In an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, President Obama referred to the problematic relations with Middle Eastern governments as “bumps in the road.” These “bumps” (failures, in reality) are the result of a policy based on profound naiveté and shortsightedness.
When he came to office, President Obama attempted to portray himself as the antithesis to President Bush. Striking a conciliatory tone in his inaugural address, President Obama projected weakness in the place of leadership. He told hostile regimes that “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” (continues below graphic)
But he failed to realize that regimes in Iran and Syria could not unclench their fists without risking their hold on power, which was based on uncompromising hostility to America. Obama’s naïve Middle East policy made life easier for these tyrannical regimes and amounted to an open invitation for Iran to continue its nuclear weapons program.
A year after taking office, President Obama offered an olive branch to Syria by upgrading diplomatic relations. Despite Syria’s support for terrorist groups—including some responsible for the deaths of U.S. servicemen in Iraq and Lebanon—and Syria’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, President Obama reversed his predecessor’s policy, appointing an ambassador while Congress was out of session.
Then, just as Syria’s protests were heating up, in March 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “reformer.” Eighteen months later, the regime is still in power and responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands.
Such attempts to placate tyrants have done little to further U.S. interests. Since President Obama took office, Iran has moved closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon, the governments elected in the wake of the “Arab Spring” display violent disdain for the United States and American values, and the Administration’s unrealistic one-year deadline for an Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement raised Palestinian hopes that could not be fulfilled and led them to push for unilateral statehood at the United Nations.
The only success the Administration can claim is the killing of Osama bin Laden. Yet, as tragically witnessed in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, the threat of terrorism and Islamic extremism remains. For this, the U.S. needs strong leadership, not complacent wishful thinking that is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter.