Friends and foes of the United States have both lost respect for U.S. foreign policy, as President Barack Obama has shirked challenges in the Middle East, says Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former aide to President George W. Bush.
The low regard for Obama's policy "doesn't stem from the administration's performance over the past several weeks, . . . nor can it be put to rest by a U.N. speech," Libby, now senior vice president of the Hudson Institute, writes in The Wall Street Journal
"Rather, the mystification of America's allies and enemies alike over U.S. intentions is rooted in the policies of several years."
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Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said earlier this month that the United States must continue to "undergird the global security architecture and enforce international norms."
That's not happening, Libby said in a piece co-written with Hillel Fradkin, director of the institute's Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World. "Hasn't America's withdrawal from the burdens of leadership been the Obama administration's message from the beginning?"
Obama said in his UN speech Tuesday
that the United States can't "disengage" from a leadership role in world affairs.
But, "doubts about America's leadership echo in the Middle East and elsewhere," Libby and Fradkin say. As Obama was equivocating over whether to strike Syria last month, a close adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Obama "half" a leader.
"And that's an American ally speaking," the duo writes.
"The Iranians know that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's chemical attacks offered Mr. Obama the opportunity to strike at Iran's successful geostrategic rescue mission in Syria—and that Obama squirmed out of it."
U.S. allies don't think much of Obama's policy either, as evidenced by Britain's refusal to back the president's planned attack on Syria, Libby and Fradkin say.
"It took time to win such disdain," they write. "For five years, the Obama administration has been trying to edge America off the Middle East stage."
In Iraq, Obama allowed basing-rights disputes to flourish, leading to a complete U.S. withdrawal. Obama once called Afghanistan the "necessary" war, but later decided to pull out, Libby and Fradkin note.
"Ending wars, not winning the peace, has been his call."
Obama has stood on the sideline during the Arab spring, the duo says. He did nothing in 2009 to boost Iranians protesting against the leadership, and he has been all over the map on Egypt, they say. "Iranian liberals and all sides in Egypt disparage Mr. Obama now."
He's sending a message of weakness, Libby and Fradkin say. That message is "we may stir for international causes, but we don't see in this region American national concerns worth the cost of defending," they write.
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