scheme concocted by a Western strategist since Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery attacked the bridges at Arnhem in 1944, and it has blown up in Obama’s face.
Iran already has made clear that casting America’s enemies in the leading role of an American operation has a defect, namely that America’s enemies rather would lose on their own terms than win on America’s terms.