Barack Obama's tenure as commander in chief has not exactly been characterized by success. What comes next, however, may make his record to date look like the good old days.
To be sure, on his watch, an extraordinary intelligence-special operations forces team liquidated Osama bin Laden and drones have dispatched a number of other "high-value targets" in what the president calls our "war on al Qaeda." These are morale-boosting tactical achievements, but in the great scheme of things, they are more like Whac-a-Mole than strategic victories. Much more important is the fact that Mr. Obama is in the process of losing the two wars he inherited and making a hash of the one he initiated in Libya.
Worse, Mr. Obama is actively encouraging trends that threaten to unleash the next horrific regional war in the Middle East - a war that may well embroil nations far beyond, including ours.
The president's mishandling of the present conflicts has set the stage for such dangers.
c Mr. Obama's earlier insistence on withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq and his abiding determination to pull out virtually all others by year's end has, as a practical matter, made it impossible for the government in Baghdad to ask us to stay. Even if the Iranian puppet, Muqtada al-Sadr, were not threatening - if Americans are invited to stay - to relaunch his Mahdi Army's sectarian warfare and bring down the coalition government (in which his party is a prominent part) the Iraqis can hardly be more in favor of maintaining an American presence than we are.
The predictable result in Iraq next year (if not before) will be a vacuum of power that Iran surely will fill. State Department officials and other Americans left behind in the hope that the immense investment we have made in lives and treasure in Iraq's democratic and pro-Western future will not be squandered stand to become endangered species. The ironic symbol of our defeat may be the takeover in due course of the immense new U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranians - this time by invited diplomats, not the hostage-taking "students" of 1979.
c Afghanistan - no longer George W. Bush's war, but Barack Obama's - is, if anything, in even worse shape. There, despite the valor of our troops and others trying to build a 21st-century nation out of a backward sixth-century tribal/Islamist entity, we are in the process of negotiating the Afghans' surrender to the Taliban. Again, the president's insistence that U.S. forces will begin coming out of theater this summer signals to friends and foes alike that we will not stay the course. The only question now is: How ignominious will be our defeat at the hands of those we routed after Sept. 11 and their Pakistani, Chinese, Iranian and Russian friends?
c Then there is Mr. Obama's first "elective war": His ill-considered, incoherent, congressionally unauthorized and, to date at least, unsuccessful campaign in Libya. Mr. Obama has tried to limit the costs and offload responsibility for this fiasco onto the French, British and other NATO allies. Once again U.S. forces have performed their missions impressively - but to what end? We are now aligned with, defending and increasingly supporting "rebels" who, if anything, are likely to be more dangerous enemies of the United States than Moammar Gadhafi.
Which brings us to Mr. Obama's next war. In his speech last week to what he calls "the Muslim world," the president made it U.S. policy to support whoever manages to get elected in the various nations of North Africa and the Middle East currently undergoing political upheavals. As a practical matter, that will mean legitimating, working with and underwriting the Muslim Brotherhood because it is far and away the most organized, disciplined and ruthless of the contenders for power in country after country. History tells us that such organizations and people - from Hitler in Weimar Germany to Hamas in the Gaza Strip - win even "free and fair" elections, which then amount to one-man, one-vote, one-time.
President Obama's openness (to put it mildly) to bringing the Brotherhood to power was manifested not only by his pledge to forgive $1 billion in Egyptian debt and to provide Egypt another billion in additional foreign aid. Just as he did in his last much-ballyhooed "outreach" to Muslims in Cairo two years ago, Mr. Obama had one of the top Muslim Brothers - Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Muslim Brotherhood's largest front group in this country, the Islamic Society of North America - prominently seated in the audience at the State Department.
Beyond his embrace of the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Obama has helped catalyze the next Middle East war by declaring that Israel must return to the 1967 borders, whose indefensibility induced the Arab nations to precipitate the Six-Day War of that year. However much the president may deny it and point to others as supporting a "two-state solution" based on such borders, the Jewish state cannot survive without the high ground, strategic depth and aquifers of the Golan Heights and West Bank. Period.
It is in America's vital interests to deter more wars in the Middle East, not invite them. If Mr. Obama persists in the latter, his already checkered record as commander in chief may make him best remembered as the man who elected to precipitate World War III.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of "Secure Freedom Radio," heard in Washington weeknights at 9 on WRC-AM (1260).
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