American Elephants


Arab Spring, Fall Foreign Policy Blunder. by The Elephant's Child

The “Arab Spring” was much celebrated by the Obama administration and the American media as an uprising of the Arab peoples living in the dictatorships of North Africa. Hope and change, freedom and democracy were, they were sure, in the wind.

If you remember, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor helped to start  what has become known as the Arab Spring, by an act of desperation by a young man whose efforts to eke out a living for his family were thwarted by government officials at every turn. He set himself on fire, for all to see, in a public square.

That act sparked a mass uprising in Tunisia, that quickly spread o Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. So many spontaneous uprisings, at such a rapid pace.  Bouazizi’s self-immolation epitomized may Arab’s sense of helplessness and despair. Unorganized unhappiness and calls for leaders to “leave.” But in revolutions and uprisings, the organized are often prepared to take the opportunities that present themselves. And so it has been.

In Egypt, there was an 82-year-old dictator, 29 years in power, seeking another term while scheming to hand off power to his unpopular son. It was obvious that the Islamists would run away with the elections. And so they did, and we now have a bumper crop of Islamist regimes so radical that we’ll miss Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. These are the results of the “democracy in the Middle East” that President Obama and the left managed with one of the worst foreign policy blunders in history.

Tens of thousands of Muslims rioted in Cairo’s Tahir Square last January, and the White House and the media spoke breathlessly of Western-style freedom blooming across the Arab desert. When skeptics cautioned that the Arab world has no history of democracy and radical Islamists would probably step in, the left sneered that they were bigots.

They ignored polls showing that large majorities of Egyptians were yearning for the chance to vote in Islamic law. Two-thirds wanted to get rid of Mubarak so they could have stonings of adulterers and beheadings of apostates — in Tahir Square.

Obama urged on the rioters and pressured Mubarak to step down. The Muslim Brotherhood got 60% of the vote, Mohamed Morsi was elected President, and promptly dismissed all the Generals of the Egyptian Army.

Now he has become guarantor of the cease fire between the Israelis and Gaza in a bizarre step, and on the strength of that granted himself broad powers above any court, declaring himself the guardian of Egypt’s revolution, and used his new powers to order the retrial of Hosni Mubarak. One Dictator gone to be replaced by another.

Opponents of President Mohamed Morsi were reported to have set fire to his party’s offices in several Egyptian cities in a spasm of protest after he claimed new powers. In Alexandria there were clashes between opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and his followers.

Mr. Morsi, a longstanding member of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood won Western plaudits only days ago for “brokering a cease-fire” to halt eight days of lethal exchanges between Israeli defense forces and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt is the most populous state in the Middle East, but poor. It cannot feed itself, but vast amounts of American aid seem to help. Their most important industry is tourism, which is not flourishing in the face of immanent uprisings at any moment.  Yet you have Islamists so radical that they want to tear down and destroy the pyramids as blasphemous, which are the nations only significant source of income. Stonings and beheadings in Tahir Square will probably not go over as tourist attractions.

I’m not sure that either Susan Rice nor John Kerry are up to the job.

 



It’s Not Arab Spring, It’s Fall, and We Don’t Know How It Will All Turn Out by The Elephant's Child

Arab Spring they called it, as if a million flowers of Democracy were about to bloom. Which was more the triumph of hope over reality. Ghaddafi is gone, but Libya has just announced that their new government would be Islamist in nature and follow Sharia law. And the first thing to be abolished would be the laws against polygamy.

The Arab states of North Africa were revolting against controlling dictatorships, and there were plenty of warnings that they may have not liked their ruling tyrants, but they also had no experience of Democracy. Tunisia had their first election yesterday and it was reportedly a clean, enthusiastic election.  Turnout was at 90%. The country adopted a proportional system during the transition that limits the ability of any party to hold too much power. If this remains as a check before new constitutions are adopted it will be a good thing.

The Islamist Nahda party claimed victory by a significant margin. The other main parties conceded. Nahda won about half the votes. Two secular parties did well, and one will probably join Nahda in a coalition. The new constitution is supposed to contain a bill of rights, divide government power, and protect minority rights. After the constitution is adopted, a new round of elections will be held in a year.

The country is one of the most modern and homogenous nations in the Arab world. The dictator Ben Ali family ran a mafia empire, yet today Ben Ali lives in exile in Saudi Arabia. It will take time — lots of time— to see how it will turn out, and it will take a better foreign policy on our part.

Obama’s foreign policy czars are gone. One by one, they have  disappeared. Obama’s appointment of the original czars was seen as a way of empowering hand-picked senior officials to instigate a transformational foreign policy without having to submit them to congress for confirmation. Obama’s focus on humility and apology in diplomatic engagement was supposed to be a sharp contrast to the “hard power” emphasis of the Bush administration:

 Now that none of them has achieved the diplomatic breakthroughs so naively expected by the newly elected Obama, ambitions have been reduced to not making things any worse—and even that may be difficult.

Barry Rubin has been reporting ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated in January of 2009 on Obama’s disastrous Middle East Policy. His column today is a review and summing up, in the wake of the Arab Spring debacle, of the Obama foreign policy. It’s not pretty. The now dominant view, he says is:

This interpretation considers the virtually sole danger to be al-Qaeda and its terrorist attacks against America. In order to ensure Islamists aren’t radicalized to behave that way, they want to co-opt radical Islamists they consider far less threatening. They insist that such Islamists are far less extreme than people like me say and that holding power will moderate them.

This travesty is born of Western ignorance about Islam and Islamism; discounting the power of ideology and the nature of these societies; assuming that everyone thinks alike in wanting more material goods; putting all their effort into stopping another September 11 (even at the expense of massive strategic losses); presuming moderation is inevitable, etc.

These people believe that the “Turkish model” is just fine and dandy rather than seeing it as an extremely dangerous way for radical Islamists to seize and hold power to carry out anti-American and aggressive goals. This misunderstanding is key to their failure to understand Arab politics or Islamism, as is the idea that Facebook, community-organizer yuppies are any match for jihadists.

I would urge you to read Barry Rubin’s post.  I think he is particularly well-informed and correct in his wide-ranging analysis.  This isn’t what you will be hearing from the mainstream media who no longer do much  searching analysis. If Obama says that bringing the troops home from Iraq by the end of the year is a diplomatic triumph and a praiseworthy event, that is what the MSM will report. We deserve better.




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