Once upon a time, Arab nationalism ruled the Middle East. Its doctrine saw Arab identity as the key to political success. Some regarded Islam as important; others were secular. Yet there was no doubt that national identity was in charge. All Arabs should unite, said the radical nationalists who ruled in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, to destroy Israel, expel Western influence, and create a utopian single state in the region. Instead, of course, the period was characterized by battles among the radical Arab states for leadership. The less extreme ones sought survival through a combination of giving lip service to radical slogans, paying off the stronger regimes, and getting Western help.
There is a debate over the causes of terrorism and anti-Americanism in the world. One possible view is that the principal problem is that of genuine conflict. The adversaries hold certain ideological ideas—say, revolutionary Islamism—to which American society and policies are antithetical. The collision (as with Communism, Nazism, and aggressive Japanese militarism in earlier decades) is inevitable. The United States is inconveniencing the totalitarians both because of what it does (policies) and because of what it represents (freedom, democracy, capitalism).
One of my most fun professional memories was when I walked endlessly, circling round and round and round that hall in Algeria in November 1988 with a burly, no-nonsense, and brilliant newspaper correspondent named Youssef Ibrahim, who was then working for the New York Times. Friendly, funny, sarcastic, and with absolutely no illusions or romanticism about the absurdities of Arab politics and the idiocies of Arab political ideology, Ibrahim’s only shortcoming is that there are not one thousand more exactly like him. If he was the kind of person leading Arab countries and people they would be far more prosperous, peaceful, happier and democratic.
A reader asks: “I agree that democracy and economic development are not panaceas for the Middle East, just as they are not for any other location on the planet. But aren't they a start? And since it is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time, does it hurt to at least pay lip service to doing things to bring the rest of the Middle East into the 21st century? And what would those things be in your opinion?” As you noted, both candidates in the presidential election spoke of economic development as a top priority in their Middle East policy. This sounds good to voters but is pretty meaningless.
One of President Barack Obama’s main themes has been to convince Middle Eastern Islamists and Arabs generally that America is not their enemy. But the reason this strategy never works is that the radicals, be they Islamists or nationalists, know better. They see the United States as their enemy and they are right to do so.
A full analysis of the foreign policy aspects of the third debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Remember that the idea that someone “won” the debate in terms of an outside observer’s standpoint or even based on a poll is misleading. The only important thing is whether either candidate swayed additional voters to his side.
Are supposed negotiations with Iran the “October Surprise” intended to win the election for President Barack Obama, an Iranian trick for buying time, or both? The answer is both. It’s an incredibly transparent ploy though with the cooperation of the mass media such a gimmick might well have some effect.
Perhaps you remember an incredibly sensational story from back in October 2011 that after a brief period in the headlines disappeared completely. The U.S. government arrested an Iranian-American citizen in Texas and charged him with being an agent of the Iranian government who planned at Tehran’s behest to hire a Mexican drug gang to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a fiery terrorist attack in Washington D.C. It would have been another September 11, albeit on a far smaller scale. Knowing about such an operation should have been a real game-changer for U.S. Middle East policy.
While foreign policy did not figure large in the second presidential debate, the Middle East again emerged as the overwhelmingly main international issue. In the beginning of the debate, President Barack Obama claimed that he put a high priority on energy independence, an assertion well refuted by Governor Mitt Romney. A president who wanted energy independence, from the unreliability of Middle East supplies, could easily expand oil drilling on federal land; the use of new technology to produce oil and gas; a major pipeline from Canada; and the continued production and use of coal for generating power. To do none of these things and put his effort into restricting traditional energy sources and push hard for untested, long-term, and failed “green energy” schemes subverts energy independence. But the main emphasis in the debate was on the Benghazi assassinations.
One argument we will be increasingly hearing is that President Barack Obama couldn’t have done anything to change events in the Middle East. This is ironic of course because when things were going well he wanted to take credit as the inspiration for the "Arab Spring."
The Obama Administration's Middle East errors are deepened and the lessons of experience once again rejected in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s latest defense of these wrong-headed policies in a speech given at my first employers, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. Her argument is that the United States should ignore violence and extremism while helping to build democracies. The problem is that most of the violence and extremism comes from forces that the Obama Administration supports or groups basically allied with those forces. The violence and extremism is the inevitable outcome, not a declining byproduct, of this process.
In other words, bad developments are sometimes reported though there is an attempt to explain it away. This does leave some margin for readers and viewers to use their brains. Are these explanations credible? Why do things keep getting worse? If Obama is such a big supporter of Israel why does he keep subverting its interests? If Obama has made people in the region love America why do they keep hating America? Come to think of it, if Obama is such a big supporter of America why does he keep subverting U.S. interests?
Mitt Romney gave a speech at the Virginia Military Institute today which focuses on U.S. Middle East policy. There are some good points in this speech that are definite steps forward. Romney sounded like a president should, someone who grasps power politics, deterrence, credibility, supporting allies and opposing enemies, and all the basic principles that have been largely vanished by the Obama Administration in exchange for unworkable and dangerous concepts. (Watch video)
The Obama-Romney debate has been analyzed from many angles, especially about who won. Yet in the course of the event, Obama said what might be the most revealing slip he has ever made. This one phrase tells more about Obama and the ideology of his left-wing supporters than every other word they have spoken in the last four years.
When solidarity along group lines takes priority and the line is that all of “us” must unite against the “other” no matter what truth, logic, or justice dictates then that means serious trouble. And guess what? That is the line of the Obama Administration and its Newest Left supporters.
The first thing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does is send a warm message of congratulations to the reelected president.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has written an op-ed piece about what’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy and what he would do if he is elected president. There aren’t many surprises but it reminds us how far Romney has to go before he can be said to have articulated a clear foreign policy of his own.
President Barack Obama’s speech is a fascinating document. The theme is this: absolutely nothing can go wrong with political change in the Middle East and that the United States helps moderate forces, defined as anyone who isn't actively trying to kill Americans. The fact that some-to-many of those revolutionary forces favor killing Americans is outside his purview. And the fact that his policy has supported militantly anti-democratic groups far more than the (far weaker) moderate ones is airbrushed away.
The United States is only at the start of a nasty conflict in Libya which is going to be very anti-American. It is shocking that there is so little recognition of that fact and an apparently sincere belief that all the problems there are due to a You-Tube video. Having a big problem is bad enough; refusing to recognize that one has a bad problem is potentially fatal.
The Obama Administration is backing (Islamist) Turkey as the distributor of weapons supplied by (opportunistically pro-Islamist) Qatar.