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Saturday, December 14, 2013

David Ignatius, "U.S. allies are restless": The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Things happen fast today. Whereas decline of a civilization in the past could take decades or even centuries, e.g. Rome, today we are learning how quickly a world leader can send his country into an economic and foreign policy tailspin.

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "U.S. allies are restless" (, David Ignatius, a confidante of Obama, provides us with evidence of the president's abysmal foreign policy handiwork. Acknowledging his support for Obama's overture "to explore a possible deal that reverses Iran’s nuclear program" and citing Walter Russell Mead's article in The American Interest entitled “The End of History Ends” (, Ignatius declares:

"Military historians note that retreat, even to a more defensible position, is among the most difficult and dangerous of maneuvers. That line is echoed by Mead, who cautions about the risks as Obama tries to reposition the United States into an 'offshore balancer' rather than a power that fights expeditionary wars. The problem, he contends, lies in the assumption that 'a reasonably benign post-American balance of power is latent in the structure of international life and will emerge if we will just get out of the way.'

Returning to Gorbachev, the paradox is that, although he was right in trying to change an outmoded, overburdened system, he didn’t foresee the consequences. He thought he could pull on a few stray threads without unraveling the sweater. The analogy is unfair, in that Soviet power was malign whereas U.S. hegemony has generally been positive. But a common theme is that repositioning a superpower is a tricky business."

Yes, the United States under Obama is in a dizzying retreat, and "repositioning" a superpower is indeed a "tricky business." As Walter Russell Mead writes in the article cited above:

"Call the challengers the Central Powers; they hate and fear one another as much as they loathe the current geopolitical order, but they are joined at the hip by the belief that the order favored by the United States and its chief allies is more than an inconvenience. The big three challengers – Russia, China and Iran — all hate, fear and resent the current state of Eurasia. The balance of power it enshrines thwarts their ambitions; the norms and values it promotes pose deadly threats to their current regimes. Until recently there wasn’t much they could do but resent the world order; now, increasingly, they think they have found a way to challenge and ultimately to change the way global politics work.

. . . .

Iran should be giddy with joy; pro-administration commentary from the White House and its media allies has focused on the nuclear technicalities to paint the deal as a success, but there is no disguising the immense diplomatic gains that Tehran made. Washington hasn’t just loosened sanctions as part of a temporary negotiation; it is opening the door to a broader relationship with Iran at a time when Iran and its Shia proxies are making unprecedented gains across the Middle East. Just as President Obama essentially allowed President Assad of Syria to trade a promise to get rid of his chemical weapons for what amounts to a de facto end to US efforts to push his blood stained regime out of power, so Iran believes it can trade a promise to end its nuclear program for American acquiescence to its domination of the Fertile Crescent and, potentially, the Gulf. This would be an epochal shift in the global balance of power and the consequences — in strained alliances and diminished US influence and prestige — are already being felt."

Bottom line: Obama has taken American overseas credibility and stature to a nadir, and I doubt that his successor in the Oval Office will be able to undo the damage wrecked by this supremely confident, foreign policy naif.

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