A loud and empty suit in the Chicago style

The strange case of the 44th President of the United States becomes more curious by the day. From as early as August 2010, according to Mark Steyn, Barack Obama began denouncing “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity”. Shortly thereafter the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) waged a covert war against any American organisation with “Tea Party”, “Patriot” or “Constitution” in its title. Richard M. Nixon’s dastardly Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP) seems rather innocuous compared to the Obama courtiers who set the IRS dogs onto political opponents.

If the Obama administration has been unremittingly hard on its domestic adversaries, including the demonisation of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election campaign, the same cannot not be said of its munificent attitude to Islamist Iran, Islamist Turkey, Islamist Egypt and every Muslim Brotherhood-related entity that profited from the so-called Arab Spring. There was always the hope Obama might learn something about the limitations of his Muslim Outreach after the unfortunate turn of events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, but not even the Benghazi fiasco seems to have cured The One of his hubris. Only last week he appointed Susan Rice, the Bagdad Bob of Benghazi, as his National Security Adviser. This was, unfortunately, entirely consistent with his decision six months ago to make John Kerry the new Secretary of State.

This past week Kerry arrived in the Middle East on his fourth expedition since becoming the Secretary of State in an effort to restart the moribund Israel-Palestinian peace process. Kerry talked up his Zionist credentials in Jerusalem by uttering the phrase, “Am Yisrael hai” (“The People of Israel live”). He disingenuously assured his hosts that he had moved on from a previously held position that the Israel-Palestine conflict was “the cause of problems in the Middle East”. Obligingly, America’s mainstream media spoke of Kerry’s valiant push for Israel-Arab Middle East peace pact.

Kerry counselled his Israeli audience to make the most of “the dawn of a new era in the region” created by the Arab Spring. A propitious moment had arrived, he said, in which Israel’s relationships with its neighbours could be “recast”. Kerry’s optimism echoed the sentiments expressed by Obama during his March, 2013, sojourn in Israel. In Jerusalem the Secretary of State undercut his sanguinity with a stern warning that not only would a resolution of the Israel-Palestine dispute have “far reaching benefits that will be in everybody’s interests”, but also that non-resolution of the problem “will result in serious consequences for both”.

All of Kerry’s peace missions have taken place while civil war rages in the Syria, immediately to the north of Israel. Up there, if Obama and Kerry were interested, is a genuine case of latter-day Middle East instability. Bashar Assad’s homicidal government has formed a potent alliance with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, all bankrolled by Tehran and Moscow. Moreover, the self-proclaimed Syrian Free Army, now dominated by Al Qaeda types – thanks partly to Obama’s hands-off approach in Syria – perpetrates atrocities almost on a daily basis.

The Secretary of State’s latest peace pilgrimage to Israel coincided with the death toll in Syria soaring above the 80,000 mark. Even this sobering reality failed to persuade Kerry that the Arab Spring might not be the “dawn of a new era in the region” but, rather, a darkness that will likely extinguish whatever liberty yet remains in the Middle East. His recommendation that a rising generation in Israel should reconcile with the regional neighbourhood, a neighbourhood always hostile to the Zionist state but now commandeered by a religion-infused millennialist psychosis, must have struck his audience as either dim-witted or perverse.

How to make sense of Team Obama’s disconnect with reality? The key to understanding Obama’s modus operandi is the dogma of the New Left. This radical creed, along with an unrivalled sense of personal entitlement, drives the current presidency. In foreign-policy terms, at any rate, it might be summarised as follows: Israel is the ultimate source of Middle East volatility; Third World radicalism, however antithetical to liberal-democratic precepts, is helpful in the advancement of a harmonious global community; and American hegemony is the root cause of international conflagrations, from the Cold War to 9/11.

The proclivities of the American electorate – a bias towards pragmatism, a secularist predisposition, the presence of six million Jews, a residual sense of American exceptionalism, and so on – necessitates that the leftist ideologue in the White House impels the USA “forward” with a degree of subterfuge or, if we are being generous, self-delusion. Thus, Obama is an avowed Zionist and yet his brand of Zionism is the Arnold Jacob Wolf kind generated in 1960s Chicago circles, a leftist Zionism that sees peace emerging in the Middle East only when the State of Israel decides to patch it up with long-suffering Arab neighbours by exchanging land for peace.

The Golan Heights can serve as one reality check. During the 1967 Six-Day War, the armed forces of Syria invaded Israel via the Golan Heights, and were only defeated at a massive cost to the IDF. At least three Israeli prime ministers, Rabin, Barak and Olmert, spoke of returning the Golan Heights on condition the Syrian government officially recognised the State of Israel. Both Bashar Assad and his equally murderous father, Hafez Assad, refused to entertain the idea – and the Israeli people must now be thanking God for that. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Israelis can expect to face on the other side of the Golan either an Al Qaeda-fashioned militia or, if the Sunni extremists lose out in Syria’s civil war, Hezbollah’s orange beribboned band of brothers. How, exactly, does this fit with Kerry’s musings about the “dawn of a new era in the region”?

Team Obama’s great conceit is that it knows what makes the Middle East tick. In Jerusalem, for instance, Kerry blustered: “We are family. I get you, I understand you, I know where you are coming from.” Alas, Obama’s administration “gets” the people of Israel no better than it “gets” anyone else in the Middle East. Kerry spoke about the Arab Spring causing the demise of regional “autocrats” and heralding new opportunities, as if the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo was a good thing for Israel, let alone for those in Egypt who value their liberty.

Freedom-loving Turks are fed up with Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strong-arm rule and have taken bravely to the streets and public squares for the second week in a row to defend their liberal-democratic traditions. They ought not expect any support from the White House. Barack Obama’s close personal relationship with Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan makes it clear – if nothing else does – that Obama is entirely clueless. Erdogan has spent the past eleven years subverting Turkey’s proud secular heritage, including freedom of expression and the media, and yet this is the same fellow Obama described in March, 2013, not just as his “ally” in the Middle East but his “friend”.

All is not lost in the Middle East, however, because later in the month the US Secretary of State will be winging his way back to Israel to build on the “momentum” of his fourth trip. The irony is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, often derided in the West as a hawk, genuinely believes in a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian Territories. It is simply a fact that he has no legitimate negotiating partner. Hamas might be the most popular political entity in the West Bank and yet it seeks nothing less than the destruction of the State of Israel, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, possessing no democratic mandate, can do nothing in the end but decline whatever two-state agreement is arrived at by negotiators – however favourable to the Palestinians – just as he did in 2008 and Arafat before him did in 2000. To do otherwise would result in his certain death at the hands of an Arab rejectionist.

These days not only are conservatives wondering what game Barack Obama is playing. The editorial in the June 6, 2013, edition of The New York Times accused the Obama administration of having “lost all credibility” on the subject of state surveillance, after reports emerged last week of the National Security Agency and the FBI flagrantly misusing the Patriotic Act. No longer is the Tea Party alone in fearing unwarranted government scrutiny. The original proponent of the Patriot Act in 2001, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, denounced the seizure of the phone record of “millions of innocent people” as “excessive and un-American”.

The President of the United States appears to have declared peace in the world and war on Americans.

Daryl McCann, a frequent Quadrant and Quadrant Online contributor, also blogs

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