Shadi Hamid writes:
While President Obama’s domestic position has been strengthened considerably by the passage of health-care reform, there is nothing – yet – to suggest global support for American foreign policy will follow suit. Outside the US, there is a sense of “Bush nostalgia,” including in a rather unlikely place – the Middle East.
This is particularly the case for Arab reformers who, while disliking the Bush administration in almost every way, were fully aware that Bush’s “freedom agenda” helped usher in a promising moment for Arab reform.
On the Obama administration’s relative lack of pressure, Esam al-Erian, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader, sounded almost wistful of political openings that came about under Bush: “[Now President Mubarak] can do whatever he wants internally…. It feels like we’ve gone backward a little bit,” he said.
Indeed, the excitement Arabs felt after Mr. Obama’s historic Cairo speech became the backdrop for the mounting disappointment of the last nine months. Instead of making a clean break with past US policies, the current administration has reverted to the neorealism of President Clinton and the first President Bush, with its emphasis on competence and pragmatism.
Now as then, US policy continues to be anchored by a cynical bargain with Arab autocrats: If they faithfully support US regional objectives, the US turns a blind eye to their suppression of domestic dissent. It’s business as usual.