- - Tuesday, October 4, 2016


The final embers of the Arab Spring are fading at Aleppo in northern Syria. The expectation of an Islamic enlightenment to match the yearnings in the West is dying with it. Casualties mount, and it’s sobering to recall how it all began. At the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama’s talk of “hope and change” was catnip to Americans demoralized by the war on terror, and to the millions of the war-weary in the Middle East as well. If not for the fanciful dreams of a junior senator who overnight became the most influential man in the world, Syria might be at peace today.

“We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning,” Mr. Obama said at Cairo University in 2009. The forces of change he helped unleash have instead ushered in a world of terror. In this dismal region, and particularly in Syria, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are dead and millions are homeless. In a tinderbox, the wary beware the man with matches.

The end game looms. Some 10,000 troops loyal to the evil President Bashar Assad and backed by Iranian forces with Russian warplanes, are poised to storm Aleppo and its 300,000 residents. Aleppo has been a stronghold of opposition, but there’s little doubt of an outcome a long time coming. Russia and Iran committed men and war machines to back Mr. Assad and after bravely promising to depose the dictator if he crossed a “red line,” Mr. Obama blinked.

Now Secretary of State John Kerry has broken off talks with Russia to find a solution. U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power accuses Russia of “barbarism” for its airstrikes on Syrian civilians. Unmoved, Russia warns the U.S. to keep out of the way until the Assad allies finish the war, including the annihilation of the Islamic State in Syria.

Mr. Obama has shown a knack for stirring up unrest; for actually resolving anything, not so much. After almost eight years in the White House, his antagonists know very well that he has no kidney for the struggle to settle anything. He boasts that he was elected to end wars, not start them. Men with evil intent have his number. With three months left in his presidency, he is determined to stay the course of least resistance.

Leading from behind, President Obama enabled Russia and Iran to replace the United States as the pre-eminent power in the Middle East. Perhaps as an omen of the times, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed last month for the first time in eight years to limit oil production. That’s not the “hope and change” the president expected from the Arab Spring, but a vacuum to be filled — by someone.

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