Getting Real in the Middle East

Posted: Feb 11, 2015 12:01 AM
Getting Real in the Middle East

President Barack Obama, who has acted unilaterally on everything from making war in Libya to granting work permits to illegal aliens in the United States, now wants a war authorization from Congress.

What Congress should make him do first -- but probably will not -- is embrace a realistic foreign policy that makes sense because it makes Americans safer.

When Obama wanted to intervene in Libya's civil war in favor of those seeking to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, he did not seek an authorization from Congress as required by our Constitution.

He acted on his own -- backed up by what he called the "writ" embodied in a U.N. resolution.

"In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people," Obama said in a March 2011 speech from Brazil.

"Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced," he said. "That is the cause of this coalition."

Later in 2011, Libyan rebels killed Gadhafi. In 2012, Libyan terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi, killing four Americans including our ambassador.

What has happened in Libya since then?

"The U.S. State Department describes Libya as a 'terrorist safe haven,' and the U.S. government suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and relocated U.S. personnel out of the country in July 2014," the Congressional Research Service said in a report published in September.

Just before the 2012 election year, Obama announced he was ending the war in Iraq.

"But we're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people," Obama said in December 2011.

"I told you we would end the war in Iraq. We did," he said at an October 2012 campaign rally.

What has happened in Iraq since then?

Well, the new authorization for the use of military force Obama wants Congress to give him would authorize him to make war against the Islamic State. Where and when did this enemy arise?

"The Islamic State's ideological and organizational roots lie in the forces built and led by the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq from 2002 through 2006," said a report published by the Congressional Research Service in January.

"Following Zarqawi's death at the hands of U.S. forces in June 2006, AQ-I [al-Qaida in Iraq] leaders repackaged the group as a coalition known as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)," says CRS. "ISI lost its two top leaders in 2010 and was weakened, but not eliminated, by the time of the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. Under the leadership of Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al Badri al Samarra'i (aka Abu Bakr al Baghdadi), ISI rebuilt its capabilities."

Islamic State is the new name for an old enemy Obama walked away from in Iraq when he declared he had ended the war there.

As described by CRS, it has lost three top leaders in nine years. Yet, it not only still exists, it is a greater threat than before.

Will killing Abu Bakr al Baghdadi kill the Islamic State? Did killing Osama bin Laden kill al-Qaida?

There is a pattern here: When the United States uses military force to help crush the established order in a predominantly Muslim nation, we help create a power vacuum. If the U.S. is not willing to put sufficient military force on the ground to help prevent militant Islamists from filling at least part of that vacuum, militant Islamists will fill at least part of that vacuum.

There is evidence the administration is grudgingly, yet not avowedly, bowing somewhat to this reality: Obama has left a sizable force in what is ostensibly post-war Afghanistan. He took a large entourage to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects to the new, if elderly, king.

The truth: America's three best friends in the Arab Middle East are now a Saudi king, a Jordanian king and an Egyptian general-turned-president.

It is the interest of the United States -- and in the interest of the peoples who live in the Middle East -- that the nations in that region be governed by secular leaders with sufficient power, authority and wit to suppress Islamists, protect Christian populations and understand the value of being friendly with the United States.