T. Friedman of the NYT published a column that didn’t suck. That’s because instead of giving us yet another dreary round of “how the 1% interprets cabbie chatter,” T. Friedman stood back and let someone else do the talking, and the speaker was President Obama.
Some excerpts after the jump.
Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished. The United States is not going to be the air force of Iraqi Shiites or any other faction.
Thank bloody god. Also:
Intervening in Libya to prevent a massacre was the right thing to do, Obama argued, but doing it without sufficient follow-up on the ground to manage Libya’s transition to more democratic politics is probably his biggest foreign policy regret.
“Our politics are dysfunctional,” said the president, and we should heed the terrible divisions in the Middle East as a “warning to us: societies don’t work if political factions take maximalist positions. And the more diverse the country is, the less it can afford to take maximalist positions.”
With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy…
The “broader point we need to stay focused on,” he added, “is what we have is a disaffected Sunni minority in the case of Iraq, a majority in the case of Syria, stretching from essentially Baghdad to Damascus. … Unless we can give them a formula that speaks to the aspirations of that population, we are inevitably going to have problems. …
Unfortunately, there was a period of time where the Shia majority in Iraq didn’t fully understand that. They’re starting to understand it now. Unfortunately, we still have ISIL [the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant], which has, I think, very little appeal to ordinary Sunnis.” But “they’re filling a vacuum, and the question for us has to be not simply how we counteract them militarily but how are we going to speak to a Sunni majority in that area … that, right now, is detached from the global economy.”
I don’t always agree with President Obama, but damn, I’m gonna miss having someone who understands WTF is going on in the world in the White House when he leaves it.