Looking West to America: Middle-Eastern Voices


So low have we sunk that commentary in al-Arabiya strikes home:

One can say many things about George W. Bush’s years in office, positive and negative, but he never sinned through ambiguity. A year into Obama’s term, however, ambiguity and disorientation are presidential trademarks in the Middle East.

Does the administration stand for democracy, for example, or more broadly has it made human rights principles a centerpiece of its policy? Not really. During his campaign Obama consciously played down that trope by accepting that he would talk to the region’s rogues without condition. He tried with the Iranian regime, which ignored his overtures, and when the Green Movement took to the streets last summer, the president for a time studiously avoided encouraging the demonstrators. In his Cairo speech, Obama only paid lip service to democracy and human rights, showing that they were really not what preoccupied him.
Now Washington has sent an ambassador back to Damascus – without conditions…

Syrian involvement in the myriad bomb attacks in Iraq, its support for Iraqi Baathists, and its permissiveness toward al-Qaeda in Iraq have not made the administration reconsider its Syrian opening. Violence works, and Obama has not proven otherwise.
In that case, can we say that the administration stands for stability and balance in the Middle East? …

The Syrians have made it amply clear that they will not turn against Iran, nor do they see any advantages in doing so, and Damascus’ propensity for exporting conflict to Iraq, the Palestinian areas, and Lebanon, hardly enhances stability….

The reality is that the Obama administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies and even less fear in its adversaries. The U.S. remains the dominant actor in the Middle East, but to what end? If Obama’s ultimate goal is to be different than George W. Bush, he hasn’t even managed that. As setback follows setback, he is increasingly finding himself constrained by the same dynamics that Bush faced. But at least Bush knew what he was supposed to be about. Obama just seems lost.
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And this one:

Does the idea of getting involved in the fight against Al Qaeda, despite its dangers, bring with it the key to Ali Baba’s cave and the treasures within? Why did the idea come about to show generosity and support to states that threaten regional and international security just as the case is with Pakistan and Afghanistan?
Why didn’t anyone embark upon helping Yemen when it was stable and in desperate need of this kind of support? Jordan, which is an example of a country in need of this support, succeeded at containing Al Qaeda and fighting terrorism, and is committed to the rules of development and political reform, yet it receives less than a fifth of what was promised to Yemen recently. Does Bin Laden first need to set up a branch in Amman so that the Jordanians can call for a meeting of donor countries and provide for half of its population made up of refugees? The same goes for Tunisia and every country that is in dire need of aid but did not neglect its development or security [issues], which was the case in Yemen.

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