War damage in Syria
The entire Middle East is at war right now, and the Obama administration’s strategic incoherence is aiding and abetting the chaos
Just because the Middle East’s descent into chaos is hardly the fault of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean its policies in the region are not an egregious failure.
The situation in the region is unprecedented. For the first time since the World Wars, virtually every country from Libya to Afghanistan is involved in a military conflict. (Oman seems to be the exception.) The degree of chaos, uncertainty, and complexity among the twisted and often contradictory alliances and enmities is mind-boggling. America and its allies are fighting alongside Iran to combat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria but in Yemen, the United States and many of those same regional partners are collaborating to push back Iranian-backed Houthi forces.
Israel and Saudi Arabia are closely aligned in their concerns about Iran while historical divisions between the two remain great. Iran supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; the United States and Western allies deplore his policies but tolerate his presence while some of the rebel forces we are supporting in the fight against the Islamic State in that country seek his (long overdue) removal. The United States wants the states of the region to stand up for their own interests — just not in Libya or when they don’t get America’s permission first.
The technical foreign-policy term for this is giant cluster-fuck. (In the military’s shorthand, using its own phonetic alphabet, the expression is charlie foxtrot.) It is no wonder that the response of so many Americans is to want to back away from the region as quickly as possible. They argue that its problems are beyond our control, that the animosities fueling the fires of the current Middle East hellscape are ancient, and that many of the festering conflicts have little relevance to the daily lives of the American people…