Putin Parries, Obama Feints: America’s Superpower Retreat

As if the writing had not been clearly represented by action over the past two Republican-Democrat administrations President Obama made it official the week ending 9 October, 2015: America wants out. The state of the future of which superpower will manage events Mideast has decidedly shifted from the United States to Russia. In this weeks analysis comparing the positions of the two superpowers in the Syrian theatre Stratfor, a U.S.-based non-governmental intelligence think tank provides two graphic illustrations detailing airstrikes by the two superpowers in Syria and Iraq. And what could better describe Obama’s posture regarding his administration’s past and future failure exercising America’s superpower approach to the region and the world than this exchange between Ratney and McCain:
Thursday, 10/8/15, “The Russian airstrikes on Syria are a sign that U.S. policy is working, a senior State Department official told shocked Syrian-American advocates in a private meeting on Monday… The “Russians wouldn’t have to help Assad if we didn’t weaken him,” U.S. special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said.”
“He should be on Saturday Night Live [McCain told The Daily Beast]… I guess if Russia takes all of Syria and Iraq, then that shows they’re really weak. It’s just delusional.”
According to The Beast, “U.S. officials have privately conceded there is little they can do to protect their allies on the ground.”
Friday, 10/9/15, “The U.S. has abandoned its program for training moderate rebels to fight ISIS in Syria, The New York Times reported Friday.”
Ratney lauds Obama’s policy of inaction and avoidance; of public humiliation in abandoning “red lines” as successful diplomacy!
Now that’s America “leading from behind”… Way behind!
Follows is my last in this series of US policy critiques describing America’s flight from international responsibility, its retreat into a polyandrous idealism of the security and consolation of withdrawal into a cocoon of isolationism: safe from confusing and dangerous world the result, for much part, its own creation.
Kenneth N. Waltz, described as America’s dean of foreign policy, appeared in Foreign Policy in 2012 advocating for a nuclear Iran. By his reasoning in, Why Iran Should Get the Bomb, Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability,
“Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, which has proved remarkably durable for the past four decades, has long fueled instability in the Middle East. In no other region of the world does a lone, unchecked nuclear state exist. It is Israel's nuclear arsenal, not Iran's desire for one, that has contributed most to the current crisis. Power, after all, begs to be balanced. What is surprising about the Israeli case is that it has taken so long for a potential balancer to emerge.”
Enter Obama and America’s now public policy of appeasement towards the Islamic Republic as a publicly sanctioned nuclear threshold state.
For more than a decade I have been describing Russia’s growing challenge to US hegemony in the strategic the Middle East, Putin’s intention to reverse its defeat by America in the Cold War four decades ago. His actions today in Syria are the first step to redress that failure.
American pundits point to the disparity in wealth and military strength between the U.S. and Russia as determinant for the outcome of Putin’s Syria shot across America’s bow. Certainly no contest measured by those factors! But what importance wealth and military might if un- or under-utilized? If American "power" is always in “reserve,” risk-aversive, in pursuit of national and international policy objectives; if American power is so cautious as to allow even a comparative international dwarf as “Iran” to manipulate the “superpower” to its ends: what expect from Putin’s Russia, adventurous and risk-taking?
NPR recently aired an interview with a Russian military analyst for Tass, the Russian news agency, regarding Putin’s goals in Syria. He was able to describe openly that which Putin demonstrates in action but describes in diplospeak. Putin’s strategy, the analyst said, is to first target the Assad opposition, including the America-backed “moderate” rebels. Yes Putin will mask his intentions with a sprinkling of ISIL targets for media consumption and to allow Obama deniability. But once, according to the Russian analyst, the proximal threat to Assad is contained (ISIL is still, for all practical purposes, distant from Assad’s Alawite coastal enclave) then will he turn his attention to the destroyer of infidel monuments in Syria and Iraq in earnest. His ground forces acting under Russian air cover consist of IRGC commandos, Syrian Army troops and Hezbollah fighters to take and hold ground. And these will soon be joined by Russian “volunteers” already en route from their success in the Ukraine.
How does all this impact Israel? Before Obama’s desperate pursuit for a regional victory, any regional victory as legacy while somehow missing the fact that the Islamic Republic was already “taken,” had a decade-long relationship as client to Russia, I anticipated a relatively slow transition in which Russia would replace America in the region. During this “transition” Israel, the only socially stable and militarily powerful country in the region would be as necessary to Russia as hegemon as she had been to the West. Such a shift in Western states abandoning Israel once their “interests” shifted already had an historical precedent in France dropping Israel once it retreated from Algeria in 1962. “Special relationships” always serve the senior party’s interests and end when those “interests” move on. Five years later America replaced France. And today, with the U.S. “moving on,” (well, moving “in” into the fantasy of isolationism) Russia and Putin’s interests would once again need Israel as regional stabilizer (not “destabilizer” as some pundits with an anti-Israel agenda would suggest).
Since the first months of Bush’s misadventure in Iraq, 2003, the U.S. has been in an accelerating state of retreat. To American foreign policy such considerations as von Clausewitz and Realpolitik hold little sway against pie-in-the-sky White House idealistic camouflaged escapism. Such residents of Washington’s brain trust as Waltz and Mearsheimer are the inspiration for America’s foreign policy. Israel’s assumed nuclear arsenal demands an Iranian stabilizing “balance” which, incidentally, provides cover for the U.S. abandoning responsibility for whatever might follow.
In recent years, as I observed Putin’s outreach to Israel ‘s diplomatically, his interest in importing Israeli technology and the military and diplomatic exchanges I could see the outlines for a future accommodation. Putin was priming Israel to serve the same role for the future Eastern as for the previous Western hegemon. Today things are far murkier thanks to Obama establishing Iran as a potentially credible adversary to Israel; empowering Russia’s long-time client in the region. Syria was and continues an important asset for Russia, her toe-hold in the Levant, sea port to Russia’s still small Mediterranean fleet. And, in Syria, Russian and Iranian interests converge far more closely than does America’s self-assured delusion of an Iranian partner allowing Obama to set the stage for America abandoning global as well as national interests in the region.
For whatever reason Bush invaded Iraq; whether by failure of understanding or misguided illusions about spreading America’s Gospel of Democracy to that now failed state; whatever his reasons for installing a Shi’ite regime as open invitation to direct Iranian influence one thing is clear: in one swift moment he transformed the entire sectarian balance of power in the region: he transformed Iraq, the Sunni barrier to Iranian ambitions into a Shi’ite welcome mat for those Iranian ambitions. And that which Bush initiated Obama completed by signing off on the Iranian nuclear armaments program. Obama has enormously magnified the Iranian challenge to the Sunni monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula, to Egypt and to Israel. With America’s blessing and backed by an activist and ambitious Russia the regional chessboard has been completely overturned, the pieces scattered.
With all the challenges Israel has had to face in the past, from the War for Independence to the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, today may well represent its greatest challenge. How the Arab states respond to the Iranian nuclear threat is still in play. The Saudis, having financed the Pakistan Bomb, have made it clear that they have access to that arsenal. Still, the monarchy is moving forward on building its own reactors, its own deterrence to the Iranian threat (to be purchased from Russia!). Many Gulf emirates are also negotiating Russian reactors as are Jordan and Egypt. The genie is drifting out of the bottle.
And then there is lonely Israel with an Waltz/Mearsheimer’s assumed nuclear arsenal. Israel is braced for Russian aerial intrusions over its Golan border:
“Israeli and Western aviation and intelligence experts don’t see how Israel can prevent Russia providing air cover for Syrian and Hizballah forces when the war moves close to the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria.”
America’s “dean” of foreign policy has certainly reinforced American self-defeatist “idealism” over interest-achieving Realpolitik. Let us hope the godfather of today’s emergent nuclear Iran and his presidential protégé are not remembered in history as having turned the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan into a nuclear wasteland, the West’s War on Terror into a suicidal War on Nuclear Terror.