devoid of substance, empty on specifics, zip plan of action/commitment.
45 min of free press for campaign purposes, IMHO
It’s another day, and yet another Obama speech. The campaign season has kicked off, and a POTUS, laboring under the ineffectiveness of his own economic policies, and a sketchy history of foreign policy calls, is planning on mustering his full orative skills to redefine history and paint a rosy face on what many call the “Arab spring”.
As is central to just about every POTUS in recent history, Israeli-Palestine lies in the forefront. But despite Netanyahu’s willingness to resume talks just months after Obama’s inaugural, 2009 brought not even a blip of success. That same year proved Obama’s hope that Iran would be receptive also fell flat on it’s face. Come fall of 2010…. Netanyahu and Abbas show up at the WH. Despite Obama warnings that, paraphrased (and with apologies to Seals & Croft), “we may never pass this way again”, the negotiations yield nothing. Come campaign season, and this POTUS at least needs to look like an effort has been made… especially after all the posturing about those “democratic uprisings”.
The reality is that the words and events are merely a sideshow, and the peace process is more unlikely to go any where than at any time in our recent past. What both nations envision as a “two-state” solution are worlds apart. Steven Walk at the Foreign Policy Magazine seems to believe this is because Obama refuses to put pressure on Israel, and only focuses on twisting Abbas’ arm. This seems a naive observation, considering this admin’s constant cold shoulder to the US’s greatest ally in the Middle East, and their policy that demands Israel cease all settlement activity.
But if Obama happened to be perusing the Foreign Policy article, it seems that he might have been listening and intends to further play hardball with Israel in his comments later today. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Obama intends to tell Israel to withdraw to pre 1967 boundaries, and renegotiate new territorial adjustments with the Palestinian National Authority.
On the other hand, the NY Times says Obama is undecided on his position for Israel.
Officials said Mr. Obama was weighing whether to formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state — a move that would be less a policy shift than a signal by the United States that it expected Israel to make concessions in pursuit of an agreement.
But several officials said the president did not plan to present an American blueprint for breaking the stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians. In the absence of that, experts said, there is little he can do to draw the two sides closer, especially since the Arab upheaval has deepened the rift between them.
Mr. Obama has been grappling for a more coherent response to the violent crackdowns in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen and may use the opportunity to increase the pressure on Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said stiffer sanctions against the Assad government could be imposed in the coming days.
Right….. like Israeli withdrawal is going to happen. Maybe Obama was happily ensconced in junior IL Senator dreams in 2000, but Bebe is astutely aware that the Israel offer to redefine borders went no where in the Camp David talks between 2000 Arafat and Israel PM Barak. New day, new leaders, same attitudes.
In fact, as the NYT’s notes above, this pipedream for peace is even more unlikely with each ME chaotic uprising. One by one, the nations surrounding Israel are undergoing change. And as a Spiegel article today notes, that supposed move to democracy is not only not happening, but is either stalled, or in the process of a failed revolution.
Revolutions Can Fail
It becomes even more difficult when many ordinary citizens turn against the revolution, as has been the case in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as Yemen and Oman. As it turns out, it isn’t just the elites most closely associated with autocratic leaders who fear for their benefits, privileges and positions. These fears are also shared by the thousands upon thousands involved in the bloated apparatus of political parties and governments. And the lower their position and income, the more desperately they sometimes cling to the traditional system, particularly because ordinary public servants were not able to line their pockets and open Swiss bank accounts.
The Arab revolution has come to a standstill, and all signs point to a restoration of the status quo. The new Arab world has reached a point at which many revolutionaries are worn out and those who are still in power refuse to give up control. Influenced by the images of celebration from Tunis, Benghazi and Cairo, many apparently forgot that revolutions could also fail.
What succeeded in Central and Eastern Europe 20 years ago is not necessarily destined to repeat itself in the Middle East. The Tunisians and Egyptians have undoubtedly made history, but the regimes in the countries to which their revolutionary virus has spread now have no intention of allowing their governments to implode.
The first act in the revolutionary drama in the Arab world ended when Libyan Colonel Gadhafi refused to go into exile, like Tunisia’s former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, or to retire, like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, instead ordering his thugs to shoot at his own people. Gadhafi’s stubbornness has emboldened many autocrats. If the Libyan dictator had followed in former Tunisian President Ben Ali’s footsteps and stepped down, there would be no tanks in the streets or people being herded into football stadiums in Syria.
Even Egypt’s revolutionary hero, Mohamed ElBaradei, notes that the nation’s situation is going from bad to worse.
The situation in Cairo is currently changing “from bad to even worse,” warns the Egyptian Nobel laureate and possible presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei. “I’m more concerned about the Salafists than the Muslim Brotherhood.” It was Salafists, members of a fundamentalist movement that invokes what it calls the original Islam, who assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. They dream of the Middle Ages, demand the reintroduction of a special tax for non-Muslims not assessed since the 7th century, and prayed — in a mosque next to the Coptic cathedral in Cairo — for the soul of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after he was killed.
Islamists were also present during the large demonstrations on Tahrir Square at the beginning of the year. At the time, the protestors, who relied heavily on Facebook to spread their message, managed to maintain the secular character of their revolution. But it remains to be seen how secular the Arab Republic of Egypt will be after the parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The Turkish Islamists had decades to prepare for democratic processes. Their Egyptian counterparts have seven months.
Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood announced their election coalition with those same Salafists at the beginning of this month, elBaradei may be a bit short sighted in is complacence about the MB.
Syria has proven to be yet another of Obama’s serious misjudgments. Instead of the “pragmatist and potential reformer who could buck Iranian influence and help broker an eventual Arab peace deal with Israel” Obama believed Assad to be, it’s likely it will just be some harsh lip service and empty threats for the Syrian leader. Considering that the US raced to NATO, and decided to engage in military intervention with Gaddafi – who has not come anywhere close to the “crackdown” Assad has used on his people – this is going to be a hard disconnect of uneven policy to explain away…. save to the deaf, dumb and blind.
Much as Obama would love to ignore that part of the world, he is going to have to figure out a way to spin failed uprisings against many who were US quasi allies in intelligence, and inaction on those who are overt enemies. While he’ll be happy to use the UBL death as an “exit plan” for Afghanistan, we’re now entrenched in a war with Gaddafi, making threats against Assad, busy invading Pakistan’s sovereignty, and making sure we don’t meet eye to eye with Iran. Nor does it help that the most recent Pew polls show his approval rating has plummeted in both Pakistan and Egypt.
So what’s Obama’s answer to straighten this mess out? Send John “Mr. Ketchup” Kerry to Pakistan and threaten to withhold funds while he tosses money to Egypt and Tunisa instead. That would be, of course, the same Egypt where the MB and Salafists are busy planning their election coalition in a state that’s still under military rule, and kicked out the guy who kept peace with Israel. And Tunisia? That would be the country where Gaddafi shipped his wife and kid for safe keeping. In the unlikely event that Gaddafi did fail to hold power, is there any doubt he would follow? And would we then be funding another country supposedly harboring a despot?
Does this get any more confusing? Chaos may be a great description for the fragility of the Middle East countries at this moment, but it’s also a fitting description for this WH’s foreign policy. Friends get the cold shoulder, invaded, or allied leaders are pressured to back down. Mean while enemies either get cash, military assistance, or a blind eye.
To spin this inconsistent and chaotic policy into any kind of accomplishment is going to take arachnoid qualities of gargantuan proportions. And only the most naive of political prey will be fool enough to stumble into such a woven web of embellishment.