Obama sets his strategy: Arab advocates for democracy will have to cool their heels

Obama, Clinton, Gates know how to pick their friends. Exactly the same ones as Bush, so what is the difference between the administrations? Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous and Julian Barnes):

After weeks of internal debate on how to respond to uprisings in the Arab world, the Obama administration is settling on a Middle East strategy: help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their newly emboldened citizens might have to wait.

Instead of pushing for immediate regime change—as it did to varying degrees in Egypt and now Libya—the U.S. is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward what some officials and diplomats are now calling “regime alteration.”

And here’s a great post by Paul Woodward on Libya: “There is no neutrality in this war. If you don’t support the revolution, you are by default against it.” My conclusion is that all the familiar players in Washington and Tel Aviv – for their own various reasons – don’t want the Libyans to succeed. A Libyan revolution would further threaten Israel and the Arab autocrats. Obama out on a limb with support for rebels, but too weak and cowardly to challenge the Washington power structure and the wishes of the Israelis. Quite a turn of events. A Qaddafi come back would show the strategy for all the other autocrats.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 28 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Taxi says:

    What reason do the Obama eggheads give for asking the Arabs to ‘wait’ for democracy? Wait? Like for how long? And what about the Arab civilians who’ve died for democracy in the past eight weeks – should their families ‘wait’ some more and risk losing more of their family members?

    What the Bush-heck’s going on in the evil minds of our administrators?

    Straight-faced they’re asking 370 million people to ‘wait’ for democracy and justice?

    Shame on them and their PHd’s combined!!

    I’m pretty sure the Arabs know that waiting for democracy is like Waiting for Godot.

  2. pabelmont says:

    As Chomsky so accurately says, so often, “no surprise in that.”

    USA F/P is a dinosaur, and steers like a supertanker. Changes of direction, even if contemplated at one point, require consultations with the whole “establishment”. Never, never, never suppose that the president of the USA determines its F/P. That is what the constitution suggests, but what does the constitution know?

  3. lysias says:

    Obama yesterday sent the nomination of Daniel Shapiro to be ambassador to Israel to the Senate.

    There was an article about Shapiro’s impending nomination in Politico last month: Obama to nominate Dan Shapiro to be envoy to Israel:

    The Obama administration plans to nominate a top White House Middle East advisor to be the next U.S. envoy to Israel, POLITICO has learned.

    President Barack Obama intends to nominate one of his most trusted Middle East aides, the National Security Council’s Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, to be his ambassador to Israel, administration officials said.

    Shapiro has earned Obama’s trust as a Middle East and Jewish outreach advisor going back to the campaign, and one who uniquely seems to get along well with everyone. Shapiro has worked closely with all the key inter-agency players including National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, the NSC’s top Iran and regional strategist Dennis Ross, as well as Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, and has a good rapport with Congress, where he previously served as a staffer. Shapiro also has good ties with the Jewish community, having served as a key White House point of contact for the Jewish community, and helped head up Jewish outreach for the Obama campaign.

    Shapiro, who speaks fluent Hebrew and some Arabic, also has a good relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisors, has wide contacts in Israel and the region, and has accompanied Mitchell on countless shuttle diplomacy trips to the region.

  4. Potsherd2 says:

    Obama has come out publicly in favor of the revolution. The EU has, also. Changing course will be embarrasssing now. They’ll have to undermine it from below, in the dark.

    I was quite surprised when they didn’t manage to undermine the Egyptian revolution, but undoubtedly events happened too fast for the dinosaurs to react.

  5. fuster says:

    —- My conclusion is that all the familiar players in Washington and Tel Aviv – for their own various reasons – don’t want the Libyans to succeed.—-

    of course, the Gaddafi regime is too important an ally to the US. we would be just so distraught to see him leave power after his brief 40 years holding it.

    it certainly wasn’t the US that wished him dead or otherwise gone all these years.

    I join with the anonymous one in trying to pin the blame for one of the Arab league’s longtime favorite lunatic sponsors of anti-Western terror firmly upon the US!

    I are also a genius political sophizzticate.

    • Donald says:

      Again, at the risk of angering CK, some of your posts are trollish, fuster. Not all of them–I don’t label people trolls just because I disagree with them. But you’re clearly not responding to the post in any sensible way–you’re just being sarcastic in a stupid fashion.

      Anonymous didn’t say that Gaddafi is an ally–it’s the larger issue of Arab revolt spreading like wildfire all over the Middle East that clearly has the US government worried. (And Israel). I think they’d prefer “stability” as they call it. With Gaddafi it’s probably a tossup for them–he’s brutal, which doesn’t bother them at all, but he’s unstable and often been our enemy, so they won’t shed tears for him if he is toppled. But that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to see a successful armed Arab revolt against an Arab dictator. They might not mourn Gaddafi, but there are allies in the region they would mourn (probably including Mubarak, since Biden’s first instinct was to deny he was a dictator.)

      I’m hedging because I don’t know what the Obama Administration wants here, except I’m fairly sure Arab human rights aren’t at the top of their priority list. They might throw their support to the rebels in a meaningful fashion if they think it will enhance our influence in the region.

      • Avi says:

        I don’t label people trolls just because I disagree with them.

        When people tell blatant myths and lies, does that fall into the “disagree with them” category, or not?

        My definition of disagreement is one where two or more parties have the same information at hand, but are evaluating it differently.

        Spin, lies, and utter ignorance, should not factor into that framework.

        I’m hedging because I don’t know what the Obama Administration wants here,

        They want continued hegemony. What else could they want?

        Changing course now would require the Establishment to undergo a paradigm shift in the way it conducts business, budgets will have to be cut, entire departments will be rendered superfluous. They don’t want that. The status quo is comfortable.

      • fuster says:

        Donald, the post is rather slight and the contention that the Obama administration doesn’t want to end dictatorships and have democracy in the region is even more slight.
        The point of the post to which i responded was to pretend that there is some way that the region would instantly be transformed if only the US would get with the program.
        That’s not much of a point at all. Through out those dictatorships by all means, but how does that provide for decent governance?
        There aren’t going to be 20 democratic government created overnight because there aren’t 20 countries with economic or social conditions that haven’t been screwed up by those dictatorships.
        Lop the dictatorial heads off from the monsters and the bodies will still be rooted.
        Gradualism is grievously and maddeningly disappointing, for sure,
        but…..

        • annie says:

          if that’s your argument why not just state it up front. why the sardonic trollish intro? in case you have not figured it out you are not endearing anyone to you with your ‘personality’.

          the region would instantly be transformed if only the US would get with the program

          you must know your argument would be more compelling if the post claimed the region would instantly be transformed if only the US would get with the program. try addressing something in the post rather than hypothetical strawmen.

          Lop the dictatorial heads off from the monsters and the bodies will still be rooted.

          right, and those roots will grow if we feed them. likewise democracy and human rights will grow if we feed them. take your pick.

        • Citizen says:

          Our government’s recipe is simple: Allow and support as much democracy in the Middle East as possible (otherwise the masses will [eventually] grow discontented and destabilize the region) up to the point that Israel fears its hegemony is threatened by popular will. The US & Israeli intelligence folks have failed–they underestimated the power of their Arab hirelings to give them the inside scoop they wanted to hear, and the same hirelings had overestimated their own power to suppress internal discontent for, say, another 30 or 40 years. What’s happening now is the US regime is paying lip service to liberty while working feverishly behind the scenes to reign liberty in so that the Middle East masses remain docile donkeys pulling the Western-Israeli cart.

  6. Les says:

    Obama supports the kind of Arab leaders who negotiate with their opposition the way Wisconsin’s Governor Walker does.

  7. Avi says:

    This policy will end up causing the US far more damage than good.

    Much in the same way Leon Panetta was clueless in regard to Mubarak’s resignation when the former admitted that he was getting his information from media reports, so it seems the rest of the US Establishment. They seem to think that they can go to war against more than 300 million people in that region.

    Such an approach will only serve to embolden revolutionary movements, motivate them and energize them.

    At this point, instead of making friends with the citizens of the region, the US is essentially declaring war on them.

  8. Potsherd2 says:

    In my collection of fantasy scenarios is this one:

    The Nobel ceremony is underway. The recipient of the Peace Prize comes to the podium and announces that he repudiates the prize because it has been irrevocably tainted by being given to Barack Obama.

  9. CK MacLeod says:

    Talk about too clever by half. Of course, the U.S. is a status quo power. Why in God’s, Gaia’s, or the great void’s name wouldn’t it be? On the other hand, it doesn’t help that status quo to have the U.S. fundamentally perceived as an enemy of progress and reform.

    Meanwhile, it’s childish, utopian, or worse just to assume that everyone who paints “revolution!” on his AK-47 represents an objective improvement on any level. Would a merely longer, bloodier, and more chaotic conflict in Libya to the same destination, under whoever’s name, serve anybody? If the U.S. is going to get (more) involved, then exactly how far is it willing to go? Once it starts attacking radar bases… or supplying arms or equipment… or doing anything else, then my guess is that all sorts of “anonymous” or not so anonymous critics of inaction will start retrospectively choosing better targets, and better supply paths, and this faction not that faction, etc. Is Libya the same as Tunisia and Egypt, and are all three really the same as Jordan, Jordan really the same as Yemen, and both of them the same as Saudia Arabia, and both of them the same as Morocco and Syria and Lebanon… When precisely and according to whose standard do we decide that such and such a government is good enough, and who are we to make that decision? To paint them all the same hue is just the mirror version of know-nothing rightwing Orientalism.

    The Obama Administration policy, as described, is a reasonable rule of thumb, no more, no less. Virtually any other policy would be some mixture of unsustainable and foolhardy. If you want the U.S. to go around the world deciding who rules and who doesn’t, who lives and who dies, who’s armed and who isn’t, then who exactly is the real imperialist?

    • Avi says:

      Every idiot is suddenly a self-styled geopolitical expert. I’m done arguing with close-minded geniuses from the sticks. Stay in your mental cocoon of limited thought and knowledge. Others with real world experience and knowledge could care less about your nonsense.

    • Avi says:

      If you want the U.S. to go around the world deciding who rules and who doesn’t, who lives and who dies, who’s armed and who isn’t, then who exactly is the real imperialist?

      Talk about a complete and utter lack of basic understanding of the meaning of imperialism and its history.

      Should we start with the basics, you know, the alphabet? Or do you prefer we jump ahead to subjugating nouns and verbs?

      • CK MacLeod says:

        You’ll have to put one of those reference posts you wanted, this one on how to massage Avi’s self-regard sufficiently. Then, maybe!, I’ll be ready for a discussion with you – but probably not.

        How was that?

        • fuster says:

          He is rather a vile little troll and self-regarding preening pinocchio of a person.
          But don’t let those, his good points, fool you, MacLeod, he’s not really that nice.

  10. LeaNder says:

    When precisely and according to whose standard do we decide that such and such a government is good enough, and who are we to make that decision?

    It’s not about deciding who is good enough and who not, it’s about preventing a huge bloodshed.

    • LeaNder says:

      .#Libya – De Opresso Liber. I would also like to recommend Pat Lang’s and Michael Brenner’s comments here Saving Libya, Saving U.S. Credibility (Michael Brenner).

      I agree with Michael Brenner that may well be the main US interest.

    • Citizen says:

      I doubt that the PTB are per se concerned about preventing a huge bloodshed. Rather, they are concerned that if such occurs, they will not be able to predict and control the world-wide business climate. The international banking, investment, and monetary network will no longer suffice to give the elite the life style they are accustom to–next thing you know rabble will be at their gates. What’s happening now is an attempted bailout of our tyrants and or what’s left of their companion institutions across the Middle East , same as Wall St & the Fed Reserve was bailed out here in the USA. Just another case of Too Big To Fail. You can be sure China, India, Brazil, Russia, etc are watching all this very closely.

  11. Keith says:

    As far as I know, there never has been a true “humanitarian intervention,” although Hitler and Mussolini both claimed that was their intent. Certainly, neither the US nor any European power has ever militarily intervened with humanitarian intent, although they both frequently claim this. If the US/NATO does get involved in Libya it will be for geo-strategic reasons. If the US/NATO was even remotely interested in humanitarian concerns, they would get the hell out of Afghanistan and Iraq, stop threatening Iran, and stop funding Israel. Folks, “humanitarian intervention” is the pretext favored by liberals when they wish to intervene militarily, or with sanctions, etc. Don’t be fooled.

    • CK MacLeod says:

      So, Keith, I take it you see Somalia as some kind of power-political intervention? Would an intervention have to be somehow counter to the interests of the intervening power to be declared sufficiently pure? What if the motives are mixed, but the political coalition in favor would never be sufficient without the humanitarian element?

      It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Also, Hitler and Mussolini were far from the first or the last to claim a higher purpose that could be called humanitarian. However, I think you give a good example of the kind of voice that, the day after whatever measure, would be leading the attack, claiming that some combination of craven motives must be the “real explanation” for answering LeaNder’s demand. The way things go, a healthy percentage of those calling for intervention – the worse things went, the healthier the percentage – would be following your lead.

      None of which should decide the issue for Obama – but if whatever intervention doesn’t command strong support, for humanitarian reasons or self-interest or some combination, then the odds of it succeeding will be greatly reduced. Of course, that assumes that anyone knows exactly what the precise objective is (“prevent a bloodbath” isn’t much of a guide), and therefore whether it has actually been achieved.

      • Keith says:

        CKMACLEOD- The correctness of military intervention is not all in the eye of the beholder. There is a body of international law and UN procedures which are supposed to restrain nations from attacking other nations except in immediate defense when other options have failed. Of course, the US observes international law mostly in the breach. Nations don’t initiate warfare because of a desire to do good, they initiate warfare to achieve elite objectives. Following World War II, the US has engaged in non-stop warfare against the entire Third World based upon the flimsiest of pretexts, “defending” the Vietnamese from “internal aggression,” etc. When international law was formulated, the notion of “humanitarian intervention” was discussed and rejected as merely a convenient excuse for the powerful states to arbitrarily claim a right to attack weaker states. You will notice that no one is suggesting a humanitarian intervention to protect the Iraqis and Afghanistan people from US aggression.

    • RoHa says:

      ‘there never has been a true “humanitarian intervention,” ‘

      But some interventions have been more humanitarian than others. The Vietnamese overthrow of the Pol Pot regime was worth at least one and half tepid cheers.

  12. RE: “the U.S. is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward what some officials and diplomats are now calling ‘regime alteration’.” – WSJ
    RHETORICAL QUESTION: Is anyone else old enough to remember so-called “constructive engagement”?!?!?!
    Wikipedia – link to en.wikipedia.org

  13. “Obama out on a limb with support for rebels, but too weak and cowardly to challenge the Washington power structure and the wishes of the Israelis.”

    So true, except that as far as I know Obama has not shown support for the rebels – only opposition to Gaddafi continuing to rule.

    • fuster says:

      who are the rebels? what do they wish? will they bring anything different or better than Gaddafi?

      what’s the point in supporting people when you don’t know jacksquat about them or what supporting them might bring?