The Magazine

Obama’s Fantasy World

Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By LEE SMITH
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The Obama White House, in short, has tied American interests to a regime that boasts of sponsoring terror. Which is to say, Obama’s strategy for a new Middle East has nothing to do with facts on the ground. Rather, it’s based on a concept derived from international relations seminars. On this view, because Iran is a “functioning state,” it is susceptible to the various diplomatic, political, and military instruments that other states can deploy to engage or deter it. From the White House’s point of view, Sunni extremists are especially dangerous because, not being “functioning states,” they’re difficult to “engage”—except with drone strikes.

This concept, unfortunately, cannot account for the differing belief systems and ideological structures that motivate states. If Sunni extremism is often a result of the weakness of Sunni states incapable of controlling their jihadist hordes, Iranian-backed extremism is an index of the strength and coherence of a ruling regime that uses terror to advance its interests. Contrary to Obama’s vision of a new Middle East, the violence won’t be contained by our embracing Iran. What is likely to follow in the region is more bloodshed, not just for Middle Easterners, from Jerusalem to Damascus to Baghdad, but also for Americans.

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