A Libyan rebel fighter listens US President Barack Obama's speech on TV while guarding the main entrance of an oil terminal in the Libyan eastern town of Zuwaytinah on May 19, 2011
While America's ally Hosni Mubarak got the "you should leave yesterday" treatment, Bashar Assad was praised for allowing opposition figures, with little credibility, to gather in Damascus while his troops were killing demonstrators across Syria. And while America's Arab allies hear reprimands from Washington all the time, a defiant Iran with a nuclear program and ballistic missiles is being courted and invited to talks, which Tehran have so far undermined. Under President Barack Obama, America's Middle East policy has been punishing friends while always rewarding enemies.
Perhaps one of the few notorious statements with which the world associates former President George Bush is his "you are either with us, or against us." But at least under the former unpopular president, America's foreign policy was consistent, though not always wise. Bush, known for his simplicity and sincerity, knew how to keep friends and how to scare enemies. Today, under Barack Obama, no one knows who is with America and who is against her. Obama's foreign policy is a mishmash of contradictory statements. The handling of the Arab Spring is an example of how Washington has failed on many counts.
More than three months after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, and with more than 1,400 Syrians dead so far, Washington has yet to show Assad its teeth. Instead, the United States Ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, sponsored an "opposition" conference, which the Department of State later praised. Comparing America's handling of Syria's revolution with that of Egypt—where Mubarak was asked to step down less than 10 days into the breakout of unrest and while the number of dead was close to one hundred—shows that the Obama administration is not only inconsistent, but has no moral standards as it ignores the wholesale killing of Syrians. Why was Mubarak given the boot while Assad is still being encouraged to "lead reform" is a question that has little and unconvincing answers.
Few in Washington argue that America turned against her friend Mubarak because the army stood as a clear alternative that offered a "soft landing" for the revolution. In Syria, America sees no alternative. But such an argument sounds shaky. There are no guarantees that the Egyptian army can lead the country into a stable and prosperous democracy. And there is no proof that Syria, without an alternative to Assad, will fall into doom. By the same token, America's uncertain military action in Libya took the world to war there, but without offering any conclusive results, and made a mockery out of foreign intervention.
Obama's foreign policy has proven to be a mix of apathy and unfounded speculation. Were such incompetence to be based on good faith, sticking with friends and taking on enemies, Washington might have been appreciated and solicited for its friendship. But with an improvised foreign policy, Obama has taken America from a country that had a few friends under Bush, to a country with no friends at all.