Watching the interviews with Romney and Obama on 60 Minutes Sunday I was struck by something that Obama said. It was in his now much talked about "bumps in the road" comment in discussing recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. Although that rubbed me the wrong way too, that is not what caught my attention. It was at the end of the answer when he said this:
"There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests."The whole premise of "a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous" is a somewhat nebulous goal since many nations are or can be peaceful and prosperous without being "aligned with our interests." China for example from outward appearance is both peaceful and prosperous, yet would we say they are aligned with our interest?
Which bring us to what got my old brain cells firing, what exactly are our (the United States) interest in the Middle East and North Africa? Perhaps that is the first item that ought to be decided before we start talking about "alignment" with anyone.
Although I personally am very much a free trader and believe that free trade between nations is a great way to help foster peace in the world and ultimately that free trade will lead to freer people I do not believe that is what the President was getting at. I know this by something else he said in the same answer:
"I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance."Now this sounds just like George W Bush. Few people are aware of the fact that in Bush's second term, he promoted a foreign policy which was known as The Freedom Agenda which was described by the Bush White House in part this way;
President Bush Has Advanced Liberty And Democracy As The Great Alternatives To Repression And Radicalism.So Bush saw "Liberty And Democracy" as a way to fight radicalism. So it was Bush's belief that by promoting liberty we could help overcome repression, which is in keeping with what truly is and has always been "America's interest". What Bush was saying was as American as apple pie, liberty is our national interest.Or as Bush's White House put it: (emphasis mine)
President Bush has kept his pledge to strengthen democracy and promote peace around the world. In his Second Inaugural Address, President Bush pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world. He has promoted the spread of freedom as the great alternative to the terrorists' ideology of hatred, because expanding liberty and democracy will help defeat extremism and protect the American people.America does not need Egyptian trade, truth be told America needs very little from any nation, if we wanted to, we could probably be totally self-sufficient. But Calvin Coolidge not withstanding the business of America is not business , the business of America is Liberty
Liberty is not voting, Mubarak won every election he ever held. so did Hitler, Stalin and a books full of two bit dictators who have littered history with repression and human misery. Liberty is freedom, more often than not the votes of mankind have empowered their tyrants not their liberators. not true in America where as Alexander Hamilton explained to the people of New York as he tried to explain this new thing called the Constitution:
[I]t seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force,The question that should be asked of this "Arab Spring" especially as we have watched it unfold in Egypt, is this. Is this transition leading to greater liberty for Egypt's people? And if not how can that be viewed as in America's interest? How could what appears to be a far less tolerant government, a theocracy bent on Sharia law as it governing principle be more in America's interest than even the dictatorship that they lived under prior to "spring"?
There is only one nation in the Middle East that is truly "aligned with our interest" and has been since its founding and that is a real democracy in the American tradition and that is Israel. Yet this new "alignment" which Obama has set us on has a president who said “Part of my agenda is the development of ties between Iran and Egypt that will create a strategic balance in the region,”
So if the United States long term "interest" is creating closer relations with the new Egyptian regime, does this also mean we wish to strengthen ties with the current regime in Iran? And where does that leave Israel?
As I said the "American interest is liberty and freedom" and if it is not. then what is it? What alignment could we possibly make with the new Egypt that would help our interest? Are we going to be able to push a theocratic fundamentalist Islam regime to greater "universal rights" as Obama likes to put it? Does anyone who has objectively viewed the Muslim world and how fundamentalist forces have taken control of governments seriously believe that America will receive anything but lip service from a government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood? We are about to watch a nation digress back into the fifteenth century as we watched Iran do in the eighties.
At least with Mubarak in charge and an American administration which was sincere about truly promoting the American interest of liberty we had some influence. Consider this article from July 2005 as the Bush administration began to ramp up pressure on the Mubarack regime to enact true democratic reforms.
The United States is seen as the driving force behind an unprecedented push for reform in Egypt and Rice’s visit comes amid growing internal tensions over planned presidential and parliamentary elections.
Rice had abruptly cancelled a trip to Egypt scheduled for March in what officials admitted was a gesture of displeasure at the authorities’ jailing of Ayman Nur, leader of the opposition Ghad party.
Rice and the Bush administration were using Mubarak to maintain some sort of order in an increasingly volatile and radicalized region.
Rice praised Egypt’s leading role in the region but issued another stark warning to Syria.
"Our concerns are with Syria’s behaviour. We need a Syria that takes seriously the changes that are taking place in the region," she said.
An editorial in the state-owned Al-Akhbar daily on Monday warned Rice against any interference in internal Egyptian affairs, but the US push for reforms in the region was also far from unanimously embraced by the opposition.
And who was that opposition to the reforms the Bush Administration was trying to force on Mubarak to make elections freer and open?
The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in Egypt, dismissed Rice’s visit.
"We reject US pressure on Egypt when it is for the benefit of the United States and the Zionists," said Mohammed Habib, a senior official from the Islamist movement.
"We know that the US administration is not a benevolent organisation or a charity. Its interests and agenda are not those of the Egyptian people," he added.
The Kefaya (Enough) movement, which has spearheaded an unprecedented string of demonstrations openly criticising Mubarak’s regime, said it turned down an invitation to meet Rice.
The truth is that the Muslim Brotherhood was opposed to election reforms being pushed on Mubarak simply because they would have led to a freer society which was and is at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood's goal of a Islamic state.
All of this just shows the total naivety of the Obama Administration's policies. In he same answer on 60 Minutes Obama said this:
But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam. The one part of society that hasn't been controlled completely by the government.
The Mubarak government may not have completely controlled Islam nor should they but it obvious that Islam now controls the Egyptian Government.
And that is in the American interest?
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