Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A New Kind of American Assertiveness

The Obama administration has been receiving quite a lot of flack with regards to their conduct on recent upheaval in the Middle East.  Some of my favourite writers, such as Barry Rubin, have been claiming that the administration is completely oblivious to the ways of the Middle East and are incapable to get a clear read on it. It's hard to argue with the facts...

But what would you say to the idea that the administration, and American foreign policy in general, simply does not care for the ways of the Middle East and don't care to get a clear read of it?

So the execution is not smooth? Who said they care much for a smooth execution?

Doesn't history show us that American foreign policy is cynical and self serving?

So now I will tie it to what's been going on in the Middle East recently.
 America's position has been on a downward trend for quite some time. While mediocre Arab despots such as Hosni Mubarak, the Sauds, and the al-Khalifa's of Bahrain are perceived as 'carrying out the imperial will', they are quite far from that. America's Arab allies have been dragging their feet on almost any issue of strategical importance to the United States such as normalizing relations with Israel, or combating radical Islamic terrorism that is stemming from their own societies. It's not that they have been doing that just to piss off the Americans, they simply don't want to touch those uneasy nerve and risk popular discontent. Additionally, their hatred towards Israel has been the cornerstone of their entire raison d'etre. They are far too comfortable sticking to old habits than risking a confrontation on these issues with their poor, uneducated rabble that is their constituency.

So America has been bolstering their regimes while getting limited results. Middle Eastern despots thought that they figured America! They thought that they managed to convince the poor, silly and naive Americans that they are the best that America can get. That if they were to go, all hell will break loose. Well what good are the Sauds to America if they are not much help on the Iraq issue, they are horrible on human rights and the only reason their oil keeps flowing is because of mass American presence? What good is Hosni when he cannot foster deeper economic ties with Israel and limits economic development to a class of his cronies?

So America has decided to send a message: 'So you want us to keep stuffing your coffers because you think we are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood? well what would you say if we don't?'

In Bahrain, the US has a very sensitive position. It's the base of the 5th fleet, which is responsible for the very strategic Persian gulf. Bahrain will not fall, the Americans will merely force to king to do what ever is required to calm things down, or figure out who can, and let him and his followers do whatever they please with the king's rotting corpse. America will not evacuate their naval base, not on someone else's terms.

As for Mubarak I don't think that there are many people to genuinely feel sorry for the guy. He had his run, he served his purpose. There are no loyalties, it's strictly business. If by letting the military junta that is now formally in charge get rid him they are buying stability, redirecting animosity and getting some good PR on Hosni's expense, they will do it!

The usual argument against this strategy is that the alternatives will be worse. The Muslim Brotherhood will take over Egypt and Bin Laden will take over Saudi Arabia. Well, there isn't a heck of a lot that a week long bombing campaign cannot achieve. If Riyadh dalls to the hands of radical Islamists, there will be an insurrection among the Shia population that lives in the oil producing regions.

So are we seeing a new kind of America? No, it's the good old bad America. 

When Saddam had a dispute with Kuwait he took the issues with his allies, the Americans. They sent a woman to tell him in a diplomatic language that while they are not telling the sides how to resolve their differences, America prefers to avoid bloodshed. Saddam in his infantile brain didn't get the message and decided to invade. Did the Americans consider this episode a mere cultural misunderstanding (which it mostly was)? No, they hastily organized an international coalition that dumped on Saddam more ammunition in a matter of weeks, than they used in Vietnam in years.  For the remainder of his life, Saddam was as good as dead.

So why are we so convinced that anything changed?


p.s. I think the reason the administration has appeared somewhat sloppy on Libya is that Gaddafi has been for quite sometime, and openly for almost a decade, a European puppy. The Americans had to clean up the European's mess in two world wars and twice in the Balkans.


  1. I enjoyed your unique point of view. Well said.
    I would add that in my opinion, it's the Obama administration in particular, that lacks a clear foreign strategy. I think you're giving them too much credit. They operate in a knee jerk reactionary mode. The US intelligence is no longer what it one was and that's not helping either. According to them, the Moslem Brotherhood are a moderate, secular bunch.
    One last note: There is the Obama-Farakhan - Gaddafi connection. That adds to the mess in dealing with Libya.

  2. I think my point is that the US never really had a clear strategy except for opening markets to their financial system and keep commodities flowing one way and paper money flowing the other way.

    Obama may be incompetent and unassertive himself, but I think the system he is heading didn't change that much.

    Even from an Israel point of view, a lot of Israel advocates are reminiscing about the good old days of Bush 41 and Reagan, but they were horrible with Israel. It just happened that Israel had better leadership at the time.

    I will not go as far to say that Israel is a mere pawn, it's more of an expensive sacrificial rook.