Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Consequences of Leading from Behind

Here are some links for articles that are like straws in the wind. As Mr. Dylan wrote, "You don't need a weathervane to tell which way the wind blows."

In a column entitled "Wistful in Jerusalem," Elliott Abrams writes in The Weekly Standard about the current mood in Israel, as it witnesses the fecklessness of the United States, Europe and the Arab world in the face of the continuing massacres by Syria of its own citizens. A key quote:
They look north to Syria and see the savagery, the massacres, the now over 14,000 dead, and the world doing absolutely nothing. "You get no help in this region if you are weak," one IDF general said to me. "It is a reminder to us of just what would have happened to us and could still if we were not strong enough to defend ourselves. But now we watch as these women and children are slaughtered and no one acts to save them. We can't, for all the obvious reasons; it isn't up to us, it's up to the Arabs and to Europe and to you. And you do nothing."

Do you think that this outlook may have some effect on whether Israel will be content to rely on the United States and Europe to negotiate an end to the Iranian nuclear weapons program?

Along the same lines we have a recent column about President Obama's Middle East policy efforts by Sarah Honig in the Jerusalem Post. Ms. Honig begins:
Word is that US President Barrack Obama, remarkably free from introspection and unencumbered by healthy hints of self-doubt, assiduously attributes Israeli mistrust of him to his eminently Muslim middle name. For him that encapsulates it all.

Such simplistic one-dimensional explanations typify his neophyte missteps on the treacherous turfs of foreign-policy. Obama botches things up because of his predilection for facile grand gestures, which, alas, can’t alter intricate realities. He hasn’t got an elementary handle on our Israeli outlook and is likewise unable to navigate the tempestuous Islamic sea that swirls ominously around us.

He doesn’t get us and he doesn’t get them.

Ms. Honig continues with a detailed and devastating critique of President Obama's naive assumptions about both Israel and the Islamic world, and the consequences that we have seen over the past 4 years.

Then there are the ominous stories on the news page. The Jerusalem Post reports that Palestinian terrorists launched an attack from Sinai that killed an Israeli construction worker, fire over 40 rockets and mortar shells into Israel (including one Kassam missile that injured 4 Israeli border policemen near the major city of Ashkelon) and, most ominously, Hamas takes public credit for launching 10 of the rockets. Until now Hamas denied responsibility for rockets and artillery shells fired at Southern Israel from Gaza and Sinai. One hopes that someone in Washington, D.C. is paying attention.

Finally, there is the curious incident of the report by the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars, also carried by two news outlets linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, that Iran, Syria, Russia and China are planning to hold joint military exercises in Syria. According to one Arabic language report in the Syrian media outlet ShamLife (which may be a particularly apt name), the exercises, set to begin in about a month, were "The largest military exercise in the Middle East - Russia, Syria, China and Iran in 'World War III rehearsal'." According to the Jerusalem Post:
ShamLife said "sources" had confirmed previous leaks, and that preparations for the exercise were being carried out at an "accelerated pace."

According to ShamLife, China had gained Egyptian approval to allow 12 Chinese ships carrying military equipment to pass through the Suez Canal, and that these vessels would reach the Syrian ports of Tartous and Latakia in two weeks' time.

ShamLife said Syrian air defense missiles and its coastal defense would be put to the test in the military exercises, and that 90,000 troops from the four countries would be involved in the war games along with 400 aircraft and 1,000 tanks and "hundreds of rockets."

Both Russia and Syria have now officially denied the report. Maybe it was all a clumsy hoax attempted by the Iranians. Or more hopefully, perhaps this is a case where President Obama has exercised leadership, as he met with both Russian Prime Minister Putin and Chinese President Hu JinTao in recent days at the G-20 summit.

As I said, all straws in the winds. But it does make me long for the day when a certain "cowboy" from Texas was disliked and ridiculed in foreign capitals, but the United States was feared and respected by its enemies. Perhaps a certain patrician former Governor of Massachusetts will be able to help our nation regain that respect.