This is going to be the year of “we told you so.” It is the year in which all the disasters predicted by President Obama’s critics come true. It is the year in which the consequences of the president’s policies, which were staved off just long enough to permit his re-election, come crashing down on all of us.
As one of those critics, I can assure you that I do not enjoy being proven right. In 2012, I made bold predictions of some relatively good political outcomes, which all turned out to be wrong. Now I get to watch while my darkest prognostications of doom come true. Boy, do I wish it had been the other way around.
The ObamaCare disaster is already well under way. We predicted that ObamaCare would leave everybody worse off than before, and now we’re just waiting to see whether the program will result in a net decrease in health insurance coverage, as is now widely expected. (Even the increase in Medicaid rolls, meant to draft a whole new cohort of the population into dependency, is going to be relatively small.)
But the really awful part of the Year of We Told You So is going to be the impact of President Obama’s foreign policy, which is falling apart on every front.
As the new year began, we got the news that al-Qaeda has retaken control of Fallujah, along with parts of Ramadi and other areas in Iraq’s Anbar Province.
This is a big kick in the gut. The first time al-Qaeda took control of Fallujah, in 2004, marked the beginning of the full-scale anti-American insurgency in Iraq. The retaking of Fallujah later that year marked the beginning of an American counterinsurgency campaign that would culminate with the stunning victory of the “surge” in 2007, when US forces successfully turned local Sunni tribesmen against the jihadists, retook Ramadi in house-to-house fighting, and ejected al-Qaeda from Anbar.
So what we are seeing now is the loss of the central, signature achievement of America’s war in Iraq.
This will be taken by some veterans, and by some on the newly anti-interventionist right, as proof that the fight in Iraq was doomed from the beginning. But this lets President Obama off the hook. In fact, President Bush handed Obama a historic achievement—one of the fastest and most thorough counter-insurgency victories in history. All that was required to maintain it was vigorous diplomacy. And didn’t President Obama claim to be the guy who really believed in diplomacy?
But as I’ve noted elsewhere, he doesn’t. In every situation that requires skillful diplomacy to secure American interests, from post-Gaddafi Libya to Egypt to Syria, Obama’s diplomatic efforts have been half-hearted, incompetent, and disengaged.
That was the case in Iraq from the beginning. In 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition of “moderate” Shiite Islamists narrowly lost out to a non-sectarian coalition of Sunnis and Shiites. But Maliki schemed to reverse the election results (by disqualifying some of the other coalition’s winning candidates) and to impose a sectarian Shiite government that shut Sunnis out of power. Many of us predicted that the results would be disastrous, that Maliki was alienating the very same Sunni tribal leaders whom we had convinced to support the government. And we were right: the result has been Iraq’s slow downward slide into sectarian civil war, culminating in the revival of al-Qaeda in Anbar Province.
The Washington Post‘s David Ignatius describes it perfectly.
“What is tragic is that Iraq’s slide toward an Iranian axis and civil war were not only predictable but indeed predicted by Iraq experts within the US government,” laments one former US official. “Iraq’s current meltdown and its grave implications on US national security interests were entirely avoidable.”
The greatest irony of all is that Iraqis voted in March 2010 to dump Maliki in favor of an alternative slate headed by Ayad Allawi, a pro-American former interim prime minister. In the horse-trading that followed, however, Maliki and his Iranian sponsors (bizarrely backed by the US) ended up forming a new government, with Vice President Joe Biden, the architect of US policy (if that’s the right word), proclaiming all the while that “politics has broken out in Iraq.”
That’s not the only way in which this administration has actively contributed to the revival of the al-Qaeda insurgency in Iraq. Note that the new al-Qaeda group that took over in Fallujah calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A lot of us have been warning that President Obama’s dithering on Syria was allowing al-Qaeda to reconstitute itself by filling the power vacuum and establishing itself as a leader of the opposition to the Assad regime. When President Obama accepted a Russian-backed deal with Assad late last year, non-Islamist rebels who had been waiting for years for Western support were suddenly left high and dry, and al-Qaeda and its allies have moved quickly to take over.
Obama’s disastrous pro-Assad policy in Syria is what is spilling back into Iraq, emboldening the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to seize control of Fallujah. The Syrian war is also spilling over into Lebanon, threatening to reignite the sectarian civil war there—which, again, is encouraging Sunni Islamists to take up leadership of the opposition to the Syrian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah.
All is not lost. The Iraqi government is preparing to retake Fallujah, this time without our help. We’ll see how they do, but while Maliki is sectarian and under Iran’s influence—well, he’s better than al-Qaeda.
Although rival militia groups have clashed throughout the three-year revolution, the uprising against ISIS is unprecedented. According to activists, it was sparked by ISIS’ abduction, torture and killing of a popular doctor, who was also member of a rival militia, near Aleppo on Jan. 1. Widespread protests and clashes broke out following Friday prayers two days later, as rebel forces began attacking ISIS fighters and positions.
Similarly, there are many Sunnis in Anbar Province who remember how thoroughly al-Qaeda wore out its welcome in Iraq the first time around, and Sunni tribal leaders are pledging to fight al-Qaeda again.
But the point is that this is not just the normal chaos of the Middle East. It was preventable by vigorous American action, if only vigorous diplomacy. Instead, the Obama administration has made it worse.
All of this is summed up in revelations from a forthcoming tell-all by Robert Gates, who was Secretary of Defense in the last two years of the Bush administration and the first two years of the Obama administration. Here is an early report on what Gates has to say about President Obama’s leadership,
Mr. Gates concluded during an unhappy two years and a half years as Mr. Obama’s defense secretary that the commander-in-chief “doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his.”…
He described a poisonous relationship between the White House and US generals and said he was often “seething” as Mr. Obama’s aides engaged “in condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.”
Mr. Gates highlights a meeting in March 2010 when Mr. Obama was weighing whether to send more troops to reinforce the war effort in Afghanistan.
The president opened the meeting by implicitly accusing General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, of leaking to the media in an effort to force the White House to send additional forces, according to Mr. Gates.
“As I sat there, I thought: the president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out,” Mr. Gates wrote.
This confirms what a lot of us have been warning about for years: that Obama’s goal is not to achieve American interests but to reduce American power and influence. He comes from a far-left intellectual environment in which America is denounced as an evil empire whose power must be broken.
As the US loses ground across the Middle East, and malevolent actors rush to fill the vacuum, we can look forward to a grim year of saying, “We told you so.”