How Western Middle East Policy is Best Described by "Alice in Wonderland"

By Barry Rubin

A friend just sent me this from a column I wrote in November 2006. I think it holds up pretty well and today I’d add the Muslim Brotherhood to this list (thanks to Patrick Poole):

Here’s how Lewis Carroll put it in Alice in Wonderland, one of the best guides for understanding Western policy toward the Middle East:

“Would you tell me,” asked Alice, “why you are painting those roses?” The playing card painter replied, “You see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off.”

A Realist is not someone who repaints Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas from white to red, but rather one whose starting point is to recognize their true color. To be so deluded as to believe one can profitably “engage” these forces is not Realism, but Surrealism.

The Obama Administration has done the exact opposite of correct policy dozens of times. This is not a liberal/conservative or political partisan point. It simply has abandoned traditional diplomacy for an approach guaranteed to fail. Recent examples:

–At the moment when Egypt is holding Americans hostage–that is prevented them from leaving the country–for helping teach about democracy, Obama is advancing a proposal to give Egypt additonal hundreds of millions of dollars of aid. He should be withholding it as leverage.  The trial has been postpone but increasingly hysterical anti-Americanism is shown in new conspiracy theories, including an alleged “Zionist-American” plot to destroy Egypt launched three decades ago. And that’s an article in al-Ahram, the country’s leading newspaper.

Guess what? Egypt is no longer a U.S. ally thanks to a regime that President Barack Obama helped put into power.

Note: It has been reported that the accused NGO workers will be allowed to leave Egypt and the case is being postponed. Nevertheless, the rapid decline of U.S.-Egypt relations continues.

–At the moment when the Palestinian Authority (PA)  ignores U.S. efforts to get it to abandon a campaign for unilateral independence rather than negotiate with Israel, the Obama Administration is trying to block a cutoff in payments to UNESCO which broke a congressional restriction on not admitting a state of “Palestine”

–At the moment when the above-mentioned PA is allying with the terrorist, genocidal Hamas, the Obama Administration refuses to take any action against the PA.  True, Israel does not want to see a cutoff of aid since the PA’s collapse and a Hamas takeover are not positive events. Yet why is there no pressure at all?

Guess what? The Palestinian Authority is no longer a U.S. client–except for getting lots of money–thanks to the policy of President Barack Obama.

–At the moment when the Turkish regime is carrying out massive repression and flaunting sanctions’ efforts against Iran, the Obama Administration is acting as if it is the best ally in the world.

Guess what? Turkey is no longer a U.S. ally thanks in large part to the policy of President Barack Obama, though Obama has no idea that this is so.

When you show weakness the predators attack. Now Bahrain’s rulers are talking about how the U.S. government is secretly plotting against them using NGOs! No doubt, other countries will follow and more Americans and local liberals will be arrested.

Remember such concepts as leverage, containment, credibility, punishing enemies and helping friends? They are all absent in this White House.

The new line is that these are problems arising from old reactionary forces, soon to be pushed aside by the users of twitter and Facebook.



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