Obama's greatest Foreign Policy error was the same one that had been made by Bush and by numerous past administrations. The error was that the problem was not Islam, but Islamic violence. It was Obama however who took that error to its logical conclusion by pursuing a foreign policy meant to part Islamists from their violent tendencies by allowing them to win without the need for terrorism.
The Arab Spring was to the Middle East what the betrayal of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis and the betrayal of the rest of Eastern Europe to the Communists was to 20th Century European history. It was the moment when all the diplomatic folly that had come before it came together in one great historical instant of national and international betrayal.
The diplomatic wunderkinds had never taken Islamist theology seriously, just as their predecessors had not considered the possibility that the Bolsheviks might be serious about their world revolution. And they had also failed to recognize that Islamic terrorism was not only a means to power, but also an end in and of itself, a way of harnessing the endless violence and instability in desert societies and turning them into power and profit.
What every Middle Eastern leader has always understood is that the violence, call it raids, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, gang activity, sectarian militias, military coups, desert banditry, was never going away. It was the tiger and the clever leader rides the tiger, rather than ending up inside it, harnessing and directing the violence, to remain in power.
Islam is a religion built around that violence, sanctifying it as a religious principle, and thus taking it out of the realm of Fitna and into the realm of Jihad. The difference between the two is a matter of theology and that theology is a matter of perspective. What is banditry and what is a holy war is a matter of where you're standing and which way the bullets are flying.
The Islamists might be able to direct the violence, but they could no more shut it down than any of their secular predecessors could. They could kill their enemies, but only by unleashing the tiger on them and when the killing was done, they would still be left with a hungry tiger looking around for his next meal. So the Islamists, like the Saudis, were bound to fuse religion with realpolitik by making sure that the tigers were pointed our way.
Even if their violence were only a means to an end, the end would not come when every Middle Eastern country was run by Islamist governments. For one thing there would never be a means of agreeing on what a truly Islamist government was. The reactionary impetus of Wahhabism leads to an endless series of reforms meant to recreate a lost 7th Century theological paradise by purging those damnable 8th Century theological innovators.
To many Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood is just Mubarak with a beard. To other Salafists, those Salafists are just the Muslim Brotherhood with an untrimmed beard. After overthrowing Mubarak to end the perception that the United States supports UnIslamic dictators, maintaining ties with the Muslim Brotherhood would invite attacks from those Salafists in the hopes of ending US support for the Brotherhood, resetting that foreign policy accomplishment to zero. And the Brotherhood would wink and nod at those attacks to maintain its Islamist street cred and keep the violence going in the other direction.
But finally, the seizure of one Muslim country or two of them or a dozen of them is not the end of the Islamists. Islamists don't recognize borders or national identities, no more than the Communists did. Their objective is not a flag of their own, but the territorial expansion of their ideology. This expansion is not measured in miles, but in populations. It persists regardless of lines on a map or country names. It measures its power in people, because people are the region's only resource.
Territory alone is useless. The Middle East doesn't produce much agriculturally and what it does produce is done with primitive, often near-feudal labor. About the only territorial worth comes from oil and the worth of the oil comes from the money that foreigners are willing to pay for it. Having the foreigners come to their country to pump the oil for them so that they can then sell the oil back to the foreigners has built the wealth of a dozen emirs, kings and dictators. And that wealth has been used to buy the services of Islamist militias in an arrangement that we know as terrorism, but that the locals know as the raid.
Islam has turned the raid into a crusade, but at its core it is still a tribal expansion, an outing to seize land, loot and women from neighboring tribes. And the neighboring tribes with the most appealing land, loot and women are the ones living across the Mediterranean in Europe. Getting there requires a boat or a plane ticket, a claim of refugee status and then the No-Go-Zones, the gangs and the rapes begin. And amid that violence, the preachers come and attract the more religiously-minded to the formal Jihad, as opposed to the informal violent persecution of non-Muslim tribes through robbery, rape and murder that was routine in their old region and has now been carried over into the West..
The Islamists would be under a theological obligation to expand their control over the infidels even if there were no Muslims in the West, but the presence of Muslims in the West makes the takeover of Western countries necessary for the same reason that the takeover of Muslim countries by Islamists was necessary.
When Western leaders try to curry favor with Muslim leaders by talking about how many Muslims live in their countries, they are providing the same cause for war that the Czechs did to the Germans. Muslim immigration to the West creates a mandate to impose Islamic law on the West. Western leaders react to that by offering to accept some elements of Sharia into their legal system. This moves the process into the second stage, the one that the Arab Spring countries were under, practicing an imperfect version of Islamic law that the Islamists were then compelled to "perfect."
Everything that the West has done to appease Muslims has worked as well as a man jumping into a tiger cage and pouring meat sauce all over his body. Each act of appeasement only makes Muslim violence necessary and inevitable. Every increase in the Islamic footprint in the West attracts Islamists intent on expanding and purifying that footprint, as they have done in their own countries. The more the West takes in Islamic populations and laws, the more Islamists are compelled to bring diaspora Muslim populations and laws into full compliance with their theology.
Obama's foreign policy aimed at allowing the Islamists to win. He ignored the Iranian protesters against an Islamist state, while rushing to support the Islamist protesters in Egypt and Tunisia. The Islamists won and September 11, 2012 was a consequence of those victories. And it won't be the last consequence.
Islamists don't want Egypt, Syria or Palestine. And they certainly won't settle for them. No more than Hitler settled for Czechoslovakia or Stalin settled for Poland. They will accept their conquests in bites, but they will never stop biting, chewing and swallowing until they run up against a force that will not allow them to advance and expand further.
Obama tried to divide violent Islamism from political Islamism, giving the Islamists what they wanted without violence, to eliminate the need for a War on Terror. But all he accomplished was to give Islamist violence a bigger base and more resources to work with. Islam is inherently violent. A non-violent Islamic victory doesn't end the violence; it only expands its capacity for violence.