In the Arena

What Middle East Alternative?

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Charles Krauthammer’s precipitous descent into partisan silliness proceeds apace. In this week’s column, he excoriates President Obama’s Arab Spring policy and suggests that Mitt Romney “go large” in opposing it. Ok…but what’s the alternative? In the past, when he was still a rigorous and creative thinker, Krauthammer might have offered a strategy. In the past, he might even have offered a coherent explanation of where Obama went wrong–not continuing to support Mubarak? Ignoring the rebellion against Qaddafi? But this is about as good as it gets:

Yet Romney totally fumbled away the opportunity. Here was a chance to make the straightforward case about where Obama’s feckless approach to the region’s tyrants has brought us, connecting the dots of the disparate attacks as a natural response of the more virulent Islamist elements to a once-hegemonic power in retreat.

Talk about feckless. Krauthammer clearly pines for the hegemony of yesteryear. This is, of course, delusional. The last time that sort of formulation was even semi-plausible was during the Cold War, when the US and the USSR could manage the region through aid to autocrats–and even then it was something of a delusion. Much has happened since. A communications revolution has happened. The war in Iraq has demonstrated the limits, and unintended consequences, of American adventurism in the region. The chance of returning to a neo-colonial relationship with the region is not only impossible, but also unnecessary and wildly at variance with our national values.

The best we can do now is try to stabilize these fledgling democracies, while continuing our largely successful campaign against Al Qaeda and  other salafi extremists. It seems clear now that we had an intelligence failure in Libya, which allowed the attack on the consulate to happen–and the Obama Administration has been foolish in not acknowledging that failure. That was a singular exception. We’ve had incredible drone and special ops successes not only in Pakistan, but also in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere in the region. So what does Krauthammer want? A 100% effective campaign against Al Qaeda? Ain’t gonna happen. A return to the democracy-denying hegemony of the past? Ain’t gonna happen. A President who listens to his, and other neoconservatives’, advice on foreign policy even though it has been disastrously, bloodily wrong? Hmmm…but that doesn’t seem to be going so well right now, either.