Skip to comments.Insight into Obama's Middle East Policy?
Posted on 12/26/2008 1:56:45 PM PST by rmlew
Two events earlier this month summed up differing views of George W. Bush's Middle East record.
In one, Bush himself offered a valedictory speech, declaring that "the Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful, and more promising place than it was in 2001." In the other, an Iraqi journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, expressed disrespect and rejection by hurling shoes at Bush as the U.S. president spoke in Baghdad, yelling at him, "This is a farewell kiss! Dog! Dog!"
Ironically, Zaidi's very impudence confirmed Bush's point about greater freedom; would he have dared to throw shoes at Saddam Hussein?
While I like and think well of Bush, I have criticized his response to radical Islam since 2001, his Arab-Israeli policy since 2002, his Iraq policy since 2003, and his democracy policy since 2005. In both 2007 and 2008, I critiqued the shortcomings of his overall Middle East efforts.
Today, I take issue with his claim that the Middle East is more hopeful and more promising than in 2001. Count some of the ways things have degenerated:
Unsurprisingly, Bush's critics excoriate his Middle East record. Fine, but now that they are almost in the driver's seat; exactly how do they intend to fix America's Middle East policy?
"Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President" offers defeatist policy recommendations.
One preview is on display in Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President, a major study issued jointly by two liberal lions, the Brookings Institution (founded 1916) and the Council on Foreign Relations (founded 1921). The culmination of an 18-month effort, Restoring the Balance involved 15 scholars, 2 co-editors (Richard Haass and Martin Indyk), a retreat at a Rockefeller conference center, multiple fact-finding trips, and a small army of organizers and managers.
This reader is struck by two major deficiencies. First, while the book covers six topics (the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran, Iraq, counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, and political and economic development), its specialists have almost nothing to say about Islamism, the most pressing ideological challenge of our time, nor about the Iranian nuclear buildup, the most urgent military danger of our time. They also manage to bypass such issues as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Arab rejectionism of Israel, the Russian danger, and the transfer of wealth to energy-exporting states.
Second, the study offers defeatist policy recommendations. "Bring Hamas into the fold" advise Steven A. Cook and Shibley Telhami, arguing that the terrorist organization be included in a "Palestinian unity government" and be urged to accept the ill-fated Abdullah Plan of 2002. It is hard to imagine a single more counterproductive policy in the Arab-Israeli theater.
On the topic of Iran, Suzanne Maloney and Ray Takeyh dismiss both a U.S. strike against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and the policy of containment. Instead, in a far-fetched "paradigm change," they urge engagement with Tehran, the acknowledgment of "certain unpalatable realities" (such as growing Iranian power), and crafting "a framework for the regulation" of Iranian influence.
As these examples suggest, a spirit of weakness and appeasement permeates Restoring the Balance. What happened to the promised robust promotion of American interests?
If one hopes the Obama administration will ignore such despairing pablum, one also fears that the Brookings-CFR mindset will dominate the next years. Should that be the case, Bush's record, however inadequate it looks today, would shine in comparison to his successor's.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
O’s policy? Israel bad Pali’s good...
Bush says many of the right things. Worse as president, he was helped by the deferential nature of conservatives, which allowed him to dumb-down/redefine conservatism to the left.
Prior to our intervention into Afghanistan and Iraq, moderate Muslims across the middle east were not taking the fight to the radical elements fomenting terrorism. They are now, thanks to our lead. They are fighting and dying in greater numbers than our soldiers and those of our allies. The middle east is seeing the light of freedom that it has never before and GW was correct when saying this was going to be along fight that would continue long after he has gone. He has said that since day one.
BDS distrastactors are short sighted and ignorant when it comes to the WOT and the global fight against radical Islam.
Pipes was. He is in the old and completely ineffective rut in the ME.
W ended the old game and began a Gulf centric game that marginalized all the old hands. The Gulf is prospering and will include Iraq befroe too long.
The west bank is a different place than a short while ago. There is a new security force trained by a US General, in Jordan, that will change the rules in Palestine. There were recent announcements of major investment in Bethlehem to strengthhen the tourist business and produce hard currency income.
The progress is under the cover, not flashy , but real.
Please explain why you know the Middle East better than Pipes and what that he said was wrong.
Appearing to favor one party over another is a classical failing of binary relation that is disastrous when applied to any postmodern text. Since the various interests from Africa to India seem to be adept at deconstructing diplomatic foreys, the best solution might be to bone up on de Man, Adorno, and Derrida’s techniques and let fly with totalized iterations.
Not sure the ME is any better off but Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are. For all his faults Bush deserves major kudos for progress made in these three difficult countries.
How has the doctrine of preemption been discredited?
Why is he against Bush's democracy policy?
Since when is Turkey the most anti-american country in the world?
More have turned against Israel? Like whom? (By the way, have you noticed the lack of suicide bombings in Israel as of late?)
You don't have to call W a saint but you and the BDSers could give him just a little credit for saving the world every now and then.