- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

President Obama is presiding over the end of American dominance in the Middle East. Across the region, U.S. power is receding - and radical Islam is filling the void. Mr. Obama has betrayed our allies and emboldened our enemies. He is slowly helping make the Middle East safe for jihadists, thereby undermining America’s national security.

Contrary to the spin of the mainstream media, the fever that is sweeping the Middle East is not some long-suppressed desire for political liberty. These are not secular democratic revolutions.

Instead, they represent the fury of subjugated peoples who have been deeply embittered by decades of autocratic rule, corruption and the pro-Western policies of their leaders. Many of the demonstrators despise America and Israel. They want one-man, one-vote democracy only once - to erect a theocratic state based on Shariah law.

As the leader of the Free World, Mr. Obama should be standing against this reactionary tidal wave. Instead, he is openly encouraging and embracing it. The result is that the United States is losing its influence in the Middle East.

In Tunisia, Mr. Obama abandoned President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a friend of the United States. In Egypt, Mr. Obama abandoned President Hosni Mubarak, who for 30 years was a staunch ally of Washington. Mr. Mubarak may have been a tinpot dictator, but he supported America in the war on terrorism, cracked down on Muslim extremists and kept the peace with Israel. His downfall has led to a surge in new Islamic fundamentalist parties - especially those that champion a virulent Salafism. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in September. Cairo’s liberals admit that the expected big winner will be the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to forge an Islamic regime and break the peace treaty with Israel. In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally in the fight against al Qaeda, is on the verge of being overthrown by jihadists.

In Iraq, U.S. troops are being withdrawn precipitously. They will all be gone by year’s end. The power vacuum is being filled by Iran. Baghdad’s government says its laws must correspond with the Koran. Half of Iraq’s Christians have been exterminated or expelled; the other half lives in fear. Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery anti-American Shiite cleric, wields considerable clout behind the scenes. The war has cost more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead and 30,000 wounded. Yet Iraq is under Tehran’s sphere of influence.

In Afghanistan, Mr. Obama’s surge has failed. It is becoming another Vietnam - a military quagmire squandering precious American blood and treasure in a futile effort at nation-building. Al Qaeda is gone from that Godforsaken land. It has dispersed to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan. The Taliban are resurgent. They are taking advantage of Washington’s severe rules of engagement, which make it almost impossible for U.S. forces to win.

Other allies also are beginning to turn away from America. Turkey’s Islamic government is increasingly anti-Western and hostile to Israel. Ankara is drifting out of America’s orbit, pursuing a policy of neo-Ottomanism - the attempt to restore Turkey’s historic role as the defender of the region’s Muslims. Pakistan is seething with anti-Americanism. Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah. Bahrain’s pro-U.S. king is facing a massive revolt. Jordan’s royal family is being threatened seriously for the first time in decades.

Mr. Obama’s inept foreign policy is starkly evident in Libya. His administration’s diplomacy has been confused and incoherent. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has admitted that there is “no vital national interest” at stake. In that case, why are we there? Our military is not an international charity; its purpose is not humanitarian intervention. This is a recipe for endless wars that will overextend and break America.

Mr. Obama insists that had he not ordered the airstrikes, the rebel stronghold of Benghazi would have been overrun by pro-Moammar Gadhafi loyalists. This would have led to a slaughter - a Libyan version of Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were butchered by Serb forces in 1995.

The president, however, is content to turn a blind eye to massacres in Sudan, Somalia and Syria. In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ridiculously refers to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as a “reformer.” Mr. Assad is the very opposite: a murderous anti-reformer whose security forces recently gunned down peaceful demonstrators. Yet the White House refuses to bomb Damascus. In short, Mr. Obama and his team are hypocrites.

Moreover, the Libyan campaign will only empower radical Islamists. Elements of the anti-Gadhafi rebels are al Qaeda insurgents; others are Libyan jihadists who fought in Iraq against U.S. forces. American pilots are risking their lives, and American taxpayers are funding a war on behalf of terrorist thugs who have American blood on their hands. The rebels’ goal is not just to topple the Libyan strongman. Many want an Islamist Libya - more radical and anti-Western than Col. Gadhafi’s crazed regime.

Mr. Obama has accomplished his primary foreign-policy goal: creating a post-American world. He is an academic leftist who believes that the United States must be constrained and ultimately weakened. Its might must be tethered to the United Nations in order to serve the “international community” - including the Muslim world, which he says has been the victim of Western imperialism. This kind of liberal guilt and self-hatred may play well with the media class. But from Tehran to Tripoli, Baghdad to Benghazi, Mr. Obama’s anti-Americanism only invites contempt from both our close friends and our mortal foes. Nobody respects weakness, even from a transnational progressive messiah.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.