Over the past week, much has been written about whether President Obama will give the green light and attack Syria for using chemical weapons of mass destruction against her own people. Much of the American public has been inundated with reports on the major networks, op-ed pieces in national and local newspapers all weighing the pro’s and con’s of attacking once again an Arab state in the Middle East. Despite the fact that the 12th anniversary of 9/11 hovers over our collective memory during these very days of indecision by President Obama, and despite the fact that America is in a process of disengagement from the Middle East via Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama has been until now unable to articulate clearly and convincingly what benefit’s American interests by attacking Syria. Simply said, what worries most of us is if and when Obama launches an attack against Syria, a series of unintended consequences shall ensue over which he will have no control exposing his strategic incompetence, what then?
Trying to comprehend and decipher Obama’s inability to project American influence and power globally not only over the course of his Presidency, but specifically in recent weeks will not be found among strategic think-tanks. The most appropriate place to start is in the psychotherapist’s chair.
Erik Erikson was an American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychosocial development of human beings. He conducted an enormous amount of research on developmental issues. One such issue is that of attachment. He indicated that children who have secure attachments with their parents have a general sense that the world is predictable and reliable (this is called basic trust). This basic trust, according to Erikson, is formed by loving, sensitive, care givers and not from genetic makeup or to a continuously positive environment. If a child successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure in the world.
Obama’s early childhood and later adolescent period as public record shows was known to be reflected by an extended period of instability in regard to parental love and intimacy. Being raised by different parental figures, over different continents, among highly different cultural environments only to be left to be raised by his maternal grandparents in Hawaii only reinforces the logical explanation that Obama lives in an internal reality devoid of basic trust. Obama never ever really feels safe and secure, trying unsuccessfully to master the external reality that surrounds him, seemingly at a loss to convince allies that America can be trusted. Over the past 5 years Obama has done just about everything to convince the world that American cannot be trusted. Living with an internal psychodynamic reality lacking basic trust has made Obama incapable of projecting trust among other world leaders. What seems to most political pundits as incompetency or political immaturity is really a reflection of Obama’s early emotional damage that he experienced as a child and later as an adolescent.
Obama seems to ignore real-world constraints in a real-world global reality in which American interests are protected by maintaining a balance between the competing interests of other global powers such as Russia, and China. This Superpower balance of interests, a term that is ignored by the Obama Presidency, is not a fantasy world where ideal solutions can be magically implemented overnight. The time has come to develop the basis for a future US policy that would represent a reset of Obama’s catastrophic in-actions and attitudes. Given the damage American power and prestige has already suffered, and given that Obama is unlikely to change course in his remaining three years in power. American foreign policy must by based on a limited policy of low risk strategic moves that send clear messages and secure American interests. This can only happen if President Obama overcomes his own emotional limitations and begins to project that American can be trusted to protect her interests and the interests of her allies, anything else will be perceived as giving the Russians and the Chinese the sense that they have the upper hand and that they can do as they please, in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Sending a strong signal to nations throughout the Middle East and the world that America can again be trusted should be the cornerstone of Obama’s decision in regard to attacking Syria. In addition, this message of basic trust can be strengthened by Obama providing Israel with the political backing it requires to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program. An additional message of trust would be to protect the Christians of the Middle East. The plight of the Christians in the Islamic world is one of the most depressing chapters in the recent history of the region. In country after country, previously large and relatively peaceful, if discriminated Christian minorities are being slaughtered and forced to flee. Obama has done next to nothing to defend them. Strong, forthright statements of support for Christian communities and condemnations of persecution, including rape, forced conversions; massacre, extortion and destruction of church and private Christian-owned property from Egypt to Indonesia to Pakistan to the Palestinian Arab Authority would make a difference in the lives of millions of people. This would show to the world that America can be trusted and that America’s reputation as a champion of human rights will be vindicated.
Russia and China would be more than willing to take America’s place as the decisive power in the Middle East. The leaders of Russia and China can be brutal and undiscriminating. They don’t fear Western liberal hysteria and they want to be feared and respected. Obama must overcome his own psychological limitations and be bold, showing the world that he has convictions and is willing to fight for them, only then can the nations of the world begin to trust Obama and trust America.