Fools Rush In Where Statesmen Fear to Tread
On the fourth anniversary of President Barack Obama's Cairo speech--setting the United States on a course of U.S.-backed Islamist revolutions in the Middle East-- it's clear we've come a long way. Yet there has still not been anything close to an agonizing reappraisal of what has been done, said, and thought.
Here is an editorial from the 2011 New York Times:
"We sympathize with the frustration and anger that is drawing tens of thousands of Egyptians into the streets of Cairo and other cities this week, the country’s largest demonstrations in years. Citizens of one of the Arab world’s great nations, they struggle with poverty — 40 percent live on less than $2 a day — rising food prices, unemployment and political repression."
Where is this sympathy now?
So let's see: Is the United States supporting an unpopular dictatorship? Yes. Is it backing a country that is making a mess of development and impoverishing the nation? Yes. A country threatening its neighbors? Oppressing minorities and women? Yes. Are truly pro-democratic people marching in the streets denouncing the United States for selling them out? Yes. Is it a policy for which an American president will apologize in the future? Yes.
And this time it is also on top of all that backing a regime that hates the United States, even as it sends it hundreds of millions in weapons and aid, too!
As one Egyptian Christian tweeted: "I must confess this: One of the most painful moments for us was when we discovered that Official U.S. did not support us but the Islamists."
I am personally very happy because one of the world's leading Middle East experts helped me figure out what my task is. He explained: "You say what everyone else sensible thinks." So be it.
Several friends who work on the Middle East and have good sources of direct information in Congress and the government spontaneously told me that it is striking how clueless the Obama administration officials and the foreign policy bureaucracy are about the Middle East. I think you would be shocked to hear about how little people know no matter which side the officials and experts are on. And I'm talking about people whose job it is to know about the region.
In professional intelligence circles, officers read things that conflict with the official line but most of them are scared about losing their jobs. They know what they are supposed to say. And it isn't the "I" word in any of its permutations.
But then my friends added an interesting point, in almost identical words: It’s remarkable how America’s enemies fool them and the mass media, too.
How many of those enthusiastically cheering on giving arms to the Free Syrian Army really comprehend that they are going directly to the Muslim Brotherhood? Even though they should know this, they don’t really seem to comprehend who these people are and what this means. (We cannot say it too often: the Muslim Brotherhood are unrepentant Nazi collaborators, among other things.) There are about 300 nationalist officers in Turkey, but all the soldiers in the field pretty much are Brotherhood types (though not necessarily under the Muslim Brotherhood's direct discipline).
One of my friends recounted how during the Libyan operation, some leading rebels praised Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida in interviews with Arab newspapers, then the same day were praised as moderates in American ones and portrayed favorably in interviews.
A lot of American reporters in Egypt genuinely like the Muslim Brotherhood and have called them “nice guys” personally. In Lebanon, we’ve seen a similar phenomenon with Hizballah, though there is an edge of fear, too.
More productively, the BBC has suddenly discovered what they and others ignored previously: Prime Minister Erdogan is a very nasty elected dictator. They never seemed to have noticed that Turkey has more reporters in prison than any other country; they never saw and reported the intense intimidation of the mass media also.
(As an aside, in researching this article I accidentally discovered for the first time that I had written a book translated into Turkish titled Radikal Islam, which was the first I ever heard of it. Guess this publisher just pirated and translated it. As a friend told me many years go, "You are lucky they left your name on it. " I've been pirated in Iran, Turkey, and Lebanon -- which I guess is a good thing, but it would be nice if they told me about it.)
One of the problems is that Americans with influence and power simply seem incapable of comprehending that anyone can be a radical, a militant, an ideological extremist, someone who really believes in religion.
A good example is the ridiculous claim that Iran is now moderate. Read the embarrassing naiveté of Doyle McManus. The cutline for the story is:
“It's hard to know how much of a moderate new President Hassan Rowhani will be, but there are ways the U.S. could help him reach a nuclear accord.’’
Actually, it is not at all hard. Rowhani is a veteran national security official from the main faction of the regime which has now ruled Iran for 34 (!) years. Sure, he’s moderate compared to his predecessor, Ahmadinejad, but that’s not saying much.
The way things are going nowadays, though, perhaps Rowhani will get the Nobel Peace Prize even before he does anything (like some other world leader managed to do).
As a public service, let me give a short list on the next page that will save much time:
--The Iranian government does not want the United States to help them reach a nuclear accord.
--The Palestinian regime does not want the United States to help them reach a two-state solution.
--Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad does not want the United States to help him reach a diplomatic solution to who rules Syria.
--The Syrian rebels do not want the United States to help them reach a moderate democratic state in Syria. Here's my favorite recent quote from a rebel commander: "Throughout history, nobody has suffered injustice under the state of Islam – the state of truth and justice." With that attitude I'm sure that things will be fine. Islam, he adds, must be the sole source of law. His important group has been eligible to receive weapons according to U.S. guidelines, though it won't be trained and armed directly by the U.S. government.
Moderate is an over-used word to say the least. The Free Syrian Army has about 300 moderates sitting in Turkey and will now get arms to distribute among its about 30,000 radical Islamist soldiers in Syria.
Incidentally, the mass media is really baffling and pitiful. On June 22 the New York Times reported that the Syrian rebels are getting arms from Libya. I reported that more than eight months ago and there were two UN reports discussing that in detail last year! Maybe they should start reading the blogs. In fact, during the Stalin era, it was said in hindsight that you got a better picture of the USSR's social conditions from reading Reader's Digest than from reading the New York Times. That's certainly true for the contemporary Middle East regarding the good blogs and sites.
In other matters, a reader asks about my recent writing on Egypt:
”Barry, A good piece! I grant that the West too often misread the Mid-East. But what of the present troubles/demonstrations and fierce critique towards [Egyptian President] Morsi and the MB? Is it only 'futile' rear-guard action from some liberals/reformists? Or are there more people ‘out there' truly seeing reality and wanting change accordingly you think?”
My response is this: The problem is that the Egyptian opposition—like the Turkish, Lebanese, Tunisian, and Syrian moderate forces--is very disunited, very disorganized, and lacking support from any powerful institution, namely the army.
They do, however, have some significant backing from the courts, which are about to rule on the legality of the past elections. But I am very pessimistic about the moderate opposition in all these countries, especially because they can expect no support from the Obama administration. Unless the army decides that things are really getting out of hand -- and I think it is going to take more than the present situation to get them to go into action.
And remember that a large share of the army is Islamist and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. If the generals secretly know that intervention would lead to a civil war within the army, they will not act.
What the heck is the U.S. line on Egypt? To support the elected repressive, anti-American, anti-Christian, antisemitic, anti-woman, anti-gay regime which cannot even decide on taking billions of dollars from international banks which would never be paid back?
Unhappiness is when you know that Iran’s regime is smarter than the U.S. government.
Maximum unhappiness means knowing that Iran's, the Muslim Brotherhood's, al-Qaida’s, and Turkey's leaders are smarter than America's.
"I told you! i didn't break the Middle East! I think it was Obama, and Hillary, and Panetta, and Kerry and Powers, and Hagel, and of course Brennan. Did I mention Obama? Now let me go back to sleep like most of the American public! "
Maisie Rubin photo by Judy Rubin