The Middle East was meant to be the crowning achievement of the Obama Doctrine. Once in the White House, President Obama focused laser-like on a “charm offensive” with Iran. When voices rose against the regime in Tehran in the wake of a disputed national election, Obama offered virtually no support for the cries for freedom. Nevertheless, the “playing nice initiative” with Tehran fell flat. Today, the regime is more aggressive than ever—backing a terrorist take-over of the government in Lebanon, snubbing Western nuclear negotiators, and promoting an Islamist agenda across the region.
The other prong of the president’s outreach offensive was to throw all his energies into the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel. Obama’s initiative, however, lacked new and constructive ideas. He has been equivocal in his support for Israel. The White House has failed to press for a hard line against Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization. The results here were all too predictable as well. The president has nothing to show for two years of inept effort.
Obama also bought into the false belief that improving relations between Palestine and Israel was the solution to “all problems” in the Middle East. That simplistic notion masks the serious challenges in the region—lack of healthy civil societies, a paucity of economic freedom, exploding demographic growth, endemic unemployment, environmental troubles, lurking Islamism, terrorism, and troublemaking from Iran. Much the enmity expressed against the West is more properly the product of homegrown problems. Yet, Obama has done little to address these issues other than try to solve them all with a single speech in Cairo.
While the troubles sweeping the Middle East today are the result of the failure of the regimes to provide liberty and opportunity to their own peoples, this administration’s halting and tentative response is emblematic of a White House that lacks a serious plan for dealing with a part of the world where the US has vital strategic interests.