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.


9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

“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.”

Um, please tell us how a Republican administration would have handled the Arab Spring differently. Sent in troops to defend Mubarak?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Obviously, I don’t know how they would have handled it, since it happened entirely in the Obama administration. Obama mistook the Arab Spring for some lovely Democracy/Liberation movement, which it wasn’t. Thought the Muslim Brotherhood was a fine organization, not a terrorist group committed to Islamist goals of destroying the West and Israel. The result has been chaos across the North African countries.

Obama went into Libya at the urging of some European countries, without advising or getting consent from Congress, and generally making things far worse, which led to the Benghazi mess. Which is far, far worse than Watergate and a deplorable scandal — which he is escaping so far only with the help of his compliant media who refuse to cover it.

Morsi has given himself more powers than Mubarack ever had,giving himself control of the legislature and the courts, and of course he fired all the generals. And to allow Morsi to be the “broker” of a cease-fire with Hamas is beyond absurd. Hillary is noted for the vast amount of air miles she has racked up, but not for any accomplishments whatsoever. She has “deplored” one thing and another. The Obama administration’s foreign policy is appallingly weak and misguided. From what I read, he likes to determine foreign policy himself and writes position papers. He confuses relations between states which are based on national interest, with personal popularity.

Bush did very well in that realm, and worked well with other leaders, there is plenty of evidence of that. Bush was quite clear about what the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are, and didn’t have a childhood in Indonesia and a Muslim sister to confuse him about the nature of Islam and America.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

“… please tell us how a Republican administration would have handled the Arab Spring differently. Sent in troops to defend Mubarak?”

Or even simply not withdrawn support for Mubarak when the whole thing started. Possibly let it be known that the U.S. would not support or recognize any government that came about as the result of such an uprising (which, by the way, was Bush era policy). A certain amount of diplomatic pressure could have been brought to bear to help acheive a desired outcome (and to answer the question, no, I don’t think what’s going on in the Middle east at this time is even vaguely a “desired outcome”). We could have acted with knowledge and position, rather than what Obama did, which was essentially nothing (which makes it all the more interesting that Obama is trying to take a certain amount of credit for the “Arab Spring”, and the people who live there know otherwise, and are resentful of his attempts to do so). And even more alarming is the fact that every time Obama falls back to his usual manner of talking to people, he comes off as condescending, which is an especially bad thing when people already perceive you as arrogant. At best, most of these Arab states have no respect for Obama, at worst they are openly hostile to him as the leader of the United States. About the only thing they truly appreciate and have any measure of respect for is the way Obama is constantly undermining and giving mixed signals about Israel.

So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say a Republican administration would have handled it better…it would hardly have handled it worse.


Comment by Lon Mead

Over two years ago I wrote an article for American Thinker ( explaining why the so-called “Arab Spring” was never going to work. For millenia, Islamic nations in the Middle East have been ruled by kings or dictators, and the ordinary, man-in-the-street, people really don’t know how to rule themselves. This gives wannabe dictators a golden opportunity to usurp power, which is exactly what Morsi did.

What a surprise. I think I’ll have a heart attack and die from that surprise.


Comment by Jim Yardley

I’m still waiting for the specifics of how (particularly in the absence of hind sight) you — or a Republican administration — would have handled the Arab Spring differently. I’m talking about the early days in particular. From my perspective, there wasn’t a lot the U.S. Government could practically and morally do. Would you have sent in the Marines to Tunisia, to Yemen, to Egypt?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

I can’t imagine a Republican administration taking any military action. They probably would not, as Lon said, have withdrawn support for Mubarak. And the U.S. government does have a significant amount of influence if they choose to use it. Egypt gets a healthy amount of aid.

Obama came into office believing that all problems in the Middle East came from the Israeli-Palestine conflict. He would solve that promptly with the force of his personality and his superior knowledge of Islam because he lived in Indonesia as a child. He expected to bring about a Palestinian state by the end of his first term. His administration does not use the word ‘terrorism.’


Comment by The Elephant's Child

“I’m still waiting for the specifics of how (particularly in the absence of hind sight) you — or a Republican administration — would have handled the Arab Spring differently.”

Get comfortable.

You’re asking for specifics to a hypothetical question. Here’s a hint… a hypothetical question can only get a hypothetical response. At the very least, our responses about a hypothetical Republican response has an historical basis. If you want ask specifics about what actually DID happen, good luck on getting that out of the Obama administration. They haven’t shown a coherent, consistent policy on anything having to do with foreign policy since day one, nor any kind of willingness to explain the decisions that they did make.

You seem to be pushing for the idea that the Republican response would have to involve a military response (some sort of invasion). Contrary to the Democrat myth, the first reaction would not be to invade anything. A military response would only be appropriate when there is a significant threat to U.S. interests (for example, an attack on U.S. consular property that lasts several hours where the life of the ambassador is threatened). Aiding in the overthrow of a government that did not serve a U.S. interest (such as in Libya, where Obama acted without even consulting Congress, and acted offended when it was suggested that he sould have) would have been improper.

And before you start the tired trope of “Iraq wasn’t a direct threat to the U.S.” I will point out that Hussein WAS a direct threat to several U.S. allies (several of whom we were bound by treaty to defend), as well as a destabilizing factor i the entire region. If you want to explore idea of the proper use of force from the Republican standpoint, you would do well to explore the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (in the absence of hindsight, as you put it).


Comment by Lon Mead

My question about military force was indeed to provoke an answer, two of which I got. Thank you.

What I’m trying to get at is what you think should have been done differently in response to the revolutions in Tunisia and Yemen, for a start. Throughout the Middle East there is a significant percentage of the population attracted to radical Islam. We can’t really change that.

The action in Libya was a rather rushed affair, cobbled together as a Nato action only when Khadafi’s troops were at the gates of Benghazi. Yes, it would have been better to get Congressional approval. But it’s not as if that was the first time a president engaged in a “police action” without prior approval. President Harry Truman sent U.S. troops into Korea, without congressional authorization. President George H.W. Bush’s invasion of Panama and President Bill Clinton’s airstrikes in Kosovo commenced in lieu of congressional actions, and President Ronald Reagan ordered attacks against Libya and Grenada without congressional approval. Were any U.S. service men killed in that intervention? I don’t recall that there were.

Would Republicans been content if Khadafi had snuffed out the opposition then and there? Iraq may have invaded Kuwait (13 years before Bush II invaded Iraq), but Khadafi’s henchmen placed a bomb on an airliner bound for America, and bombed a nightclub full of American servicemen. I would argue that Khadafi was even more unhinged, and has as much if not more firepower at his disposal as Sadam had at the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. (1991 was a very different story.)

As for Egypt, I guess only history will have the last word. Back Mubarak without military force? What difference would that have made? He was bound to be overthrown sooner or later. At least by not supporting him, Egyptians are less likely to regard the United States with contempt. (Contrast that with Iran, where our unstinting backing of the Shah provided the mullahs with a multi-decade narrative of anti-Americanism.)

I do agree, though, that the Administration should now make it very clear that they are unwilling to continue providing massive amounts of foreign aid to Egypt unless President Mohammed Morsi revokes the decree that granted himself sweeping powers to “protect the revolution” and made himself immune to judicial oversight.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Once again, you’re falling back on the idea that the only way to provide support is through a military intervention. Yes, the examples you cited are all true… as far as they go. Truman in Korea occured before the War Powers Act, and all of the other incidents you cite were either approved by congress afterward, or at least had been discussed with the appropriate congressional commitees. Obama acted without consulting Congress at all, citing only the UN and NATO as his authorizing bodies (which they are not, according to the Constitution, US law, and precedent).

“Throughout the Middle East there is a significant percentage of the population attracted to radical Islam. We can’t really change that.”

And there is an even more significant percentage of the population which ISN’T attracted to radical Islam, so there is the possibility that we CAN change that. When you scoff at the idea that we could have provided support for Mubarak without military intervention, that’s the part you overlook. And isn’t this the administration where Obama and Clinton were supposed to accomplish things with “smart diplomacy”?

And that idea that “At least by not supporting him, Egyptians are less likely to regard the United States with contempt” is the argument used to justify appeasement (whether you meant it that way or not). The people over there who regard the US with contempt are going to do it whomever we support. What governments have to do is simply decide (however selfish it may sound) “what’s in it for us?”. Mubarak served as more or less a stabilizing factor in the region, whatever legitimate grievances the Egyptian people may have had with him. Simply showing support for him would have slowed the Islamist factions, and announcing that continued support for Egypt would be contingent on an open democratic government, would have at least given the Muslim Brotherhood pause in seizing power the way they did.

All of which is academic. If things were diffrent they wouldn’t be the same. I’m not a huge fan of dwelling on what should have been done, because we can’t change it. Now we simply have to deal with the consequences, which given the history of this administration and the principals involved, I don’t believe they have prepared for, or even have any concept of what they’re going to be. Already they’ve been caught off gaurd a number of times (the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi was only the most visible so far), and they’re still pretending that their way is producing positive results for the US. Which means they are going to keep being surprised when events don’t come out the way they are “supposed” to.


Comment by Lon Mead

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: