Middle East likely to pay price for Obama’s antics at G20 summit
US President Barack Obama’s baiting of Russia and China at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China, is bad news for the Middle East region and the world at large.
Obama was clearly eager to strut on the world stage while leaving real problems to his successor. He took empty, reckless public postures, picking fights with both Russia and China when the United States is seriously committed in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) and to preserving the unity of Iraq. It is also walking a tightrope between its old Turkish and new Kurdish allies.
Obama in his seven-and-a-half years as US president has never shown the slightest interest in history or military strategy — and it shows.
At the G20 he jumped deep into the pit of strategic over extension, committing the United States to ongoing dangerous confrontations with the other greatest global powers — Russia and China.
He told China he was determined to keep US air and maritime forces in Beijing’s face to enforce freedom of navigation on US terms through the South China Sea. Yet this is only a peripheral interest for the United States, while Japan and South Korea are prosperous, stable and powerful enough to take care of themselves.
At the same time, Obama talked tough — or at least tried to — when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. US media, with clear administration encouragement, have been huffing and puffing about alleged Russian hacks intended to embarrass Obama’s intended successor, Hillary Clinton, and influence the US presidential election.
All the flood of e-mail and confidential document releases have done is expose material embarrassing to Clinton that the US media did not dig out themselves.
Obama would have done better to rein in the dangerous brinkmanship and adventurism he is permitting with US forces and NATO allies in Ukraine. It was only after a democratically elected government in Ukraine was toppled by a violent coup in February 2014 as Obama complacently watched that Moscow retaliated by selling more lethal missiles and nuclear technology to Iran.
Instead of focusing on the growing regional threat of Iran, vastly increased by the catastrophic nuclear agreement last year, Obama wants to look macho on the world stage. Playing such games, however, is only going to distract him further from confronting Iran or taking any serious sustained attitude towards regional extremism and solving the Syrian civil war.
Weak men bluster and bluff, then imagine they are strong. That is what Obama did at the Group of 20 meeting.
Obama apparently thinks he can coast home in the last months before the presidential election and strut tough and tall on the world stage. He imagines he can get out of office with Clinton elected and be free forever of the consequences of his actions.
But Obama is wrong.
Where he saw himself as a proud man standing tall on the world stage, others saw a blustering phoney, who boasts of a Nobel Peace Prize he never deserved, never earned.
Obama stood up — in his own imagination — to Russia and China. In reality, he just plunged ahead on a course towards US economic collapse through an endless clash with China.
Even worse, he took another step on the road towards thermonuclear confrontation and world war with Russia.
Obama’s conduct in Hangzhou will not be scrutinised or even criticised by the worshipful US media but it plunges the United States and the American people far further down the road towards global war and existential crisis under his successor.