Best Defense

Obama and the Middle East: Should the real metric be the degree of bungling?

Sure, Barack Obama bungled the Mideast, but not half as badly as his predecessor



The other day I wrote that I supported President Barack Obama but had some major issues with his handling of the Middle East, especially Iraq.

But on a looong flight the other day I began to wonder if I had been too hard on him. Sure, he bungled the Mideast, but not half as badly as his predecessor. (Guy was coughing behind me the whole way for 8.5 hours — thanks, I am now hacking and sneezing.)

So, I thought, perhaps I used the wrong metric. That is, I suspect all contemporary American presidents are simply doomed to mishandle the Middle East. It is “simple” in the genetic makeup of the parts of the problem, both American and regional.

Hence the question to ask probably isn’t, “Did the president blow it in the Middle East?” Rather, it probably is, “How badly did this president blow it compared to other presidents?”

Here is what I think:

Carter: D-

Reagan: D

Bush I: B

Clinton: B-

Bush II: F

Obama: C

If accurate, this would mean that Obama has outdone all but two of his predecessors since 1976 in his approach to the Middle East.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at @tomricks1
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