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What accounted for President Vladimir Putin's surprise decision Monday to start pulling Russian forces from Syria?Goldberg's account of how Obama fell out of love with the Arabs has inspired much commentary.First, Goldberg's piece is authoritative and compelling. But it illustrates why presidents usually save such explanations for their memoirs. This is the opposite of the Brent Scowcroft-style quiet diplomacy that Obama supposedly values.Obama treated Egypt's President Mohammad Morsi and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the instruments of democratic change.Fourth, the overarching question in "The Obama Doctrine" is whether Obama was right to reduce America's "overextension" in the Middle East, as White House aide Ben Rhodes puts it.Obama was wrong on all three, in my view: The Middle East does matter; the United States can help, and not doing so hurts our global standing. But even if he's right, he needs to reckon better with one clear lesson of his presidency: As the United States stepped back in the Middle East, others stepped forward.
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