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Op-Ed: Obama's Legacy

Only Secretary of State Kerry could outdo President Obama in being at the wrong place at the wrong time. And there can be repercussions.
Published: Monday, July 08, 2013 8:19 AM


Egypt is coming apart at the seams, with a military coup and on the brink of civil war between the ousted Muslim Brotherhood, cutely called by the White House "the brothers" and the newly installed secular interim government.

In Syria, the civil war has taken the lives of over 100,000 people so far, with the Assad regime getting massive military support from Russia, Iran and Hizbullah ground forces.

Let us not forget that Iran has vowed to continue to enrich uranium, as it gets closer to amassing enough to build a nuclear weapon.

Let us also not forget that the Putin government in Russia continues to ignore America's standing request to extradite the NSA spy Edward Snowden, as did China—as did Hong Kong- as did Bolivia and other nations who have offered asylum to Snowden.

An objective observer might wonder, where is the White House?

Well last week, while Egypt was being torn apart, President Obama was visiting in South Africa, sitting in a hospital waiting room with family members of Nelson Mandela. Obama didn't actually visit Mandela, who had been put on life support weeks ago, so it seems odd that he didn't pack up and get back pronto to the White House.

Only Secretary of State Kerry could outdo President Obama in being at the wrong place at the wrong time. One would assume that America’s foreign policy chief would be up to his neck dealing with these crises. But in case you hadn’t heard, Secretary of State John Kerry wasn’t paying much attention to any of those other nuisances in the last few days.

On Wednesday, when all hell broke out in Egypt, Kerry was seen on his private yacht the "Isabella" in Nantucket, and despite initial denials, his office concurred that he had indeed been yachting that day. Evidently Kerry needed some R&R after wasting his time in the Middle East, no not in Egypt, no not in Syria, and no not in Iran but in commuting between Ramallah and Jerusalem attempting to craft an agreement that would finally bring the Palestinian Arabs back to the Middle East peace talks.

In case you have forgotten, they have been boycotting peace negotiations for the last four and a half years, nothing new here. But at the end of his fifth such effortsince taking office in February, Kerry left the region empty-handed again, having failed to convince the Palestinian Arabs to talk, claiming that he is getting closer to success.

The blatantly humiliating nature of these repeated failures brings to mind questions of adequacy and just how dense and clueless the Obama administration really can be.  Subjecting American foreign policy to this kind of mediocrity and strategic ignorance -  Egypt being only the latest - while at the same time conspicuously ignoring other more important and far more urgent problems, says a lot about what matters to President Obama.

It seems as if President Obama, by allowing Kerry to waste his time in futile negotiations, doesn't really care how America is perceived around the world. Rather than focus on genuine crises on which American policy can have an impact, Kerry is obsessively repeating the mistakes made by his predecessors. President Obama came into office claiming that he would raise America’s prestige abroad, yet as one observes the past two weeks and the sheer volume of foreign policy disasters going on all at the same time, it seems that a cloud of incompetence hovers over the White House refusing to leave.

The problem with all of this is that President Obama is acting as if he thinks allowing Kerry to waste his time in this manner has no impact on how America is perceived around the world. It also raises questions about the Obama administration’s ability to prioritize regional conflicts. In case the White House hasn't noticed, the Palestinian Arabs are no longer of interest to the Arab world,  up to its neck in chaos and civil wars, and are at most a side show compared to the genocide going
Spending time and effort in preventing apartment construction in Jerusalem only reinforces the feeling here in the Middle East that the Obama administration is out of its depth.
on just north of Israel.

In addition, spending time and effort in preventing apartment construction in Jerusalem only reinforces the feeling here in the Middle East that the Obama administration is out of its depth.

The inevitable conclusion of all this is that it won't stop here, but could escalate into war between Egypt and Israel. Egypt is a failed state and has a failed economy. Only continued foreign subsidy at a rate of ten's of billions of dollars per year can prevent Egypt from imploding and sliding into civil war. So when all else fails, blame the Jews and blame Israel. Nothing simpler than to galvanize the Egyptian public to unite by loathing the Zionist State supported by anti-Semitic rhetoric and sentiment.

Finally, President Obama needs to understand that security around the world and especially in the Middle East cannot be managed effectively and successfully without Russian and Chinese cooperation. Today both these superpowers don't have high regard for Obama, who is perceived as all talk and no action, a novice who always stands down from protecting American interests.

If Obama wants to gain the respect of Russia and China and for that matter, the respect of Middle Eastern Arab leaders, then he must do something that he has refrained from doing since being elected almost 5 years ago, Obama must become a credible threat in the eyes of world leaders.

As Eli Wallach uttered in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:  "When you have to shoot….shoot, don't talk". The time has arrived for Obama to get up and take charge.