U.S. actions in Middle East inconsistent


With a longtime dictator gone from Egypt, another headed in the same direction in Libya and mass protests in Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria, among others, it’s about time to figure out what exactly U.S. policy is when it comes to domestic uprisings in the Middle East.

So far, our foreign policy has been nothing short of pure realpolitik — politics that focus on practical factors rather than ethical or ideological ones.

The Obama administration should abandon its overly pragmatic approach to foreign policy and start responding as a leader of the free world.

Recently, we have been waiting until the last moment to take a definitive position. Only once it was clear the protests in Egypt could not be quelled did the United States call for a peaceful transition, and only once it was clear the protesters would accept nothing short of former President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation did the United States finally turn its back on him.

The government’s stance on the protests in the Middle East has also been inconsistent.

For example, as the protests in Tahrir grew stronger,  the Obama administration exerted increased pressure on Mubarak to answer to his citizens.

But when similar protests gathered steam in Iran shortly thereafter, the Obama administration issued an underwhelming condemnation, despite the fact that the brutality with which the Iranian security forces operated made their Egyptian counterparts look like a group of unwieldy boy scouts.

So why has United States’ response varied so widely? Again, realpolitik. Mubarak was bound to fall, so although he had been a committed ally of the United States for 30 years, we jumped on the bandwagon with the protesters.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, appeared poised to crush the Iranian protesters at any cost, and yet, although his regime is nothing short of state-sponsored terror diametrically opposed to nearly every U.S. interest in the region, we held back our criticism.

Likewise, everything thus far indicates that Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi would rather murder thousands of his own people than give up power, but, given Libya’s position as a key player in the oil market, the United States has stayed relatively mum.

This is pragmatism and realpolitik at its best. It is not, however, policy. This discrepancy sheds light on a larger issue, one that fundamentally affects how we view the Middle East. The reason why we have no set policy is because we never expected this.

Conventional wisdom has always assumed the transition to democracy in the Arab world would occur through gradual concessions and persistent international support. For example, Lebanon was formerly on the path to democratization after years of support from the United States and international community, which helped build civil society and the institutions necessary for democracy.

The idea that the citizens themselves, with little or no support, could overthrow a dictator and establish something other than another repressive regime was unfathomable.

U.S. policy with respect to the turmoil in the Middle East is essentially straight-jacketed, caught between what we espouse as our highest values, in freedom and democracy,  on one side and the need to stand by our regional allies and assure our national interests on the other.

Justin Davidoff is a sophomore majoring in business administration.

  • Arafat

    Here are some reasons Islam and democracy are incompatible.
    • Inimical to ‘social freedoms’, demanding that all people obey their 7th century moral codes without question or criticism, under penalty of death.
    • Inimical to ‘man made’ laws, claiming that their laws are given to them by God/Allah and all must obey them, in submission, under penalty of death.
    • Inimical to the ‘social contract’ that is democratic constitutional government, for the people and by the people, in pursuit of ‘life, liberty, and happiness’, as these are ‘man made’ ideas, and to submit to them over Allah’s laws is apostasy, punishable by death.
    • Inimical to the ‘rights of individuals’ to pursue their own ideals and beliefs, freedom of worship, freedom of inquiry of truth, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of artistic expression, freedom of loving other human beings, freedom of choice, freedom of pursuing one’s life with reciprocal respect for others regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, or sex, as these are our ‘inalienable’ rights; to pursue these may be punishable by death.
    • Inimical to ‘democratic freedoms’ as protected by (man made) constitutional laws agreed upon by social contract to protect the rights of individuals, but in favor of ‘dictatorship’ politics supported by the Ulama with the ultimate goal of imposing a universal Caliphate dictating all society according to (Allah/Mohammad’s) Sharia, where submissive obedience is rigorously mandatory, under penalty of death.
    • Inimical to intellectual ‘secularism’ in all its forms, in education, in philosophical inquiry and discourse, in the sciences, in religious studies, in history studies, in sociological studies, in anthropological studies, in archeology studies, if these are not in concordance with the ‘religious’ teachings of the Koran, except as studies of ‘infidel’ societies to be subdued, conquered for conversion, to pay the jizyah, or be put to death.
    • Inimical to social ‘equality’ of all human beings, especially of the female sex, women kept in oppression as chattel for procreation and sexual gratification of males; as submissively obedient house slaves in violation of the sanctity of their personal humanity, unfree to seek life as they desire but must live in fear of their male masters who will punish them if they disobey, for violating their ‘honor’, with death.
    What sane rational person would not think these are tyrannical oppressions of the human soul in violation of our individual sanctity as free human beings? Are these the hallmarks of a ‘world religion’ or are they the sad testaments of a ‘world cult’ of an Arabian pagan ideology? Any sane rational person would not hesitate to condemn this ideology inimical to all our modern 21st century civilization, and seriously constrict their ‘religio-cult’ malevolent activities in open society, and clean house. Is that bigotry? In a sane, morally upright world Islam would not be openly tolerated, but its evil, inimical ideology put down. … But I’ve let my imagination run free…

  • Arafat

    Justin,

    I do not mean to be harsh but when will people, like you, realize that democracy and Islam are incompatible?
    *************

    The only way for the people of the Middle East (all of Islam for that matter) to experience true democracy is to free themselves from the shackles of Islam.
    Islam and democracy are incompatible and anyone who says Indonesia is an example they are simply showing just how dire Islamic democracies are.
    Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kirgizstan, etc…
    Name one country from this or any list of Islamic dominated countries where one can freely criticize Islam, convert from Islam, proselytize for any other religion, draw pictures of Mohammed, criticize Saudi Arabia, openly practice homosexuality or Judaism, be a free woman with all this implies.
    So please don’t blame Egypt’s problems on America. I would bet money that if America could foster true democracy in any Muslim country it would, just as it fostered freedoms and democracy in Germany and Japan after WWII.
    Quit blaming their problems on anyone but them and their backwards-looking religion.
    Finally, let me say, Mohammed was Islam’s first political leader. He refused to acknowledge a separation of mosque and state as Jesus did (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…). Mohammed was a theocratic despot who killed, raped, enslaved and pillaged his way to power and wealth.
    This is who Muslims look to for direction, no? Not to America, but to Mohammed and therein lies the tale of the tape.

  • Arafat

    Justin writes, “For example, Lebanon was formerly on the path to democratization after years of support from the United States and international community, which helped build civil society and the institutions necessary for democracy.”

    Well that policy didn’t work that well for now Hezbollah has appointed one of their stooge Islamists as Prime Minister of Lebanon