Dick Cheney Says Team Obama's Middle East Policy Is Incompetent

During an impressive display of chutzpah, the former VP argued the U.S. could count on Saudi Arabia until the president jeopardized the historical relationship.
Dick Cheney meets Saudi King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Reuters).

As vice president, Richard Bruce Cheney, the Wyoming resident most likely to be indicted as a war criminal, was a leading architect of U.S. policy in the Middle East. A leading advocate for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, he helped erroneous intelligence to reach decision-makers by circumventing normal channels, implied that Saddam Hussein played a role in the September 11 terrorist attack, insisted that his regime possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened America, falsely asserted that the war would be a "cake walk," predicted that the country's population would welcome American soldiers as liberators, planned insufficiently for the post-war occupation, underestimated the strength of the insurgency, and totally failed to recognize that the war would distract from Afghanistan, extinguish 5,000 American lives, and cost trillions of dollars. 

Cheney justified the war as a necessary response to the events of September 11, 2001, when a group of mostly Saudi Arabian hijackers, led by the son of Saudi billionaires, marshalled Saudi financing and Saudi-spread Wahhabi ideology to murder Americans. 

Given this history, how strange for Cheney to go on Hugh Hewitt's radio show Thursday to declare incompetent the Middle East policy of President Obama, who opposed the Iraq War, ended it during his tenure, and presided over Osama bin Laden's death. Stranger still is the particular criticism that Cheney offered up: that during the Obama Administration, the U.S. has failed to be a good enough ally to Saudi Arabia, despite our always being able to count on them over the years!

Lest you think I am making this up, here is the transcript:

HH: And a last question about the current events. Today, Saudi Arabia is communicating by various means, very bluntly, that they’re close to rupturing relations with us over the president’s fiasco in Syria. How serious should Americans take that attempt by the Saudis to raise a red flag over the competence level of the White House?

DC: Well, the fact of the matter is, Hugh, that you’ve got a lot of people in that part of the world that historically have been friends and allies of the United States. They’re people we worked with in Desert Storm. And they have been good friends. They’re people we can count on. And they’re now absolutely convinced they can no longer put any faith and trust in the United States of America. Part of it is because of the incompetence of the administration. And the whole Syrian episode, he drew a red line, then he didn’t pay any attention to it when they crossed the red line with respect to use of chemical weapons, and then he came back and said boy, we’re going to do something. And then they announced they were going to strike Syria, and then they said well, it’s not going to be a very big strike. And then said well, we’re not going to do it, we’re going to go to the Congress. And if you’re a friend and ally of the United States in that part of the world tonight, you’d have to say what’s this guy all about? Can we count on anything he’s told us? And is the historical relationship between us and the United States worth anything? At the same time, our adversaries out there no longer fear us. And I think the incompetence of this administration in the way they’ve handled these kinds of affairs, especially in the Middle East, is one of the worst aspects of this presidency.

Yes, if only America had waged another war of choice in the Middle East, we'd be enjoying the continued trust of the Saudi royals, on whom we can always count. 

It is actually impossible for any American political figure to have more chutzpah than Dick Cheney, because no one's influence on public life has been more ruinous. His role in Middle East policy in particular will go down as one of American history's most catastrophically costly displays of geopolitical incompetence. I have no doubt that he loves his country every bit as much as he loves a day out hunting with his friends. In both cases, he does about as much damage as buckshot to the face. At this point, it would be unseemly if he publicly criticized even the most careless hunter. He ought to shut up about Middle East policy too.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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