Thursday, May 19, 2011

Arab democratization: Obama adopts another Bush policy 

As a well-documented supporter of most of George W. Bush's foreign policy choices, it is hard not to enjoy President Obama's adoption in practice, if not in rhetoric, of virtually every major foreign policy plank of his predecessor. Or, to be more careful, it is hard not to enjoy the substance of Obama's actions, which are far more in accord with my preferences than I expected them to be. The fact that he lied about his intentions is annoying, although that might also have been largely in the best interests of the country. Candor, a hallmark of the Bush administration, is not all it is cracked up to be in foreign affairs. Most people do not pay enough attention to know they are being deceived, and another bunch want to be deceived. If they are less hostile to the United States purely because our president says one thing and does quite another, perhaps that is not so bad.

Anyway, here's another reversal in policy that was, in my opinion, too long in coming. (See, e.g., my post on the democratization strategy from almost six years ago, which holds up well in some respects and less well in others.)

MORE: Heh: "They told me if I voted for McCain we’d be getting a reluctant clone of Bush’s policies. And they were right!"

Plus this:

President Obama has deep-sixed the ‘realism’ that marked the first two years of his approach to the Middle East. He has returned to the foreign policy of George W. Bush.

The United States is no longer, the President told us in words he could have borrowed from his predecessor, a status quo power in the Middle East. The realist course of cooperating with oppressive regimes in a quest for international calm is a dead end. It breeds toxic resentment against the United States; it stores up fuel for an inevitable conflagration when the oppressors weaken; it stokes anti-Israel resentment when hatred of Israel becomes the only form of political activism open to ordinary people; it strengthens the hold of extremist religion and strangles the growth of liberal forces.

More, he attacked Iran. All that talk about avoiding polarization with Iran is gone. Instead, President Obama singled out Iran as an oppressive, tyrannical regime supporting terror and running an “illicit nuclear program” as well.

He also followed Bush in attacking some US allies, calling on Bahrain and Yemen to make changes. It was a speech that enraged almost every powerful actor in the Middle East and put America out on a limb. Like Bush, Obama is willing to confront some of America’s closest allies (the Saudis, who back the crackdown in Bahrain). Like Bush, he hailed Iraq as an example of democracy and pluralism that can play a vital role in the transformation of the region. Like Bush, he proposes to work with opposition groups in friendly countries.

Of course, all the people who, oh, three years ago, were "embarrassed" by the "worst president ever" no longer cluck their disapproval. Probably because Obama "did this."


By Blogger Donald Douglas, at Thu May 19, 02:11:00 PM:

'As a well-documented supporter of most of George W. Bush's foreign policy choices ...'

Make that two of us, and yeah, Obama's a big liar. Don't think that's so great, considering everything else in this administration ...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 19, 06:32:00 PM:

I wouonder then why Romney and the rest of the Rs are so pi*sed at Obama claiming that O dissed threw Israel and threw it under the bus ?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 19, 06:39:00 PM:

Just as Bush changed his policies on nation building post 9/11, Obama is adjsuting his policies in the Middle East following the Spring awakeninging.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu May 19, 09:29:00 PM:

That's way too charitable, Anonymous 6:39. I had the 'pleasure' of doing some work for senior administration people on some stuff in the Middle East at one time a few years ago. They know fuck-all about it, and by fuck-all, I mean whatever their radical professors told them in the 1960s and 70s. They ignore reports they dislike, and focus like a hawk on the ones that, when viewed int he right light, reinforce their prejudices. Yeah, typical, I know.

An example of their cluelessness, calling the Muslim Brotherhood 'secular.' Remember that? That is grossly, spectacularly untrue, that no one competently familiar with the Middle East could ever seriously believe.

Or playing tougher with Israel than the Palestinians were, thereby sabotaging Abbas's negotiating position so badly he complained about it publicly?

Or selling out the Iranian uprisings in return for 'secret talks' where Iran really was going to give up their nuclear program, pinky swear?

Remember when the King of Saudi Arabia literally screamed at him and scuttled a talk because of his bizarre focus on Israeli policies as the 'key to peace' in the region, when everyone with a brain sees proto-hegemonic Iran and its proxies as the root problem?

They're not reacting to new circumstances. They hardly understand the new circumstances, as evidenced by their Pollyanish expectations of 'democracy' in Egypt. They're flailing in the dark, and belatedly realizing that maybe those people who were there before them and spent nearly a decade dealing with the Middle East on a daily basis might have known more than they do.  

By Blogger TOF, at Thu May 19, 10:57:00 PM:

Returning to the pre-1967 borders for Israel would be suicide. They took and continue to hold the areas they do because their survival was at stake.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri May 20, 10:09:00 AM:

My comment was eaten again...  

By Anonymous Old Fan, at Fri May 20, 10:52:00 AM:

So well said Tigerhawk.

But the fraud never lends itself to a positive. The 1990's were a prime example of how lies only enabled the worst in terms of foreign policy and national defense.

To see Obama and the Democrats still demean the Bush Administration, suggest they have turned all around while the prior failed, while they have been forced to actually embrace the Bush Policies is utterly insulting to all.

Obama and the Democrats are clueless. The biggest is their missing the push for freedom and democracy - especially in Iran and Syria. They may play lip service to sound 'democracy' concepts now, but when they needed to be serious they were still mired in "the USA is bad - we cannot meddle" folly.

The Obama Team, Mrs. Clinton especially, will go down as the worst. Mrs. Clinton was revealed to be obsessed with Israel building on it's own land, and now Obama insanely calls for a return to 1967 borders. With allies like this, who needs enemies?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat May 21, 09:40:00 AM:

Old Fan writes: "and now Obama insanely calls for a return to 1967 borders"

Pfffttt. Bush endorsed a two state solution with negotiations based on pre-1967 borders when he was POTUS:

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines [pre-1967 lines] must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work.

All the people claiming Obama is "throwing Israel under the bus" are the same ones who embraced--or at least remained silent--when GWB called for the same.

Oh, and BTW Tigerhawk, President Clinton brokered an agreement in Sharm el Sheikh calling for the return to pre-1967 borders in 1999 so I'd be cautious about about claims that Obama is channeling GWB.  

By Blogger PD Quig, at Sat May 21, 10:47:00 AM:

"Of course, all the people who, oh, three years ago, were "embarrassed" by the "worst president ever" no longer cluck their disapproval."

Because they voted for the new holder of that title. This president's instincts are unfailingly flat-assed wrong. From time to time he manages to do the right thing--as an unintended consequence or for the wrong reasons. He is like a poker player who loses to a bluff while holding four aces. He doesn't get the game and has a bunch of speechwriters and advisors whose inner ideologue cannot be reined in.

If I didn't care about the country, it would make for interesting viewing.  

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