Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Republicans fail to make sense of Arab unrest
I was listening to former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton earlier today who was criticising President Obamas speech at the UN General Assembly. He was particularly unimpressed with Obamas statement that the "US does not wish to dictate the outcome of the unrest in Arab countries". Bolton took this to mean that the Obama administration would not intervene during unrest to keep a friendly dictator in power as was common practise during the Cold War. That got me thinking, why is it that Obama has a comfortable lead over Romney in all the poles when it comes to Foreign Policy. Has his Foreign Policy been that good? The answer is no but the solution does lie in the Arab World. The events of the last two years have been absolutely earth shattering. Dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have all been sent packing and Assad in Syria has no doubt started to pack his bags. During the 2008 election who could have possibly imagined that within two years America would be at war with Libya and that the most established dictatorial dynasties of the Middle East would be crumbling. It is the most monumental geopolitical realignment in decades. And here in lies the problem for the Republicans, I have absolutely no idea what Conservative America want to see come from the unrest in the Arab world. I do not know if they think it is a good or a bad thing. I have never heard any Conservative American politician, academic or pundit articulate what they want to see happen or what they think US policy should currently be toward the Arab unrest of the last two years. The truth is, they are absolutely all over the place on the Arab Spring. But I understand their difficulty. During the Bush era many republicans argued that the US needed to bring democracy to the Arab World, by force if necessary. Now some of them, notably John Bolton, who was a strong supporter of this neoconservative thinking is arguing for covert US intervention to keep dictators in power. The unrest we have seen is genuine, possibly not always noble but it certainly is authentic examples of the people rising up against oppression. The problem for people like John Bolton is that we have seen massive uprisings against both pro and anti western dictators. Does he really think that US policy should be to intervene covertly or otherwise to keep a friendly dictator in power while simultaneously intervening covertly of otherwise to overthrow other unfriendly regimes. Many on the right in the US are on record as saying that the US should have propped Mubarak up, others have even said that they should have kept Qadaffi in power. Personally I think conservative analysts of US foreign policy need to reconcile themselves with the reality that there is no such thing anymore as the stable dictator. It is a paradox. I believe in what Churchill said. "Dictators are riding on the backs of tigers", (ie their people) and once they are forced to get off they will be ripped apart. This turned out to be true quite literally in the case of Qadaffi. It is an imperfect situation where America cannot play God no matter how much it might like to. It is Israel I feel sorry for in this situation because it means they are riding an uncertain wave of destiny, and we all know that the Jewish State is all about being masters of their destiny, not victims of it. My advice to them would be to stay alert over the next few years, very very alert. No doubt some Jihadi group will at some stage in the near future try to make this all about Israel by launching an all out attack. And as for the Republicans, if they fail to retake the White House in November, their inability to come up with a coherent stance on Arab unrest will be a factor in their defeat.