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When the authors of the Democratic platform’s sections dealing with the Middle East—I dealt with the section on Israel in a previous article—finished it they were no doubt quite satisfied. They felt that they had built a strong case for reelected President Barack Obama along the following lines:
America is more secure and popular. Al-Qaida and the Taliban are on the run. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are ending. America is supporting democracy, women’s rights, and gay rights around the world. Isn’t this great leadership? How could anyone not vote for Obama?
When I read the platform I am shocked and disappointed. I can pick at the issues of popularity, Afghanistan and Iraq. But the failure to deal with revolutionary Islamism is ridiculously glaring (they didn’t use the tiniest fig leaf to cover themselves), making a mockery about the democracy and human rights’ pretensions. The treatment of Middle East allies is shockingly insulting. The issues of Syria and Egypt are simply dodged. There is not a single mention of the opposition in Iran. All terrorists not involved directly in the September 11, 2001, attacks are ignored. There is not the slightest hint that any regional strategy exists at all.
Not a single word implies that the United States is willing to help allies fight revolutionary Islamist threats. In fact, the words “Islam” and “Muslim” do not appear once, even in some discussion of good Muslims versus bad radical heretics. They could have said something like: “Islam is a religion of peace but there are some extremists who wish to distort its teachings, take power, and institute repressive and anti-American dictatorships. We support our allies in defending themselves against these threats and support true democratic reformers in fighting against such oppressive forces that deny equality to women, religious minorities, and gay people.” But they didn’t even do that.
If they don’t even see the main threat at all how can one trust such people to rule the country and provide leadership in the region? What can American allies in the region—aside from Israel–expect from President Obama to protect them from internal revolutionaries, international terrorists, and revolutionary Islamist states?
Here’s the passage in its entirety:
“President Obama is committed to maintaining robust security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council states and our other partners aimed at deterring aggression, checking Iran’s destabilizing activities, ensuring the free flow of commerce essential to the global economy, and building a regional security architecture to counter terrorism, proliferation, ballistic missiles, piracy, and other common threats.”
That’s all you get, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates! How confident are you in Obama’s leadership?
Well, here’s the lead of a Reuters story on this topic that came out during the Democratic convention “The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological affiliates in the Arab Spring uprisings has stoked fears among Gulf Arab governments that the United States may one day abandon its traditional allies as it warms up to Islamists.”
Back to the platform. Let’s get the bragging out of the way first:
“When President Obama took office in January 2009, our armed forces were engaged in two wars. Al- Qaeda, which had attacked us on 9/11, remained entrenched in its safe havens. Many of our alliances were strained, and our standing in the world had diminished. Around the world and here at home, there were those who questioned whether the United States was headed toward inevitable decline.”
On one hand, whatever George W. Bush’s faults he had already essentially won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (as much as that was possible) and dislodged al-Qaeda from its “safe havens.” Obama criticized the strategy that won in Iraq. So that’s a lie.
Quite true, alliances were strained, standing in the world had diminished, and there were those who asked if the United States was in inevitable decline. The problem is that, generally speaking, the situation is worse—certainly in the Middle East–in all three categories three years later.
There follows a long section on “Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq,” which credits Obama for pulling out American troops and implying that Romney and other Republicans would have left American combat troops there forever. In fact, I think it is quite fair to say that there was a consensus that the U.S. role was coming to an end. I believe a Republican president would have done precisely the same thing that Obama did. Pulling out the troops was a correct move so Obama can claim credit for it but not as his unique idea.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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