Saturday, December 06, 2014

On a Roll: Suddenly, things look up for the GOP

...We can hope...T

Republicans have lost the last two presidential elections, but not much else over the past six years. They’ve captured the House and Senate. They now hold 31 governorships and 69 of the 99 state legislative chambers. What this means is pretty simple: There’s an emerging Republican majority.
The GOP still has significant emerging to do before reaching majority status. It may never get there. The rise this year may be Republicans’ peak for now. They may have achieved nothing more than what University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato calls “the emerging outline of possible GOP victory in 2016.”

At the very least, a Republican must win the White House in 2016 while maintaining control of Congress. Republicans need to attract more votes from minorities, particularly Hispanics. They must continue to improve their appeal to women. Most of all, Republicans must avoid self-inflicted wounds such as prompting another government shutdown or nominating a poor presidential candidate.

That’s a lot to pull off. But Republicans have advantages they lacked in the presidential years of 2008 and 2012. One is the eight-year itch. That’s the tendency of voters to change parties in the White House after a two-term presidency. The only exception in the last seven instances of such a presidency was the election of George H. W. Bush in 1988 after Reagan’s two terms.

And President Obama is likely to make things worse for the Democratic candidate in 2016. He is not only unpopular but also appears committed to an unpopular agenda. Every poll shows Americans want compromise in Washington. Obama’s preference is for confrontation.

Then there’s the ideological direction of the Democratic party. It’s tilting left.

All the energy and passion is on the left. The party is being McGovernized. Moderates have about as much influence as liberals do in the Republican party. The Democratic agenda—bigger government, higher taxes, increased spending, and cultural nihilism—isn’t a winning combination for 2016.

Midterm elections are not predictive of presidential outcomes. We know that from recent history: After winning in a landslide in the 2010 midterm, Republicans lost the presidential race two years later. Still, the 2014 election offers some clues about political trends. For instance, it suggests the Obama coalition is not the same as the Democratic coalition.

Obama was a great presidential candidate. He maximized the Democratic vote. But when he wasn’t on the ballot in 2010 and 2014, Democrats lost badly. Their turnout machine didn’t work as effectively without him on the ticket. So the Democratic coalition will probably be less broad in 2016.

Democrats think they have a number of current issues on their side. But issues that poll well don’t always cause voters to back candidates of the party associated with those issues. Raising the minimum wage is a good example. It’s clearly a Democratic issue. In November, voters in Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Alaska backed increases in the minimum wage. At the same time, they elected Republicans to the Senate—and by large margins except in Alaska.

Among the major Democratic issues today are global warming, same-sex marriage, abortion, and voter ID. Global warming is so far down the list of issues that voters care about, it has dropped out of sight. The fight over gay marriage is over. Democrats benefited in two election cycles from blaming Republicans for a “war on women” involving abortion and contraception. That issue died in 2014. Opposing voter ID laws may galvanize African Americans and the party base, but that’s it. Besides, there’s no evidence such laws prevent voting.

Immigration is different. It divides the country. It’s a problem for Republicans, who need 40 percent or more of Hispanic voters to win the presidency. It is one of the few issues that actually may help Democrats. Even so, Republicans fared better with Hispanic voters in 2014 than in 2012. In Texas, Republican Greg Abbott got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in winning the governor’s race.

The Hispanic vote is growing, but it’s voters over 65 who are increasing the fastest as a share of the electorate. According to one estimate, seniors will be 30 percent of voters in 2030, Hispanics only 15 percent. And older voters tend to be more conservative, thus inclined to vote for Republicans.

The youngest voters, 18 to 29, are beginning to slip away from Democrats, too. Exit polls showed House Democrats had “half the advantage” with voters under 30 this year than they did in 2006. “The party’s grip on the young may be loosening,” wrote Mark Bauerlein in the New York Times.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said Democrats ought to have touted aggressively the economy in the 2014 campaign. He should know better. Employment has improved, especially if you’re happy with a part-time job. But the recovery from the 2008-2009 recession is the slowest in many decades as average middle-class income stagnates and the exodus of Americans from the job market continues.

Assuming Obama sticks to his unimaginative Keynesian policies, it’s doubtful the economy will be any better in 2016. And a mediocre or worse economy won’t boost Democratic candidates, quite the contrary.

Finally, it’s worth looking at the Democratic presidential candidates. They’re old. Hillary Clinton will be 69 in 2016, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders a ripe old 75, and Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator, 70. Outgoing governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland will be a mere 53, but the main feature of his governorship—tax hike after tax hike—was repudiated in this year’s election. True, younger candidates may jump in.

The Republican presidential race, in contrast, is brimming with potential candidates in their 40s or early 50s. A partial list includes Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz. Who’s likely to be a more exciting candidate in 2016, Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio?

Favorable trends guarantee nothing in politics. But if they didn’t exist, Republicans wouldn’t have emerged in 2014. Should they continue in 2016, Republicans will emerge again. And in the not too distant future, they’ll be the majority party.
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Friday, October 31, 2014

Voters Are Ready For Sweeping Change

Not only are all the political prognosticators forecasting that the GOP will take control of the Senate, they're also predicting the Republicans will strengthen their majority in the House, hold the majority of state governorships and win a record number of state legislative chambers across the country.

WASHINGTON -- It's almost a foregone conclusion that President Obama and the Democrats are going to suffer a humiliating defeat in next week's midterm elections.

But what would that mean for the last two years of his deeply unpopular presidency, the outcome of the 2015-16 presidential election cycle and the Republicans' chances of winning back the White House?

Certainly, a huge, game-changing win for Republicans on Nov. 4 will dramatically reorder the political dynamics of the next two years. And this election is shaping up as a very big victory for the GOP across the nation.

Not only are all the political prognosticators forecasting that the GOP will take control of the Senate, they're also predicting the Republicans will strengthen their majority in the House, hold the majority of state governorships and win a record number of state legislative chambers across the country.

When you look at the number of major elective offices across the nation, you discover that the GOP -- whatever the polls say about it in Congress -- now controls a hefty chunk of the nation's political power structure.

The Republicans already have a tight hold on the House, are within six seats of taking the Senate, control 29 of the nation's 50 state governorships and rule 59 of the country's 98 partisan legislative chambers. Democrats hold only 39.

A Washington Post survey of the 6,049 state legislative races in 46 states says a "record number of statehouses could go Republican" in next week's elections.

After looking at these lopsided GOP numbers, all the stories from the liberal news media about how unpopular the Republican brand has become now seem positively laughable. If the GOP is that unpopular, why are the voters putting it in charge of the lion's share of the country?

It should be clear by now that it's the Democrats who are unpopular, or at least the Democrats who have been in lockstep with Obama's agenda to move the country in a sharply leftward direction -- one where more government, more spending and still more regulations are the answers to every problem.

So how will all of this play out over the next two years?

It's certainly going to have a profound impact on the 2015-16 presidential campaign, which will officially begin the day after Tuesday's results.

Hardly a day goes by, it seems, that some news story doesn't appear in one of the nation's major newspapers, usually on the front page, extolling Hillary Clinton as the savior of the Democratic Party, and who is on a fast track to follow Obama into the White House.

That she appears to be the overwhelming choice of her party is unarguable. But she also faces a hornet's nest of political obstacles that no one wants to mention.

First and foremost is that the nation's electorate has grown tired of the Democrats' botched, mismanaged handling of the economy and has turned bitterly against them.

A majority of voters now say the government's ability to address the nation's biggest problems has declined in the last several years. And by an overwhelming 3-to-1 ratio, far more voters blame Obama and the Democrats than the GOP, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Clinton is certainly not immune from this deep hostility toward Obama's big-government, anti-business approach to domestic issues, as well as his bungled handling of national security/foreign policy matters, which she oversaw and carried out as the president's secretary of state. She coldly turned a deaf ear to the desperate pleas for added security from the doomed embassy officials who lost their lives in a fiery terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

One does not have to be politically clairvoyant to know that the GOP's campaign cry in 2016 will be "it's time for a change," and that means putting the Republicans back in charge of the government.

Meantime, what can we expect from the White House if the Republicans end up in charge of Congress in the last two years of Obama's presidency?

It's hard to see him signing any of the economic reforms the GOP wants enacted to accelerate growth, significantly boost new business formation, job creation and higher middle-class incomes, which have remained flat.

But GOP congressional leaders will want to show the American people the kind of changes that are needed to turn the country around, especially in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

To do that, they will have to pass pro-growth legislation to reform the tax code by cleansing it of costly corporate tax exemptions and other loopholes, and lowering the tax rates on business, families, individuals and investors.

They will have to tackle a common-sense replacement for Obamacare that lowers health care costs, including the rising cost of medical insurance premiums.

They should dare Obama to veto their pro-growth agenda and, if he does, it will become the virulent issue of the 2016 race for the White House. Then, let's see what Hillary does with that.

It is more than likely that Obama will not give an inch on any of the issues he has steadfastly opposed over his rocky years in office. Not on badly needed budget cuts to slow the growth in spending, tame the deficit and shrink an $18 trillion debt. Certainly not on junking Obamacare, or expanding trade and angering his party's union bosses.

Thus, we're most likely in store for two more years of gridlock in preparation for the presidential election battle to come.

The Republicans better choose their standard-bearer carefully, someone who, unlike Obama or Hillary, as been in charge of running a government and getting an agenda enacted.

The voters are clearly ready for sweeping change, and that's the midterm message they are going to deliver loud and clear on Tuesday.
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Voters Are Mad as Hell and They Aren't Going to Take it Anymore

...Well it's about time! Our nation is on the verge of defeat across the spectrum dud to this communist clown!

WASHINGTON - Eighteen days before the midterm elections, President Obama and the Democrats face an outraged electorate that is turning into a perfect political storm.

The stock market is in a nose dive, slashing worker 401(k) retirement accounts that further threaten a weak, job-challenged economy. Anemic economic data, including a decline in retail sales -- which accounts for one-third of all consumer spending -- has forced economists to lower their forecasts for economic growth.

If all this weren't bad enough, the Obama administration announced Wednesday

that the government added nearly $700 billion in new deficit spending to a monster national debt that now stands at $17.8 trillion.

This followed growing fears over two new Ebola cases and increasing questions about whether the administration was adequately responding to the disease's outbreak in the U.S., or was asleep at the switch. Federal health care officials were summoned to Capitol Hill to explain how two quarantine nurses could be infected by the disease and why more wasn't being done to protect hospital personnel.

All of this was taking place at a time when the U.S. was caught up in a growing war against a far more dangerous terrorist threat that was on the brink of entering Baghdad in Iraq, and seizing much of Syria, too.

Meanwhile, Russia was showing little or no substantive signs of backing away from its continuing efforts to seize still more territory in Eastern Ukraine whose economy was said to be "choking under Russian pressure."

Europe's economy is in a recession, raising additional fears here of a global economic crisis that will only further weaken an underperforming U.S. economy.

All of this is reaching critical mass as new political data shows the Democrats have fallen to their lowest point in the polls in the last 30 years.

According to a nationwide Washington Post-ABC News poll taken between Oct. 9-12, only 39 percent now have a favorable impression of the Democrats, compared to 51 percent who view them unfavorably.

Obama is at the lowest point of his presidency as well. A 51 percent majority disapprove of the way he's "handling his job as president." Only 40 percent approve.

The Gallup Poll reported similar findings this week: Only 40 percent approved of the job he's been doing, versus 55 percent who disapproved.

And it appears that these voters intend to demonstrate their displeasure by voting for the Republicans. Asked who they planned to vote for on Election Day, just 43 percent said the Democrat, while a 50 percent majority said the GOP candidate.

It is almost impossible to overstate the gloom that now permeates America's electorate and has turned both Wall Street and Main Street into a deeply pessimistic mood.

A "fear gauge" compiled this week by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which charts investor apprehension, recorded one of its highest fear levels since the summer of 2012.

Despite Obama's assurances that the possibility of a serious Ebola outbreak "are extraordinarily low," the cases of two stricken two nurses in a Dallas hospital have had a rippling across the country and in the economy.

Lawmakers were calling for the resignation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Freiden and for a travel ban for all nonmilitary passengers and medical personnel flying from the West African countries where the Ebola outbreak occurred.

Airline stocks have been hit hard because of fears that passengers could be exposed to the deadly virus. About 200 airline cabin cleaners at New York's LaGuardia Airport did not report for work last week because they said they hadn't been given adequate protection.

Still, the Ebola threat was serious enough for Obama to suddenly cancel a fundraising campaign trip and meet with his chief health advisers, or else appear that he wasn't on top of the situation.

Whether or not there are new Ebola cases, the crisis has triggered a deeper level of uncertainty in a fragile and uneven economy that is still struggling to climb out of its lethargy in the sixth year of Obama's troubled presidency.

A decline in retail sales, a weak housing market, a still-shrinking labor force, and little or no growth in wages was bad enough. But things could get worse if the Ebola threat causes consumers to stay home more, cancel trips, avoid restaurants, movie theaters, and cut back on shopping. Then the economic angst could turn its full fury in the voting booth against the party of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, expressing their anger in the only way they can.

The Democrats are heading into the final weeks of this election with the political cards stacked against them, and they know it.

The Post-ABCpoll found that two-thirds of the voters now say the country is going in the wrong direction. And six out of 10 Americans say Obama doesn't have a clear plan to govern.

He has similarly dismal polls on dealing with the Islamic State. Several weeks ago, the job he was doing gave him a six point net gain. Now that has dropped by 16 points.

Other polls have found that a majority of the electorate thinks the GOP can do a much better job on the economy, restraining spending and balancing the budget.

Gallup's daily economic surveys this week found that 41 percent of Americans say they're "struggling." Another 5 percent say they're "suffering," and 13 percent say they are under "stress."

A big factor in next month's congressional elections will be voter turnout, and this is where Republicans, who are far more motivated to vote than the Democrats, have a stronger hand to play.

"Seventy-seven percent of Republicans say they are certain to vote, compared with 63 percent of Democrats," the Post reported Thursday.

This could be another "wave" election, a lot like the one in 2010 when the GOP took over the House and stopped Obama's agenda dead in its tracks. Stay tuned.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Genius of J.S. Bach's "Crab Canon" Visualized on a Möbius Strip | Open Culture

Wonderful! Bach was, after all, the greatest jazz musician ever to have lived...T

The most impressive of Johann Sebastian Bach’s pieces, musicophiles may have told you, will knock you over with their ingeniousness, or at least their sheer complexity. Indeed, the music of Bach has, over the past two and a half centuries, provided meat and drink to both professional and amateur students of the relationship between ingeniousness and complexity. It’s no mistake, for instance, that the composer has offered such a rich source of intellectual inspiration to Gödel, Escher, Bach author Douglas R. Hofstadter, well beyond having given him a word to fill out the book’s title. Listen to the first canon from Bach’s Musical Offering, and you’ll hear what sounds like a simple beginning develop into what sounds like quite a complex middle. You may hear it and instinctively understand what’s going on; you may hear it and have no idea what’s going on beyond your suspicion that something is happening.

If you process things more visually than you do aurally, pay attention to the video above, a visualization of the piece by mathematical image-maker Jos Leys. You can follow the score, note for note, and then watch as the piece reverses itself, running back across the staff in the other direction. So far, so easy, but another layer appears: Bach wrote the piece to then be played simultaneously backwards as well as forwards. But prepare yourself for the mind-blowing coup de grâce when Leys shows us at a stroke just what the impossible shape of the Möbius strip has to do with the form of this “crab canon,” meaning a canon made of two complementary, reversed musical lines. Hofstadter had a great deal of fun with that term in Gödel, Escher, Bach, but then, he has one of those brains — you’ll notice many Bach enthusiasts do — that explodes with connections, transpositions, and permutations, even in its unaltered state. Alternatively, if you consider yourself a consciousness-bending psychonaut, feel free get into your preferred frame of mind, watch Bach’s crab canon visualized, and call me in the morning.
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Related content:

A Big Bach Download: All of Bach’s Organ Works for Free

The Open Goldberg Variations: J.S. Bach’s Masterpiece Free to Download

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebastian Bach (1962)

Friday, July 04, 2014

Free to Choose

The greatest economic mind of the 20th century, Milton Friedman. Here is his entire TV series on PBS, "Free to Choose", taken from his book of the same name, that became the intellectual foundations of the Reagan ( and Jack Kemp) Tax cut bill that saved our nation in the early 80's. Without Mr. Friedman, it is questionable that there would even have BEEN a Reagan presidency. God bless him! Watch them all via the link below...T

Here's one sample. Please watch them all!...T

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Worst Day in History

Deutsch: Bildnis Franz Ferdinand, Erzherzog vo...

How could anyone disagree? the onset of WWI destroyed European classical culture for all time. What we were left with was depression, racism, eugenics, Fascism, Socialism, "Progressivism" and Communism. Not to mention WWII, The brutal repression and mass murders of the cold war, and 100 years of neglecting, or forgetting to deal with Islam...T

A hundred years ago today, June 28, 1914, was arguably the worst day in human history. Not that anything so awful happened during those 24 hours, but the assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the Hapsburg throne by a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, initiated a series of events that led to not just the horrors of World War I but arguably also those of World War II as well as the rise to power of the fascist and communist movements.

In brief, that vicious era that historians have dubbed the short twentieth century, 1914-89, with its unprecedented numbers of deaths, of extremist movements, and of general human misery began with the shots that festive summer day. (June 28, 2014)
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Collapsing Obama Doctrine

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan said, "If history teaches anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom." President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.

As the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threaten Baghdad, thousands of slaughtered Iraqis in their wake, it is worth recalling a few of President Obama's past statements about ISIS and al Qaeda. "If a J.V. team puts on Lakers' uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant" (January 2014). "[C]ore al Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated" (August 2013). "So, let there be no doubt: The tide of war is receding" (September 2011).

Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is "ending" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as though wishing made it so. His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality. Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America's enemies are not "decimated." They are emboldened and on the march.

The fall of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Tel Afar, and the establishment of terrorist safe havens across a large swath of the Arab world, present a strategic threat to the security of the United States. Mr. Obama's actions—before and after ISIS's recent advances in Iraq—have the effect of increasing that threat.

On a trip to the Middle East this spring, we heard a constant refrain in capitals from the Persian Gulf to Israel, "Can you please explain what your president is doing?" "Why is he walking away?" "Why is he so blithely sacrificing the hard fought gains you secured in Iraq?" "Why is he abandoning your friends?" "Why is he doing deals with your enemies?"

In one Arab capital, a senior official pulled out a map of Syria and Iraq. Drawing an arc with his finger from Raqqa province in northern Syria to Anbar province in western Iraq, he said, "They will control this territory. Al Qaeda is building safe havens and training camps here. Don't the Americans care?"

Our president doesn't seem to. Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change. Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

When Mr. Obama and his team came into office in 2009, al Qaeda in Iraq had been largely defeated, thanks primarily to the heroic efforts of U.S. armed forces during the surge. Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace. Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The tragedy unfolding in Iraq today is only part of the story. Al Qaeda and its affiliates are resurgent across the globe. According to a recent Rand study, between 2010 and 2013, there was a 58% increase in the number of Salafi-jihadist terror groups around the world. During that same period, the number of terrorists doubled.

In the face of this threat, Mr. Obama is busy ushering America's adversaries into positions of power in the Middle East. First it was the Russians in Syria. Now, in a move that defies credulity, he toys with the idea of ushering Iran into Iraq. Only a fool would believe American policy in Iraq should be ceded to Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terror.

This president is willfully blind to the impact of his policies. Despite the threat to America unfolding across the Middle East, aided by his abandonment of Iraq, he has announced he intends to follow the same policy in Afghanistan.

Despite clear evidence of the dire need for American leadership around the world, the desperation of our allies and the glee of our enemies, President Obama seems determined to leave office ensuring he has taken America down a notch. Indeed, the speed of the terrorists' takeover of territory in Iraq has been matched only by the speed of American decline on his watch.

The president explained his view in his Sept. 23, 2009, speech before the United Nations General Assembly. "Any world order," he said, "that elevates one nation above others cannot long survive." Tragically, he is quickly proving the opposite—through one dangerous policy after another—that without American pre-eminence, there can be no world order.

It is time the president and his allies faced some hard truths: America remains at war, and withdrawing troops from the field of battle while our enemies stay in the fight does not "end" wars. Weakness and retreat are provocative. U.S. withdrawal from the world is disastrous and puts our own security at risk.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates are resurgent and they present a security threat not seen since the Cold War.

Defeating them will require a strategy—not a fantasy. It will require sustained difficult military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts—not empty misleading rhetoric. It will require rebuilding America's military capacity—reversing the Obama policies that have weakened our armed forces and reduced our ability to influence events around the world.

American freedom will not be secured by empty threats, meaningless red lines, leading from behind, appeasing our enemies, abandoning our allies, or apologizing for our great nation—all hallmarks to date of the Obama doctrine. Our security, and the security of our friends around the world, can only be guaranteed with a fundamental reversal of the policies of the past six years.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan said, "If history teaches anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom." President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.

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Obama’s Criminal Negligence in Iraq

Barack Obama
Barack Obama (Photo credit: jamesomalley)
Truth.... He has disgraced his office, our nation, and rendered meaningless the sacrifice of thousands of American lives. Men and women who died so that we may live. Shame on you Obama! Shame for all time!!!

President Barack Obama came to office promising to “bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq.” That should have been easy enough to do, considering the war was already over. Alas, he seems to have had in mind something quite different than “ending a war.” Perhaps because of his general bias against exertions of American power, Obama seems to have convinced himself that our continuing military presence in post-war Iraq was the same as continuing the war.

That should have been easy enough to do, considering the war was already over. Alas, he seems to have had in mind something quite different than “ending a war.” Perhaps because of his general bias against exertions of American power, Obama seems to have convinced himself that our continuing military presence in post-war Iraq was the same as continuing the war.

This novel conception of when wars end suggests Obama may yet pull our forces out of Europe and the Far East in order to “end” World War II. It also helps to explain how he came to equate “responsibly ending the war in Iraq” with throwing away everything we had gained from it. Obama made it plain from the start that he saw no reason to keep investing in a mistake. He let our military presence in Iraq lapse, and left the Iraqi government to fend for itself when it was still far too fragile. There is a reason we stayed in Germany and Japan and South Korea for decades after the fighting stopped: We didn’t want our sacrifices to be for nothing, and we didn’t want to have to fight again.

Now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS — the very al-Qaeda forces we defeated in Iraq in 2007 — have come back and taken over huge swaths of the country, including most of the Sunni heartland to the west and north of Baghdad. Meanwhile, over in next-door Syria, Obama stood by while the rebels fighting Bashar Assad came under the dominance of extreme Islamist forces, and then sold them all out with the chemical-weapons deal in September 2013. Consequently, we have thrown the Iraqi government into a de facto alliance with the murderous Baathist regime in Syria — a feat that not even common enemies and a common ideology could achieve during Saddam’s rule — and now both governments find themselves increasingly dependent on Iran.

With Iran’s power and prestige thus enhanced, and rapidly filling the vacuum left behind by the U.S., the mullahs now see the possibility at long last of extending the Islamic Revolution across the Fertile Crescent. With our impending agreement to let Iran keep its nuclear-weapons programs, we can now settle comfortably into the role of a de facto subordinate ally of Iran, whose forces we may soon be helping with air strikes in Iraq. If you’re wondering where that leaves our actual allies among the Gulf kingdoms and Israel, they are wondering the same thing.

Foreign-policy mistakes are inevitable, and should generally be expected, if not always forgiven. But in its approach to Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, the Obama administration has been criminally negligent. It could be years and maybe decades before we see a situation as good as the one Obama found when he got to office — and things are almost certainly going to get far worse before they get better.

By the time he got to the White House in early 2009, Obama should have realized that the war in Iraq was already over, and that we had won. Exactly two years earlier, the Iraqi security forces were reaching critical mass, simultaneous with the start of America’s own surge, and the Sunni tribes of Anbar province were all coming over to the U.S. side. By the summer of 2007, when I was embedded in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces had utterly defeated al-Qaeda’s Iraqi offshoot, ISIS, in a series of massive joint operations. The following year, the Shiite prime minister Nouri al-Maliki personally orchestrated the offensive that crushed the Iranian-backed militias collected in and around Basra in southern Iraq.

U.S. casualties in Iraq were close to levels commensurate with peacetime training activities back home, and a tenuous but real peace reigned over the whole country. Obama inherited from the Bush administration the framework agreement for a long-term alliance with Iraq, as well as a status-of-forces agreement that set December 2011 as a tentative withdrawal date for all U.S. forces. Iraqi politics were dominated by a Shiite-led coalition that overtly favored an ongoing alliance with the United States. In the press, Shiite militias accused each other of being under Iranian control.

At that point, the U.S. was exerting an enormously beneficial and calming influence on Iraqi politics. Sunnis who felt abused by the majority Shiite government could appeal to the Americans for help, while Shiites could remonstrate to the Americans about Sunni intransigence. Both could get results — peacefully — through America’s good offices. In a country where no faction trusted any of the others, all factions could trust the Americans to be impartial, for the simple reason that we were impartial. More important, to invoke the title of Bing West’s great book, we were the strongest tribe.

This central position allowed the various factions of Iraqi politics to embrace an alliance with the United States, instead of being forced to seek the protection of coreligionists in Saudi Arabia or Iran whose real agenda was the continuation of a Wahhabi-Iranian proxy war inside Iraq. This is something that Iraqis constantly commented on in their own press, but which Americans by and large never understood: In toppling the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. had opened the door to a proxy war between the Wahhabi extremists of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arab states and the Shiite extremists of Khomeini’s revolution in Iran. That war proved far bloodier than America’s counterinsurgency campaign. In fact, the purpose of the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq was to defeat both sides in the proxy war, so that our newfound allies in the government of Iraq could cement their power and forge a lasting government.

Hence, America’s continuing military presence allowed U.S. military officers and diplomats to exert enormous influence both within Iraq and in the broader Middle East. It allowed us to keep the peace among Iraqi factions while simultaneously diminishing Iranian and Wahhabi Arab influence. We had gained, at a frightful cost in lives and treasure, a priceless strategic asset, namely the possibility of Iraq as a strong military ally, hosting U.S. forces as long as we needed to keep them there, engaged against the extremists in Syria and Iran, as well as al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their sympathizers among the Arab states. And the prospect of a successful democracy (however rudimentary and corrupt) functioning at the heart of the Middle East gave enormous hope to the pro-democracy movements of the region. In order to consolidate those gains it was absolutely vital for the U.S. to make a long-term commitment and back it up with a long-term military presence.

So what did Obama do? He did what he normally does, which is to counteract what little capacity for action the U.S. national-security establishment retains when left on autopilot. He has visited Iraq only once during his presidency, early in 2009; but even then he only visited troops, and declined to meet with any senior Iraqi officials. He has met with Prime Minister Maliki ​only twice, once in December 2011 and once in November 2013, by which time the current debacle was well in train. By all accounts, Obama barely lifted a finger to preserve a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, even when — as Dexter Filkins recently reported in a phenomenal feature for The New Yorker — all major Iraqi factions were asking, in private if not in public, for the U.S. to stay.

The tentative end-of-2011 withdrawal date became fixed, and all U.S. forces were gone by the beginning of 2012. What so many Iraqis feared would happen next did not take long to come. The Shiite factions that had rallied to the U.S. side ran for Iranian cover. Sunni tribal leaders who had thrown in their lot with the U.S. were left to fend for themselves in the face of impending and ever more certain assassination. The Iraqi government became more corrupt and authoritarian as Maliki cemented power within his own narrow coalition. The Kurds rested in their mountain redoubt behind their powerful peshmerga militia, as the Sunni heartland once again became fertile ground for ISIS and other Sunni extremists. The country began to descend once again into the Wahhabi-Iranian proxy war that Bush had ended on America’s terms in the final years of his presidency.

Meanwhile, on Syria, Americans quickly agreed, on a broad bipartisan basis, to make the worst of a bad situation. As soon as the rebellion began, there were those, including here at NR, who took the attitude that there were no moderate Sunni rebels in the Syrian resistance, and that we should just let our enemies in Syria (namely everyone) pulverize each other in the hopes they would all lose. In fact, the resistance included plenty of people willing to align themselves with the U.S., namely the very same tribes that had aligned themselves with the U.S. in Iraq.

The civil war in Syria would inevitably threaten the stability of Iraq, and potentially turn into a cataclysmic regional conflict. Hence, opponents of intervention in Syria should have realized that the only alternative to intervening in Syria was to send U.S. forces back into Iraq, in order to seal off the Iraq–Syria border and buttress the Iraqi security forces.

But instead of coopting the Syrian resistance, or — the next best thing — sealing the border between Syria and Iraq, we did nothing. By the start of 2013 we had abandoned both the Sunni resistance in Syria and the Sunni heartland in Iraq to Islamist networks, particularly ISIS. The Syrian civil war’s slide across the border into Iraq rapidly became a reality. Violence increased throughout the year until Maliki came begging for American help in November 2013. But Obama hadn’t done anything to stop the region from sliding back into chaos and there was no point in starting now. Maliki left empty-handed, with little choice but to throw himself at the mercy of the Iranians — and hope for survival in a revival of the Wahhabi-Iranian proxy war.

When Obama got to power, a tenuous peace held in the Middle East, and the U.S. stood at the height of its influence and prestige in the region. Of course, the Middle East is a devilishly tricky place; upheaval is always around the corner; and the U.S. can’t single-handedly control any region. But it should be obvious to anyone who takes an honest look at the events of the last five years that the Obama administration’s whole approach to foreign policy was bound to make the Middle East a much more dangerous place.

Obama’s skepticism of American power apparently blinded him to how vital that power was to the maintenance of peace and stability. Perhaps this discomfort with American power meant the gains of the Iraq war were a burden to him. If so, he couldn’t do anything to reverse the 4,500 lives we lost and $1 trillion we spent to liberate Iraq. But maybe he could make people stop saying the sacrifice had been worth it.

If that was his purpose, then there is at least one area in which his foreign policy is succeeding. As for the rest, behold the Middle East in flames.

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