Published November 18, 2015
We all know people of towering arrogance and we all know people of staggering incompetence, but Barack Obama is quite possibly the perfect package. No one on the scene today combines these two qualities in quite the same way as Mr. Obama.
On the incompetence side, and sticking just with the president’s policies and record in the greater Middle East, there is Mr. Obama’s mishandling of the rise of the Islamic State, which just last year he referred to as the “jayvee team” and just last week declared was “contained.” Recall his threat to Syrian President Assad that if Assad used chemical weapons on his own people it would constitute crossing a “red line” (Assad did and Obama did nothing), and his stop-start-stop support for opposition forces in Syria.
Then there is the president’s decision to pull out all American troops from Iraq, which had disastrous consequences; his failures in Afghanistan (including announcing a withdrawal date even as he was announcing a surge in troops); his bungled relations with Egypt; his failure to support the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, which Charles Krauthammer called “the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.” Add to that Mr. Obama declaring his policies in Libya, Yemen and Somalia to be models of success before things collapses in all three countries, his alienation and mistreatment of Israel, and his botched handling of relations with our Arab allies – not to mention policies that have allowed Russia a presence in the Middle East unlike any its had since Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet Union from Egypt in the early 1970s – and you have a catastrophic foreign policy record. It was only in the summer of last year that the Wall Street Journal reported, “The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s” – and things are more disordered, chaotic and violent now then it was then. Things are so bad that the president has even lost CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Now most of us, with this almost unblemished record of ineptness, might feel some embarrassment. We might show a touch of self-reflection. And we would at least resist the temptation to lecture others. But not Mr. Obama. In his press conference in Turkey earlier this week, the president was prickly, petulant, condescending and small-minded. Consider just these two paragraphs:
But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.
We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.
If only the president could summon up this much passion and anger against oh, say, the Islamic State. Or the malevolent regimes of Iran and Syria. But no; it’s the Republicans for whom Mr. Obama has special antipathy. What a lovely touch, too, using soldiers who are paralyzed and without limbs to try to shut his critics down. And since we’re dealing with Obama, there is the requisite “my critics are playing political games while my motives are as pure as the new-driven snow.”
By now it’s all quite predictable and quite tiresome. Even the president’s own peculiar psychological habits – his tendency to project, his narcissism and seething resentment in reaction to criticisms, his inability to see reality when reality conflicts with his rigid and dogmatic views – are tedious because they are so commonly on display.
Watching Mr. Obama deal with his manifold and multiplying failures is to watch a man grow more bitter and graceless by the day. It’s a long, long way from hope and change.
Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.