The Region: In 2011, US primacy in the Middle East died (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By BARRY RUBIN 03/19/12)
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‘This is the end...
Of our elaborate plans, the end, Of everything that stands....
No safety or surprise....
There’s danger on the edge of town....
And all the children are insane....
The West is the best....
But you will never follow me.”
– “This is the End,” The Doors
Here’s your basic problem for 2012-2013: In the Middle East, the
vultures are coming home to roost. Of course, the main cause of
developments in the region is the long, failed legacy of radical Arab
nationalism which is now being replaced by what we’ll be calling in
20 or 30 years the long failed legacy of revolutionary Islamism.
But the secondary cause is the mistaken policy of President Barack
Firstly, Obama helped empower Islamism over nationalism and
democratic choices by putting a priority on Muslim identity, in his
Cairo speech and elsewhere. He then helped bring a radical Islamist
regime to power in Egypt, the Arab world’s most important country, by
pressing for revolutionary change there. The new regime promptly
broke the alliance with the United States and moved toward heightened
belligerency – possibly war – with Israel.
Moreover, by doing so Obama also helped provide Hamas in the Gaza
Strip with unlimited arms, money and reinforcements, thus bringing
about renewed armed conflict with Israel. At the same time, by not
criticizing or seriously pressuring the Palestinian Authority (as it
sought unilateral independence at the UN, allied itself with Hamas
and refused to negotiate with Israel) the Obama administration made
sure the “peace process” was absolutely, positively dead.
Let me stop here a moment and respond to the claim that Obama
couldn’t have done much on this issue. Of course, if we look at the
demonstrations on the ground that seems a sensible argument. But the
key pressure point was the US ability to affect decisions taken by
Egypt’s elite and military in January and early February 2011 to give
up and even join the revolution.
US encouragement and pressure – which the State Department wanted to
apply at the time – would have allowed a post-Mubarak transition with
some reforms rather than an all-out revolution. There’s an
interesting parallel to Iran in 1978, when almost year-long inaction
by the Carter administration helped create a situation producing the
Islamic revolution there.
In failing to help the Iranian opposition, by not taking a strong
stance when the election was stolen and doing nothing serious about
Iran’s nuclear program for over two years, the Obama administration
has helped create a situation in which either Israel will attack Iran
or Iran will get nuclear weapons. Or both.
By overthrowing the horrible Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, however
justified that was, Obama handed power over to radical forces, not
consciously or intentionally but inevitably given the reality of that
country. We already see such signs as a refusal to cooperate with the
Lockerbie bombing investigation, and the destruction of Christian and
By backing Islamist forces in the Syrian opposition, and not helping
the opposition generally, the Obama administration is making most
likely the worst two options: the continued pro-Iran, anti-American
regime in Damascus or an Islamist takeover.
Moreover, in failing to help US allies, Obama has alienated the few
remaining states that sought American protection against
revolutionary Islamism, to the point that they know they are on their
own, retreat before the radicals, or make their own deals.
The Obama administration has also distanced itself from Israel,
emboldening radicals to escalate operations against that country and
persuaded the less radical to go along with them.
It has embraced an Islamist regime in Turkey, allowing that
government to continue with its agenda of transforming Turkey while
disproving the opposition’s argument that radical policies at home
and abroad might damage the country’s standing in Washington.
The Obama administration has displayed so much weakness (which it
portrays as friendliness, sympathy, multilateralism and cultural
sensitivity), it has convinced the radical, anti-American forces that
the United States is ripe for collapse. Listen to what the Islamists
in the region actually say.
This is the government and this is the policy portrayed as successful
merely because good intelligence officers located Osama bin Laden and
courageous Navy Seals killed him. This is the government that
portrays itself as the best friend of Israel – even as it undermines
Israel’s security – because Obama keeps saying how much he supports
Israel and “allows” congressionally mandated aid to go to that
country. With best friends like this, who needs enemies? Nothing
could be more ridiculous than these assurances of success while the
Middle East burns, while US standing and interests there are in sharp
decline. The “funny” thing about all of this is that virtually
everyone in the region knows all this is true, even as virtually
everyone in the “mainstream” discussion in the United States denies
Any possibility that Obama’s policy might not bring disaster in the
Middle East died in 2011. In 2012 we’re going to see the funeral. (©
1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/19/12)
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