Filed under: Foreign Policy, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, National Security, Politics | Tags: American Foreign Policy, Arab Spring?, Considering the Middle East.
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.