Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia: Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, its “moderate” cousin, are on the verge of a stunning strategic victory in the Middle East. U.S. national interests are on the precipice of suffering the worst setback since the Chinese Communists seized the world’s most populous nation in 1949.
It isn’t hard to see that President Obama has almost lost the Middle East.
In 2008, America was wrapping up its successful surge in Iraq. Al-Qaeda was a spent force, unable to mount any successful attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. Candidate Barack Obama opposed the surge, claiming, with the anti-war left, that the only morally just war was in Afghanistan, a theater which, the narrative went, had gotten the short shrift due to the unneeded war in Iraq.
Obama assumed the Presidency in 2009 claiming a new beginning in foreign relations – pushing the “reset” button with U.S. rivals and enemies such as Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as entire peoples, as was his intent with his famous Cairo speech to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009.
In retrospect, Obama’s Cairo speech will be seen as the catalyst that handed Islamists the legitimizing victory that decades of terrorism and pan-Islamic political maneuvering failed to spark. The only question is this: which brand of Islamism will prevail, the impatient, hyper-violent Al-Qaeda or the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood? For the West and Israel, it’s a difference without a distinction as both seek confrontation with non-Muslims.
The Middle East appears headed for a protracted season of pan-Islamic jockeying. The Muslim Brotherhood and its rivals dream of caliphates centered in Cairo, Tehran, or Istanbul, cleansing the land of both Jew and Christian and reasserting Islam as a dominate, conquering faith.
Sadly, the Muslim Brotherhood’s pan-Islamism, just as pan-Arabism before it, will fail its people by focusing on enemies and ideology, rather than economic development. The Brotherhood’s long-term inability to improve living standards and human rights will open up the door for al-Qaeda and its successors to mount a comeback from their soon to be expanded havens in Yemen and Libya.
The Middle Eastern catastrophe will stand beside America’s burgeoning debt as the twin pillars of failure that will indelibly mark President Obama’s term in office.