Posts Tagged Arab Street
Mark Salter, who used to write for Sen. John McCain, is advocating that President Obama get tough on Syria.
Bill O’Reilly advocates a strike on Syria even though two of his guests, both retired military officers disagree.
The point being made is that if President Obama does nothing, then the “Red Line” of chemical weapons use that was drawn a year ago will mean nothing. President Obama and the US will lose respect around the world.
Okay, that is a valid point. But what credibility does the US have in the Middle East right now anyway?
We abandoned Egypt’s President Mubarak after decades of mutual support. Mubarak was a dictator for sure, but he was co-operating with US interests. We abandoned him to the famed “Arab Street” in the Arab Spring.
It led to the Muslim Brotherhood being elected to power, and now overthrown by the self same Egyptian military we supported with training, weapons and financial aid for years. Only now they don’t trust us. (Proof of who is behind the military crackdown in Egypt is the fact that Mubarak was released from prison – these are the folks who propped up Mubarak for decades.)
A side note – the military crackdown in Egypt included invading a Mosque to capture a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood. This is precisely that type of action that the US military was forbidden in Iraq or Afghanistan for fear of arousing the “Arab Street.” What result in Egypt? The “Arab Street” has quieted down. US diplomats have been more afraid of the “Arab Street” than the Arab leaders.
The Saudi Arabians are now backing the military in Egypt – which puts us at odds with the single Arab county with real clout that has been quietly been backing our policies for the past twenty years.
We bombed Libya to achieve regime change – even though Dictator Kaddafi had given up his WMD programs and started giving us intelligence in the war on terror. What did that get us? It got us Libya as a no-man’s land and a dead US Ambassador in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, Russia has stayed faithful to Assad. Yes, they are backing an unsavory character, but they are showing themselves to be a faithful ally. Plus, they have the reason of having a port in Syria – a legitimate strategic interest. If I were a Middle-Eastern leader, I would place more stock in Russia as an ally, than the US.
This, along with the Snowden affair, has put a damper on US-Russian relations. It is really a shame. Right now, the Middle East tensions are shooting up the price of oil – the whole reason the entire world cares about the region.
With the recent advancements in Shale Oil production and discoveries in the United States and elsewhere (along with the political will to create infrastructure such as the Keystone pipeline and ports that can support large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tankers) the US can become a large exporter of energy.
With Russia and the US cooperating – as large energy exporters – they can make the Middle Eastern oil states much less important. Together, Russia and the US cooperating on energy strategy can also hold the ambitious Chinese in check. But those considerations seem not to be considered by the media and Washington.
Humanitarian concerns are important. But this is a civil war. There are bad people on both sides (Al Qaeda partisans are a large part of the Assad opposition.) As crass as it seems, aren’t we better off with them focusing their violence on each other instead of us or Israel?
If we just launch a few cruise missiles (at the cost of several million dollars and possible civilian casualties) and Assad survives, then what was the point? If we go all in to remove Assad’s regime we risk igniting the region. A third war in the Middle East in twelve years. And all we have to gain is the respect of President Francois Hollande of France?
It does not seem worth it.
The situation in Egypt is very fluid. No one knows what the outcome will be. Yet there are things that we do know now…
1) Wikileaks mattered: despite the efforts of some pundits to downplay the impact of the leaked diplomatic cables, it helped lead to the fall of Tunisia’s government. Perhaps soon Egypt, and then next….who knows? Julian Assange changed the world –for better or for worse we may not know for years.
2) The Arab Street cares more about the price of cooking fuel than American interventions. While the invasion of Iraq was supposed to blow up the Arab Street it did not. Rising prices, unemployment and unresponsive governments are the root causes sited by the protestors on the street. Sounds like the Arab Street has more in common with Greek protestors than with Al Qaeda or radical clerics.
3) Arab nations do yearn for Democracy. In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, some very clever pundits opined that the Arab and/or Muslim world did really want democracy, as an argument against President George W. Bush’s policies. Score one for Bush, Pundits zero.
4) This CAN be like Iran in 1979. The lesson from previous revolutions is that it is often an authoritarian counter-revolution that takes control. Examples: French revolution (the world does not need an Arab/Egyptian Napoleon), Russian Revolution, Iranian Revolution. Mubarak may not be good news, but the alternative could be worse.
Then there are the things we don’t know:
What about the price of oil if the protests spread to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states? What would that do to the fragile world economic recovery?
Will Hamas take advantage of the now unguarded Egypt/Gaza border to bring in weapons and terrorists to renew hostilities with Israel?
President Obama has taken the Sun Tzu approach of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer. Poland and the Czech Republic got this treatment for missile defense versus US accommodation with Russia. Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan is getting similar treatment. Obama even did this domestically when he placed Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet and praised John Boehner during the State of the Union speech.
If Mubarak does not survive in Egypt will the world note that it is better to be America’s enemy than America’s friend at this time? A dangerous lesson when there is a cash rich China willing to make new friendships in the Middle East – especially oil rich countries.
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