Exercising American Power – the Missing Piece?

Educated, well-informed opinions regarding Middle East policy, procedure, & analyses abound, I am sure, and I recently read an excellent one. ( ” I love it when a succinctly-put phrase, or a concise, hard-hitting sentence or two, breaks it all wide open…” – this is me, a few posts back, and it is exactly how I felt as this article unfolded.) My breath has almost been taken away.

With President Obama reaching his decision on Afghanistan strategy & troops deployment, and my supposed ‘being done with’ posts on that topic (for now, anyway), I had thought that I could take a break from such weighty fare. I’ve been telling people that…and I am, apparently, wrong!

Being still a sort of newborn to the entire spectrum of world events and US foreign policy, I realize that what has struck me like an anvil may have been rather obvious to those more aware, more knowledgeable. That being said, however…the following statement came as a shock to me, but the kind of shock that, like cold water in your face, wakes you up: “President Obama is uncomfortable with the exercise of American power.” ( Marvin Kramer, “How Not to Fix the Middle East”, p.3)

“Middle Eastern states bend in response to displays of power”, Mr. Kramer asserts, and further stipulates that the Obama administration is trying to effect dramatic transformation in the Middle East without having yet to display any power. This senior fellow in the National Security Studies Program at Harvard cites, by comparison, actions taken by both Bush senior and junior, actions which provided those administrations with some “traction”, some clout, which this one is, at present, lacking. (p.6)

In his Cairo speech, President Obama, I have heard, did a lot of apologizing. (I didn’t read the text of the speech, I think I was having trouble tracking it down online.) I’ve heard that apologizing comment a number of times, and I have wondered, for what? This Middle East article quotes some of that speech, and what I might have, before, seen in a fuzzier, feel-good light, now…I’m wondering, hmmm…

“President Obama’s words are read as somehow confirming what many already suspect: that the United States has been wounded and weakened politically and economically, that it no longer punches at its weight, that its decline has begun, and that its President is trying to minimize America’s own shrinking in the world, by dismissing the very idea of dominance” concludes Kramer. He theorizes that, as the “middle powers” in the region (Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran) possibly hold such a perception of the country who should, instead, be a “guardian of the peace”, they will and in fact have already begun staking their claims to fill that void. Survival of the fittest, in a phrase…but with dangerous consequences. United States determination to maintain a position of priority in this volatile area of the world is seen by Mr. Kramer as not a cause of crises but a “bulwark” against far worse.