July 31, 2012

The Muddle East

“No one has any idea what the Middle East will look like next year, much less in five years,” writes Victor Davis Hanson in an excellent piece entitled the “Muddle East” (see below). 

“Amid this chaos there are a handful of constants that can guide U.S. foreign policy,” writes Hanson, one of them being: Whatever governments emerge, they will not be pro-Israel or pro-America.

Hanson continues:

“We should restore close relations with an Israel that is becoming wealthier and stronger all the time, and is the only consistently pro-American, democratic nation in the entire region. The Obama administration has demonstrated that any hint of daylight between the U.S. and Israel does not win over the Arab world, but only persuades it that Israel is more vulnerable. 

The wisest course will be to depersonalize [emphasis added] our Middle East policy and simply state that the U.S., to the extent that it weighs in on the turmoil, supports constitutional government (rather than plebiscites): To the degree that a society is transparent, respects human rights, and remains consensual, we support it; to the degree that it does not, we are more likely to oppose it.”

In other words, we can't control what others do, but we can control what we do, which requires knowing what America stands for, and informing the rest of the world what America is prepared or not prepared to accept (rather than trying to reinvent the world in our image). 

“To the degree that a society is transparent, respects human rights, and remains consensual, we support it; to the degree that it does not, we are more likely to oppose it.” It doesn’t get any simpler than that, right?

(Except that American voters usually choose a Commander-in-Chief who understands world affairs and the importance of national security/foreign policy as much as they do...)

National Review Online  |  July 31, 2012

The Muddle East
Whatever governments emerge, they will not be pro-Israel or pro-U.S.

By Victor Davis Hanson

Nasrallah, Assad & Ahmadinejad.jpg
Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar Assad, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Damascus, Syria, in February 2010

No one has any idea what the Middle East will look like next year, much less in five years — especially the revolutionary players themselves.

There are not even the old familiar fault lines this revolutionary time around. Are the Sunni Gulf kingdoms eager to support revolutionaries in Syria and North Africa? Perhaps and perhaps not — given that the fall of strongmen like Mubarak, bin Ali, Qaddafi, and Assad may lead to Muslim Brotherhood–inspired Islamist governments, which would like to see the oil-rich monarchies become less Western and more theocratic. Or — though this is less likely — if pro-Western reformist movements were to prevail, such governments would like to democratize and secularize the Gulf. Who are our best allies in breaking up the dangerous Iran-Hezbollah-Syria axis? Islamist extremists who want to kill the hated Assad slightly more than they do us — at least for now?

Who can sort out Lebanon? Are Christians and Shiites there sympathetic to the tottering Assad dictatorship for protecting religious minorities and, in the case of the Shiites, helping to arm Hezbollah? Or do non-Sunnis also favor reform movements that seek the ouster of a despised police state, one that has a long history of killing Lebanese? Does a grateful Iraq feel that Syria has been more sympathetic to its Shiite government than its Sunni neighbors have been, or is it experiencing schadenfreude that its terrorists are now doing to Syria what Syria's used to do to Iraq?

Will new Arab Islamist governments seek solidarity with the anti-Western Persian theocracy, or will they fall back into their religious and ethnic fears of Iranian Shiites? No one has ever quite fathomed whether Shiite and Sunni extremists hate Westerners more or less than they do each other. Does the supposed Arab Street desire to be free, especially in the age of globalized instant communications, and given its general repugnance for the sheer corruption of the moribund Arab dictatorships? Or will the Muslim Brotherhood simply tap that popular anger to abort the delivery of constitutional government — whether overtly, as in the case of the Iranian revolution and the one-vote-once Hamas takeover of Gaza; or more insidiously, as in the current Turkish government's war against freedom of the press and independent opposition movements, or in the Karzai-Maliki paradigm of constitutional kleptocracy?

Amid this chaos there are a handful of constants that can guide U.S. foreign policy.

1. Arab governments, whether they take the form of one-man authoritarianism, monarchy, or theocracy, will remain anti-Israel. That is not to say that particular factions from time to time will not stealthily strengthen ties with Israel in order to punish shared enemies, but by and large the Arab Middle East will still detest Israel. The region's unrepentant embrace of anti-Semitism, resentment over the economic power and success of Israel, and longstanding anger at the establishment of a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab Middle East trump all ephemeral changes in government. To the extent that a new Arab regime is elected by popular vote, and to the extent that it retains the loyalty of its people, anti-Israeli feeling will only escalate. Power to the people in the Middle East means more power to hate Israel.

2. The Arab Middle East will remain anti-American. We already see that Barack Hussein Obama had little, if any, success in winning over hearts and minds of the Arab Street after the exit of the Texas evangelical and Iraq-invading George Bush. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was greeted with crude chants of "Monica" from demonstrators among our supposedly secular, reformist allies in aid-receiving "friendly" Egypt. The new government in Cairo apparently wishes the release of the mass-murdering blind sheikh, who helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and who dreams of Jerusalem as the Arab capital of a West Bank state. It took the overthrow of the odious Moammar Qaddafi to ensure that a British Commonwealth cemetery from the Second World War would at last be desecrated — in Timbuktu/Bamiyan style. All we know of Syria with any surety is that... more here


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Posted by eblanch from Clarksburg, NJ on
Once again, Victor Davis Hanson eloquently expresses the issues that the United States is currently facing and will have to confront in the future. In doing so, he reminds us that even though a purposefully incompetent executive branch is at the helm of this nation, opportunities still exist for those among us dedicated to the pursuit of undoing the harm caused by this administration, both at home and abroad. Hanson further reminds us that it will take more than fanciful rhetoric to ensure that America and its allies will remain free from the tyrannical burdens that plague other parts of the world. Perhaps the November elections, and beyond, will bring forth a renewal of American fortitude and support for this nations true allies.