Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Gap Widens Between US and Arab World

Growing Arab demands for an end to autocratic rule and U.S. regional hegemony have led to calls for a complete reassessment of U.S. policy in the region.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service


Arab public opinion will become increasingly difficult for the United States to favorably influence in light of recent regional unrest, according to experts speaking at a conference organized by the Brookings Institute on Wednesday.

Polling data collected by the panelists from Arab countries as late as November 2009 identified a rising level of dissatisfaction and anger that has been on display in the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Amman and contributed to the downfall of two long-standing dictators.

"This was not about food and jobs," argued Shibley Telhami, a panelist at the event and Anwar Sadat Professor of Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. "This was about dignity."

While the Barack Obama administration sent mixed signals in statements during the early stages of the 18-day long Egyptian protests, which witnessed the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule Friday, the White House quickly adapted to what it described as a "fluid situation".

"One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever," Obama said in his speech reacting to Mubarak's abdication of power. "This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied."

Although the Egyptian demonstrations have been largely devoid of religious undertones, the panelists said that the underlying context for many of their grievances can be explained by factors that are similar in their abstract, intangible nature; a force, real or imagined, that is often associated with social movements in the region.

They argued that the Egyptian public's attitudes on a number of variables including life optimism and national identity have, over the past decade, clearly indicated a deep dissatisfaction with their government's perception of their own self-worth that goes far beyond any measurable factors such as economic growth or unemployment.

The Egyptian economy has witnessed a sustained rise in GDP over the past five years, but even so, it "didn't translate into optimism", argued executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed.

As the U.S. government attempts to make sense of the revolutionary fallout throughout the region, experts at the conference emphasized that any transition of power, which will undoubtedly include elected officials sympathetic to popular sentiments, will not be as willing a diplomatic partner with the United States as before demonstrations began.

The U.S. will find it difficult to shape the suffering that fueled Egypt's demonstrators simply by raising and lowering levels of non-discretionary and military aid or by emphasizing the strategic importance of past diplomatic relations, Mogahed argued.

"The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt," Obama said. "We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary – and asked for – to pursue a credible transition to a democracy."

"The U.S. and our allies must focus our efforts on helping to create the necessary conditions for a transition to take place," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a statement Friday.

Despite any good intentions, the panelists argued, it is in the U.S.'s interests to remain on the sidelines. "The more this becomes about America, the worse it becomes," Telhami warned. "We're not in a position to engineer an outcome."

He pointed to the Iranian presidential elections in 2009 as an example of how framing the narrative of the region's pro- democracy movements in a fashion that emphasizes the United States' involvement or perspective has the likely effect of undermining the viability of genuine reform.

Both Mogahed and Telhami agreed that attempts to include the United States in any descriptive narrative of the forces behind inspiring citizens to demand reforms, or enabling government preemption of those reforms, will be inconsequential if not antithetical to the favorability of the United States in the consciousness of Arab public opinion.

"We have said from the beginning, that future of Egypt will be determined by Egyptian people," said Vice President Joseph Biden at a lecture at the University of Louisville Friday.

However, at a conference held Thursday on Capitol Hill, Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, argued that U.S. weight in the region could not be discounted.

"Everyone in Egypt believes we have influence," he said, adding that statements by the Obama administration "play[ed] into the psychology" of this belief.

The looming uncertainty of the extent of reformists' aspirations and their growing sense of independence from autocratic rule and U.S. regional hegemony has induced many to call for a complete reassessment of U.S. policy in the region.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share