May 06, 2011
With his order to effect the execution of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs, 40 miles from Islamabad, without asking permission of the government, Barack Obama made a bold and courageous decision.
Its success, and the accolades he has received, have given him a credibility as commander in chief that he never had before.
The law professor, it turns out, is a gunslinger.
Should the president now decide on a major withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July, or side with his generals and make a token pullout, either way, the country will accept his decision.
Yet, as one looks to the Maghreb and Middle East, to the Gulf and Pakistan, events of this historic year point to an inexorable retreat of American power and the American presence.
Consider Pakistan. Today, that nation is red-faced that its military and intelligence services lied or did not know Osama was living in a mansion a mile from their West Point. And Pakistan is humiliated that U.S. commandos flew in by chopper at night, killed Osama in his compound, and made off with his body, computers and cell phones.
Relations are close to the breaking point. Mobs are burning American flags. Angry congressmen are talking of cutting off aid to Pakistan for disloyalty and duplicity in hiding bin Laden. Pakistanis are enraged Americans would trample on their sovereignty like that.
Even before Sunday’s killing of Osama, Pakistan’s prime minister had reportedly told Hamid Karzai in Kabul to let the Americans leave on schedule in 2014, and let Pakistan and China help him cut his deal with the Taliban. In the long run, this is likely to happen.
U.S. and NATO forces leave, the Taliban returns, and Pakistan moves into the orbit of China, which has far more cash—$3 trillion in foreign currency reserves—and more of a long-term interest in South Asia than a busted United States on the far side of the world.
The “Great Game” will go on in Afghanistan, but without Western players—only Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.
In the other two critical Islamic nations in the region, Turkey and Egypt, we see a similar unraveling of ties to Washington.
Turkey has been going its own way since she refused George W. Bush permission to use Turkish bases to invade Iraq.
Ankara has become less secular and more Islamic, and begun to highlight her identity as a Middle Eastern nation. She has repaired relations with neighbors America regards as rogue states: Iran and Syria. And she has become the champion of the Gaza Palestinians.
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