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by Ashley Rindsberg
Monday, 9
October 2023
Spotted
11:00

What’s behind Barack Obama’s silence on Israel?

The former president's Middle East project laid the foundation for today's chaos
by Ashley Rindsberg
Barack Obama’s silence on Israel has been deafening. Credit: Getty

It’s been over 48 hours since the terror rampage that struck Israel. And in that time there has been a flood of statements of support from around the world as well, of course, as vile celebrations of the deaths of Jews.

But amid all the voices that have spoken, one stands out among them for its silence. For these past 48 hours, Barack Obama has not issued a single word in response to the catastrophe. At the time of writing, he has still not issued a statement of support, or even so much as calls for restraint. One may come soon (and, by the time you read this, may already have arrived), but this vast stretch of silence has already become deafening.

On the face of it, it seems that there’s no possible explanation for this. It may be tempting to think that the former president is conflicted and “working through” his feelings, or that he’s coordinating a statement with his team. But this would miss the point entirely.

The situation unfolding in Israel is precisely the one for which Obama laid the foundation during the eight years of his presidency. The Iran deal, in whose name the administration twisted itself into a moral pretzel, was forced into policy not because Obama has any great passion for the mullahs in Tehran, but because it was predicated on a wholesale restructuring of the Middle East.

In this view, an ascendant Iran would be a counter-balance to Israel. It would force Israel’s hand in dealing the Palestinian situation in the way that Obama and his foreign policy circle believed was the only way. It would counter Saudi Arabian power as well, creating a sort of triangle of tension to maintain balance. But the key to it was to speed up Iran’s march to power by allowing the country to remain at the edge of nuclear breakout, which is what — explicitly — the Iran deal did.

This regional restructuring was supposed to be a policy driven by Obama’s “realism” (as it was trumpeted by the media). But it was never realism. It was a contorted idealism rooted in Obama’s rejection of American exceptionalism, including the notion that Western liberal democratic values deserved any primacy in any part of the world. The hands-off approach would allow regional dynamics to establish local equilibrium without what, in Obama’s view, was the destructive influence of American intervention.

With this motivation in play, Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He courted Turkey’s theocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan as “a strong Turkey that would step in and take on the role of a strong power in the Middle East that would allow the U.S. to step back,” a Turkey expert told Politico in 2016. He left Iraq in the hands of Iranian puppet masters. And most infamously of all, he ceded the Syrian battlefield to, of all people, Vladimir Putin.

What’s unfolding in Israel today is part of the plan, the broken eggs of the policy omelette. By the logic of Obama’s foreign policy, a hard strike to Israel could catalyse the balance-of-power reset that the former president had envisioned and for which he laid the policy infrastructure. For Obama, condemnation of Hamas actions would make little sense: in his eyes, the group’s attack is no more than a playing-out of the power logic precisely because Hamas is an extension of Iran.

Today we are seeing the outcome not of mere policy failure, but catastrophe. The result will not be a carefully calibrated set of cantilevers pulling the Middle East into peace-like tension but war, suffering and internal conflict. Obama always fancied himself a great agent of change, a figure upon whom the presidency was virtually bestowed, who would master the world’s greatest problems with his intellect alone, and collect all the rich rewards, prizes, praise and of course the wild jubilation he knew he deserved.

Instead, he has carnage.

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Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
1 month ago

Bottom line: the so called Biden presidency has never been anything but an Obama third term. Biden remains Obama’s VP.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
1 month ago

That’s a good angle.

Here’s another: Obama had a VP to whom he gave unprecedented influence in foreign affairs. And that VP…

Daniel P
Daniel P
1 month ago

In retrospect, the more you look at the Obama presidency the more you have to ask if electing a community organizer was such a good idea.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago

Why would anyone want to know or care what this media-constructed human cipher has to say about anything?

Suzanne Bhayro
Suzanne Bhayro
1 month ago

The name Palestine was given to the Jewish nation by the Romans, as an insult, as it was the word pertaining to the Jewish ancient enemy. It was Philistine, an offence to the native people of Judea – the JEWS.

The Arabs were never the ethnic natives of Judea. They traded with the Jews and some settled as immigrants.

The name of Palestine (Philistine) continued until the Jews got independence, and the Brits left.

The Jews named their country Israel.

After some of the Jewish diaspora returned to Judea after WW2, and the country Israel was independent, the Arabs did what the Arabs have done today… attacked and slaughtered Jews.

An ethnic war was waged. There could only be one winner in an ethnic war. It was a war to the death.
The Jews won. The Arabs were driven out and became refugees in Gaza.

No-one can be called an occupier of their own country. A Country that has belonged to the Jews for millennia.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Suzanne Bhayro

So I guess you will have similar views about the invaders crossing the channel

Suzanne Bhayro
Suzanne Bhayro
1 month ago

Point is…
There’s no such people as “Palestinians”. Historical fact.
Israel, aka Philistia (ie Roman slur-Palestine), aka Judea, has always been Jewish.
We wouldn’t stand for the UN to tell us to power-share with a cohort wanting to carve off a bit of Britain for themselves.
Jews cannot “Occupy” that which is their own.

Last edited 1 month ago by Suzanne Bhayro
Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
1 month ago

She’s lying about the supposedly Roman origins of the name Palestine. The ancient origins of the name are a sore spot for Israelis LARPing as ancient Israelites.

Mark Kennedy
Mark Kennedy
1 month ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

She’s giving the Romans some credit that properly should go to the Greeks, but she’s not lying about the etymology of the word. Or if she is, so is Britannica:
 
“The word Palestine derives from Philistia, the name given by Greek writers to the land of the Philistines, who in the 12th century bce occupied a small pocket of land on the southern coast, between modern Tel Aviv–Yafo and Gaza. The name was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century ce in “Syria Palaestina,” designating the southern portion of the province of Syria, and made its way thence into Arabic, where it has been used to describe the region at least since the early Islamic era.”

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Kennedy

Britannica is about as trustworthy as Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_name_Palestine
“Herodotus provides the first historical reference clearly denoting a wider region than biblical Philistia, as he applied the term to both the coastal and the inland regions such as the Judean Mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.”

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 month ago
Reply to  Suzanne Bhayro

Though the designation “Palestine” can be traced to Roman times, the connection to the Philistines is dubious.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 month ago

Hopefully his Nobel Peace Prize is recinded

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

They might as well award the next prize to Hamas.

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
1 month ago

It might be that Obama supports Hamas, and with the US election coming up in 2024, he doesn’t want to sully Biden’s chance of being elected (and sink his proxy presidency)

are you going to delete this too Moderator? Are we not allowed to question `Saint’ Obama’s motives?

Terry M
Terry M
1 month ago

I think you are giving Obama too much credit for trying to build a balanced Middle East. He merely wanted to limit Iran’s nuclear capability and was naively willing to trust Teheran. He’s just not that bright.

Alan Kaufman
Alan Kaufman
1 month ago
Reply to  Terry M

I sense that Rindsberg’s discussion of the broader context is more accurate.
Obama was what I call a “liberal arts president.” He had a classic American black’s hostility to American virtue, and he also had a liberal’s warped view of the Islamic world as some sort of wronged region. The JCPOA was an unconstitutional end run around the Senate’s treaty role, which allowed Trump to end it as it was merely policy, not a real binding agreement.
N. Korea has shown we are powerless in the face of nuclear states. Iran will be next and vastly more dangerous given its expansionism. We have much uglier days ahead, thanks to Obama.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Kaufman

Equally does the author have a distorted warped view as a result of ethnic allegiance?

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

Maybe! Do you?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

I don’t need an ethnic allegiance to anyone to know that murdering innocent people is wrong.

Suzanne Bhayro
Suzanne Bhayro
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Kaufman

Excellently put… and true in every detail. Iran (not China or Putin – unless in cahoots with Iran) is the likeliest starter of nuclear war. Israel is in peril from every side… but especially from the North.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago
Reply to  Terry M

He’s definitely bright enough, but applying the intellect through a flawed philosophical lens is generally even more dangerous than being less-intelligent yet pragmatic. Appeasement doesn’t work; it never has and never will, but even the brightest of the bright often fail to see this.

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
1 month ago
Reply to  Terry M

Terry, your point of view would make sense to most people but BO is not most people. I’ve read various reports over the years, including those issued by members of Obama’s foreign policy teams, that verify the premise of this article. Obama definitely believed that a strong Iran, if they could be recognized again as a major player at the table of world politics, would 1) counterbalance Israel/US, and 2) moderate its positions exactly because they would now have a stable power base and a proud position in the world. IOW, he thought that they would act as rational, modern leaders who were interested in maintaining their own power through international cooperation, and that they would therefore be dis-incentivized to pursue and deploy nukes.
I presume he did not want Iran to deploy nuclear weapons. He just thought that they could be managed by his schemes. But the mullahs are not rational actors as the modern West understands such things; they will NOT be “managed.”

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago

The last Democrat who accepted the responsibility of the USA being the leader of the Free World and all that it entails was Jack Kennedy.
The last Republican President to accept the responsibility of being the leader of the Free World and also appreciate the complexities, was Bush senior.
An American said to me ” The business of the USA is business ” which is why they fail to understand non business issues.
Obama appeared to be the first anti- America as the leader of the Free World, President; Clinton just appeared indifferent.
How any Arab nation ruled by the Ottoman Empire would be willing to live under the influence of Turkey is absurd. How anyone could believe any Sunni would be happy with a powerful Khomeini inspired Shia in control is more than absurd. Khomeini threatened all Sunni countries which is why S Hussein attacked Iran in 1979.
Obama’s great ability was that noone with the slightest knowledge was ever allowed to question him. The Sun King was probably more exposed to questioning than Obama.

Suzanne Bhayro
Suzanne Bhayro
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Although Shia and Sunni detest one another, and have a brutal history, they would definitely put this aside, if it meant the destruction of Israel, and the total annihilation of the Jews… for sure.
This “end” is openly stated and taught to their children.
The West underestimates the power of this depth of hatred… even to the point of wanting to support Iran’s Uranium Programme!
Useful Idiots doesn’t cut it.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 month ago
Reply to  Suzanne Bhayro

The post 1960s upper middle class university educated white collar workers are largely atheists and do not understand the power of religion, often despise physical courage and patriotism and have shallow self righteousness (Orwell ) orwll ). As a Syrian priest said to me ” 9/11 was statement that our religion is important to us and if you insult it we kill you “. For some, this life is not important but the next one is. Therefore material gain is only important if one can use it to gain entry to paradise. It would appear Israeli intelligence considered Hamas would not risk the incresing material wealth of Gaza and so would not launch an attack. This was a materialistic atheistic assessment of a religious spiritual organisation.
The Jesuits in their first hundred years or so was probably the last organisation in Europe coming close to Hamas’s religious fervour.

Stevie K
Stevie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Excellently put. Respect for the power of religiosity is an important part of understanding human beings, and crucial if you want to have a handle on world politics

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Carnage … and the Nobel Peace Prize.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

Is there anyone out there who still believes that Iran wants nukes for peaceful purposes?

Linda M Brown
Linda M Brown
1 month ago

It could be he supports Hamas, and with the US election coming up, he doesn’t want to risk losing his next (proxy) term in office.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
1 month ago

Obama was a foreign policy naif and an egotist: the worst possible combination for leading the West in its struggle to maintain the democratic project in a turbulent world. His smugness knew no bounds; no one could tell him anything.

So many current problems can be traced to his time in office, and not just foreign policy problems. The racial divisiveness and self-identification nonsense gained a foothold during the years of his administration, and now his protégé, Joe Biden, who has never had an original or profound thought in his life, has amped up those ideological strands and they are now running rampant. Woke on steroids…

Last edited 1 month ago by Gerald gwarcuri
Micah Dembo
Micah Dembo
1 month ago

The craven gambler was very bored, trying to start a next world war.
He found a promotor, who nearly fell off the floor. Then said, why yes, yes, it can be easily done! Let’s put some bleachers out in the sun.
And have it on highway 61.
B Dylan

Kat L
Kat L
1 month ago

All one has to do is read Garrow’s book to see what a lazy intellectual lightweight he is.

Jon
Jon
1 month ago

Outstanding article!

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
1 month ago

Obama has spoken. Article irrelevant