Obama’s tall order: a democratic Mideast that shares U.S. priorities

Tony Karon writes:

President Obama has reportedly told White House aides that he wants a “new Middle East policy” — one that urges beleaguered allies threatened by popular rebellions to “enact reforms that would satisfy the popular craving for change while preserving valuable partnerships on crucial U.S. interests, from soil security to counter-terrorism and containing Iran.”

But there’s not much “new” there, to be frank: The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has consistently urged Arab allies to make reforms, while prioritizing U.S. regional concerns such as oil, counterterrorism, confronting Iran and protecting Israel. What is new, of course, is the fear that Washington’s influence in the Middle East, which had already been waning steadily in recent years, is tied almost exclusively to regimes that are looking a lot more like relics of the past than stewards of the future.
And there may be no easy way for the U.S. to switch horses carrying its baggage of priorities, or even to shape any emerging democratic order to meet its own strategic requirements. Indeed, the reason Washington is so wedded to autocratic regimes of dwindling legitimacy and authority in the Arab world is the fact that not all U.S. priorities are shared by the Arab public.

No country pumping oil is going to resist the urge to sell it on world markets, so a regime change won’t likely endanger energy supplies. And countries that face a problem of extremist terrorism directed at their own populations will likely cooperate on that front – while the logic of deterrence and consequences can persuade others to prevent their territory being used to stage terror attacks on third countries.

But the idea that the newly empowered Arab public is going to produce governments that will march in lockstep with the U.S. on issues such as Iran and Israel is simply fanciful.

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2 thoughts on “Obama’s tall order: a democratic Mideast that shares U.S. priorities

  1. Norman

    It’s too bad that “O” didn’t stick to his promises and do what he said he would when he ran for P.O.T.U.S. Instead he’s flip-flopped on most everything. It would be too easy to say “O” is over his head, though it certainly looks that way. A novice playing the role in office. The clout just isn’t there anymore. When the protesters get gassed by made in American tear gas, shot at from American made war equipment, that doesn’t sound like the U.S. can be trusted. A full out civil war in the M.E. is something neither the U.S. nor the E.U. are ready for, or would they want to. Don’t know how much time the U.S. has, but what ever solution they come up with, it better be good, one that can be implemented easily and across the spectrum.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    The people of the Middle East became enslaved by their leaders BECAUSE of the accommodations to American interests — so it is ridiculous to imagine the final forms of their new attempts for freedom will be shaped to satisfy America’s unchanged interests. In fact, their revolutions will have failed if they do.

    If the US wants to be friends with the new governments it had better learn to compromise and accommodate itself to the requirements of the people who live there.
    Pax Americana is as dead as Pax Romana.

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