Latest update: September 28th, 2012
Going all Abe Lincoln, Obama continued, “I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.” Well, perhaps, but what does that have to do with the actual existing governments? These words are a typical Western view that materialistic interests must triumph rather than taking into account the power of ideology and the things regimes need to do to stay in power. In 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s revolution said that Western observers thought the upheaval in his country was about the price of watermelons–that is, about how best to achieve prosperity–and that this was ridiculous. One-third of a century later, the Iranian regime is still in power and following Khomeini’s radical approach. Why should we not expect the same to be true in Egypt and perhaps soon in Syria?
Indeed, his whole line in the speech parallels the view of U.S. leaders that if Yasir Arafat and the PLO only be given their own entity and offered their own state, turned into responsible politicians who have to fix potholes and provide jobs, there would be peace and stability in the Middle East. The formula he offers has never worked anywhere in the region.
Whatever he truly believes, Obama’s publicly stated assumption is based on the wishful thinkings of a community organizer rather than the hardheaded evaluations of a statesman:
Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent. In hard economic times, countries may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.
You mean like his policy of mobilizing people to hate the rich? But why shouldn’t they crack down and rally the people against perceived enemies, acting like he does but with the added violence and intolerance of those political cultures? Why does his thinking provide no possibility of that happening? Who is going to make them “resist the temptation” to be aggressive if there is no strong superpower that is going to hold them to account?
After all, this is a president who can praise the new Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Tunisia and Egypt; fall in love with the repressive, hate-inciting regime in Turkey, follow a policy greatly strengthening the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, and ignore the likelihood that he’s promoting the Muslim Brotherhood into power in Syria, and then say:
It is time to marginalize those who even when not resorting to violence–use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel as a central principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes excuses, for those who resort to violence.
“Marginalize”? He has brought them to center stage. He explains:
Burning an American flag will do nothing to educate a child. Smashing apart a restaurant will not fill an empty stomach. Attacking an Embassy won’t create a single job.
Of course, that’s the whole point. A leader who cannot bring economic recovery to his country after four years in office, for example, finds demagoguery to be a very useful alternative. That is all the more true in the Middle East. Burning an American flag indoctrinates a child into certain beliefs; smashing apart a restaurant makes people who have no jobs feel good. At times, Obama’s statements read so differently in the Middle East that it is laughable:
In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. Extremists understand this. And because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They do not build, they only destroy.
Well, no, in fact the smart extremists understand that they found a useful tactic for seizing power, and with the help of the United States! They want to go step by step now to build dictatorships and wipe out everyone they don’t like at home and abroad. The ‘’less smart” extremists are too impatient, but their very impatience pressures their colleagues to go further and faster.
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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