Victor Davis Hanson complains about a “new isolationism”:
Usually nothing good comes from American isolationism, especially given our key support for a vulnerable, democratic Israel.
U.S. policy in the Near East and North Africa is currently nothing like what Hanson means by “isolationism.” In the last year, the U.S. has helped orchestrate the overthrow of the Libyan government, it is funneling some aid to Syrian insurgents, and it has been selling massive amounts of weapons to Gulf Arab monarchs. If that is “isolationism,” I would agree that nothing good is likely to come from it. If non-intervention and peace are what Hanson means by “isolationism,” most Americans would disagree that nothing good comes from them. By the way, Israel enjoys military supremacy over all of its neighbors, and isn’t particularly vulnerable.
Now the Arab world is hectoring America to help overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Let’s try to be precise. “The Arab world” is doing no such thing. There are a few Gulf Arab governments that see this as an opportunity to topple a pro-Iranian government in Damascus, and they want the U.S. to do more to help them. Except in Tunisia and Turkey, there is almost no popular constituency for Western intervention in Syria, and this is still a minority view in those other countries. Judging by public opinion, there are very few Arabs anywhere near Syria that want the U.S. or European governments involved. That’s good, because there aren’t very many Americans interested in getting the U.S. involved.
Yet recent polls show that Obama is even less popular in the Middle East than was Bush.
In fact, when asked about their confidence in Obama’s leadership, the one country in the region where Obama’s rating remains just as horribly low as it was under Bush is Pakistan. Pakistanis are consistently distrustful of American Presidents regardless of party because U.S. actions in Pakistan have angered and alienated the entire country.
Rising anti-Americanism wasn’t blamed on Bush’s unique unpopularity, but on the policies that Bush pursued that contributed to that unpopularity. Whenever Obama has followed Bush’s example, his unpopularity and anti-Americanism have continued to rise in the countries affected by those policies. I don’t know how many people ever truly believed that Obama was personally the “antidote” to any of this. One advantage that he had was that he was simply not Bush. Any Democrat could have filled that role. There were very few Democrats that could have said they were against the invasion of Iraq. At first glance, many people assumed that Obama had to be extremely different from Bush in his foreign policy, which required them to pay no attention to anything Obama said while he was campaigning.