The Atlantic piece on the Obama doctrine has some interesting information:
In 2014, after she left office, Clinton told me that “the failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad … left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”
The king of Jordan, Abdullah II—already dismayed by what he saw as Obama’s illogical desire to distance the U.S. from its traditional Sunni Arab allies and create a new alliance with Iran, Assad’s Shia sponsor—complained privately, “I think I believe in American power more than Obama does.” The Saudis, too, were infuriated. They had never trusted Obama—he had, long before he became president, referred to them as a “so-called ally” of the U.S. “Iran is the new great power of the Middle East, and the U.S. is the old,” Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, told his superiors in Riyadh.
“Assad is effectively being rewarded for the use of chemical weapons, rather than ‘punished’ as originally planned.” Shadi Hamid, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote for The Atlantic at the time. “He has managed to remove the threat of U.S. military action while giving very little up in return.”
One box he called isolationism, which he dismissed out of hand. “The world is ever-shrinking,” he said. “Withdrawal is untenable.” The other boxes he labeled realism, liberal interventionism, and internationalism. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. “We have to choose where we can make a real impact.” He also noted that he was quite obviously an internationalist, devoted as he is to strengthening multilateral organizations and international norms.
In recent days, the president has taken to joking privately, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.” Obama has always had a fondness for pragmatic, emotionally contained technocrats, telling aides, “If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”
“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”
If there had been no Iraq, no Afghanistan, and no Libya, Obama told me, he might be more apt to take risks in Syria. “A president does not make decisions in a vacuum. He does not have a blank slate."
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
What happened to the dreams of freedom? They were followed by the nightmares of the brutal violence of the Tyrants and the fanaticism of the extremist groups. The brutality and corruption of the dictators combined with the fanaticism of the extremist groups were able to bury the dreams and aspirations of the freedom activists in the middle east.
“Only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, towards that lost voice across the room.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Excerpt from Scott Anderson's book Lawrence in Arabia:
Abdul Aziz ibn Saud embraced a form of fundamentalist Islam know as Wahhabism. Ibn Saud had expanded his reach from a small string of oasis villages in the Riyadh region to cover a vast expanse of northeastern Arabia.
In 1916 TE Lawrence argued in "The politics of Mecca" that Ibn Saud and the Wahhabists posed as Islamic reformists "with all the narrow minded bigotry of the puritan" and ibn Saud and his Wahhabists were hardly representative of Islam. He warned in the politics of Mecca that the Wahhabist sect was composed of marginal medievalists, "and if it prevailed, we would have in place of the tolerant, rather comfortable Islam of Mecca and Damascus, the fanaticism of Nejd...intensified and swollen by success."
In 1923, ibn Saud and the Wahhabists would conquer much of the Arabian Peninsula and, to honor his clan, give it the name Saudi Arabia. For the next ninety years, the vast and profligate Saudi royal family would survive by essentially buying off the doctrinaire Wahhabists who had brought them to power, financially subsidizing their activities so long as their disciples directed their jihadist efforts abroad. The most famous product of this arrangement was to be a man named Osama bin Laden. ***
Richard Cohen Washington Post:
The president said that by not sending ground forces to the Middle East over the last few years, he had saved 100 lives per month and many billions of dollars. The math is odd, but as long as he’s at it, let me cite the casualty that’s in plain sight: the straw man he slayed.
What was widely proposed was something else --establishing a no-fly zone to ground Bashar al-Assad’s gunships and maybe taking a shot or two at a key government installation. Had that been done early on, then a number Obama did not mention might have been avoided: upward of 300,000 Syrian deaths, not to mention a refugee crisis of such magnitude (4 million people) that it has stirred the sleeping dog of European fascism.
Obama should take no pride in a policy that has allowed the Syria situation to get totally out of control. But when it comes to doing nothing — or as little as possible — the president has plenty of company. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a genius masquerading as an ignoramus, proposes an “America-first foreign policy.”
“America First” was the name of a 1940s isolationist organization — and Cruz has chosen well. When it comes to Libya, for instance, he would have left Moammar Gaddafi in power. At the recent Republican presidential debate, he said that the United States and its allies toppled Gadd afi “because they wanted to promote democracy.”
Wrong. While there’s nothing particularly sinful about promoting democracy, that’s not why the United States acted in Libya. It did so because Gaddafi had vowed to massacre Libyan insurgents in Benghazi. The United Nations urged a military intervention , and so, significantly, did the Arab League. Cruz, I take it, would have let Gaddafi — a psychopath — kill to his heart’s content.
It's not just that countries like Saudi Arabia have at times played a role in deliberately harnessing forces of violent extremism that have since grown out of their control. And at least some in the Saudi government seem to understand this. As Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief and then ambassador to the US, put it recently: ISIS "is the seed of evil that we have let out of the can in the Middle East. ... It’s our responsibility to vanquish it."
Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern regimes have, for years, co-opted religious establishments to serve their dictatorships. Thus, the more they heighten the differences between establishment Islam and ISIS Islam, the more they paint "establishment Islam" as a synonym for "brutal dictators who cynically exploit Islam for their own gain." Making this a fight over whose Islam is truer — the terrorist's Islam or the tyrant's Islam — offers the world a pretty unappealing set of choices, and it denies space for the vast majority of Muslims who want neither dictatorship nor terrorism.
Iyad el-Baghdadi, a prominent Middle East democracy activist, put this extremely well in a recent interview with my colleague Jennifer Williams. I've included the relevant snips of their conversation below.
His most important point, I think, is this: "The menu of ideas in the Arab world only has tyrants or terrorists. It doesn't have a third option. It's a very narrow menu." Because Saudi Arabia is leading this anti-ISIS, anti-terror coalition, it is exacerbating the perception that Middle Easterners must choose between those two bad options. And as long as those are seen as the only viable choices, at least some will pick extremism.
Full article on Vox here
Speaking at a news conference in Riyadh, Prince Mohammed said the counter-terrorism force was borne out of "the Islamic world's vigilance in fighting this disease [terrorism] which has damaged the Islamic world.
"Currently, every Muslim country is fighting terrorism individually... so co-ordinating efforts is very important."
The coalition would not just focus on fighting IS, he added. Few other details have been given.
The list of 34 members:
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinians, Qatar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
NY Times article on former Women of ISIS in Raqqa:
After years of shame and disappointment, none of the three said they could imagine ever going back, even if the Islamic State falls. The Raqqa that was their home only exists in their memories.
“Who knows when the fighting will stop?” Asma said. “Syria will become like Palestine; every year, people think: ‘Next year, it will end. We will be free.’ And decades pass. Syria is a jungle now.”
“Even if one day things are all right, I will never return to Raqqa,” Aws said. “Too much blood has been spilled on all sides — I’m not talking just about ISIS, but among everyone.”
"They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”
Tacitus, The Agricola and The Germania