In October 2009, Charles Krauthammer critiqued President Obama’s foreign policy in a Weekly Standard article Decline is a choice:

Indeed, as he made his hajj from Strasbourg to Prague to Ankara to Istanbul to Cairo and finally to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama drew the picture of an America quite exceptional–exceptional in moral culpability and heavy-handedness, exceptional in guilt for its treatment of other nations and peoples. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own country for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantánamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.

Quite an indictment, the fundamental consequence of which is to effectively undermine any moral claim that America might have to world leadership, as well as the moral confidence that any nation needs to have in order to justify to itself and to others its position of leadership. According to the new dispensation, having forfeited the mandate of heaven–if it ever had one–a newly humbled America now seeks a more modest place among the nations, not above them.

But that leads to the question: How does this new world govern itself? How is the international system to function?

In his column this week, Obama’s Dorothy Doctrine, Krauthammer answers the (nearly) four year old question:

This is John Lennon, bumper-sticker foreign policy — Imagine World Peace. Obama pretends that the tide of war is receding. But it’s demonstrably not. It’s metastasizing to Mali, to the Algerian desert, to the North African states falling under the Muslim Brotherhood, to Yemen, to the savage civil war in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon and destabilizing Jordan. Even Sinai, tranquil for 35 years, is descending into chaos.

It’s not war that’s receding. It’s America. Under Obama. And it is precisely in the power vacuum left behind that war is rising. Obama declares Assad must go. The same wish-as-policy fecklessness from our bystander president. Two years — and 70,000 dead — later, Obama keeps repeating the wish even as the tide of battle is altered by the new arbiters of Syria’s future — Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Where does every party to the Syrian conflict go on bended knee? To Moscow, as Washington recedes into irrelevance.

This is a point that Jonathan Spyer recently expanded upon in The Tower magazine:

Following the collapse of pro-U.S. regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, an Assad victory would further be seen by political elites across the Middle East as an object lesson. The lesson will be that allying with the U.S. is an error. The U.S. will not back you in your moment of need, while opposing it and allying with its enemies carries little cost. The U.S. and its regional allies, it will be believed, can be successfully challenged as long as you have determined allies of your own prepared to back you to the hilt. And such determined allies can be easily found in Iran and Russia.

Remember what Krauthammer wrote about President Obama’s view of American exceptionalism? Sacrificing Mubarak and Ben Ali was a way of expiating American arrogance … and hurting American interests.

Should evidence of American weakness become so readily apparent, it would have several practical effects: First, Iran will be encouraged to even more strenuously defy the West over its nuclear program, secure in the knowledge that U.S. and Western threats can be faced down. In the longer term, an Iranian victory in Syria and a general sense that the U.S. and its allies are a spent and declining force will fuel the idea of Iran and its allies as a “resistance bloc” that can effectively defeat a collapsing West. In turn, this could result in a regional shift in favor of Iran, with such states as Qatar and possibly even Muslim Brotherhood-oriented regimes such as Egypt and Gaza cementing a tilt in favor of the Islamic republic. That this is a potential catastrophe for the West should be obvious.

And if Iran is emboldened what are the chances that its clients Syria and Hezbollah will take American tough talk seriously?

Until now, the U.S. and the West have completely failed to meet this challenge. They have neither opposed their enemies nor supported their allies effectively. As of now, the Assad regime is standing firm and even regaining lost ground. Its survival, which means its victory, would be a disaster for the West. It is crucial, then, for the West to take those measures necessary to prevent it and to end the carnage in Syria in the shortest possible time. This is a strategic imperative of the utmost urgency for America, the West and its allies in the Middle East.

The Obama doctrine is if you want peace, retreat from wars. Unfortunately in the real world, wars (and trouble) don’t always retreat just because you do.


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