Here’s what happens to American presidents who look to be loved in the Middle East. In 2008, the year Obama won the presidency with his pledge to end George W. Bush’s wars, 75 percent of Egyptians had an unfavorable opinion of the United States. Today it’s 79 percent. Four years ago, that was the percentage of Jordanians with a negative view of the U.S. Now it’s 86 percent.
“It is much safer to be feared than loved,” Machiavelli teaches us. Today America is neither. Consider the wider ramifications of the Middle Eastern crisis. Revolutions have succeeded, with halfhearted American support, in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. Among the beneficiaries have been staunch anti-American organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. The United States continues to give Egypt more than $1 billion a year in aid, roughly the price of the two attack submarines the Egyptians are buying from Germany. The country was once America’s ally. Last week the president conceded it is now neither our enemy nor our friend.
America’s most dependable ally in the region is Israel. Repeatedly this year Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pleaded with Obama to draw a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program rather than give a “red light” to preventive military action. Last week the White House declined even to meet with Netanyahu when he visits the United States later this month. Even Haaretz (no fan of Bibi) regards this as a mistake.