It has taken four years of Obama’s first term, but Europe in particular and every other nation in general understands it is being told “You’re on your own.” The once great superpower that other nations looked to for defense and support is increasingly an island surrounded by two great oceans.
In a recent article in The Telegraph, a London newspaper, Janet Daley summed it up in the wake of the events in Algeria and Mali, two African nations under attack by al Qaeda. “The money which once went into missile silos in Europe—or troops patrolling the Afghan border, or defending existing regimes in countries under threat from jihadi militants—will be spent on Obamacare and the entitlements programs which are close to bankruptcy.”
Pointedly, Daley noted that “During the presidential election campaign, the mainstream media expressed almost no interest at all in the fact that an American ambassador had been killed at his post (for the first time since 1979) by a terrorist mob in Libya.”
By contrast, the Algerian government responded to the attack on a gas processing plant in Amenas with extreme force, killing most of the al Qaeda terrorists involved. In the process, most of the remaining hostages were killed by the jihadists, but kidnapping and ransoming hostages has been a lucrative industry for years now and goes back decades since the emergence of al Qaeda.
The Algerians also responded in force because Amenas is just thirty miles west of the Libyan border and because Algeria is Africa’s largest gas producer and major supplier to Europe. They were aided by the French in contrast to the limited role that America has exercised since the beginning of the “Arab spring” in Egypt, Libya, and now Mali.
As the U.S. draws down its involvement in Afghanistan, the rest of the world, but Europe in particular, has concluded that the U.S. will be a very limited power in the coming decades in which a war of attrition must be waged against al Qaeda. Begun in response to the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has now spread into many other nations and, at present, is the focus of attention in the Maghreb, the northern tier of nations in Africa.
In 2005, Martin Meredith’s book, “The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair” chronicled fifty years of independence that former European colonies achieved in the wake of World War II. At the time, Meredith concluded “But even given greater Western efforts, the sum of Africa’s misfortunes—its wars, its despotism, its corruption, its droughts, its everyday violence—presents a crisis of such magnitude that it goes beyond the reach of foreseeable solutions. At the core of the crisis is the failure of African leaders to provide effective government.”
The overthrow of despots ruling Tunisia, Libya and Egypt was the root cause of the uprisings in those nations, but also playing a significant role was the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda, both of which are dedicated to imposing an Islamic caliphate on the world.
Meredith warned that “Even when regimes have changed hands, new governments, whatever promises they made on arrival, have lost little time in adopting the habits of their predecessors.”
Daley was unsparingly accurate in her analysis of the present and growing crisis, in part a response to its withdrawal from the battlefield. “But what does mean?”, she asked rhetorically. That this White House will become actively, militarily engaged in the hunt for the fragments of al Qaeda which continue to wreak havoc? American politicians of all parties now seem more interested in the next chapter of the fiscal cliff saga than they are in their country’s role in the world, which is just an expensive and exasperating distraction.”
“And this president, as has been widely noted, seems particularly uninterested in Europe…So there it is; a world made safe for U.S. trade and economic recovery, paid for by the peoples who have relied for too long on American military force.”
That military force is on the brink of mandated budget cuts—the sequestration—that will reduce it to a level of unpreparedness for the next major or minor conflict anywhere in the world within a year or so. Designed and equipped for traditional warfare, it is now in the era of guerrilla warfare waged by small bands of terrorists intent on destabilizing vulnerable governments in the Middle East and Africa.
The President has been telling us—ever since the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011—that al Qaeda is in decline, but the facts reveal otherwise. In a lengthy “overview” published on January 20th in The New York Times, the article cited the many elements of al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the growing Islamic terrorism in nations like Nigeria. Aside from the occasional drone strike on al Qaeda leaders, we are not only not seeing much progress led by the U.S., but are perceived by European and other nations as withdrawing from the global battlefield.
© Alan Caruba, 2013.