Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stop Dithering

There is a train of thought suggesting that the reform movements spreading throughout the Middle East are the result of a carefully crafted plan put together by the Obama Administration. On the sinister side, it is seen as a part of a “New Imperial Plan for the Middle East”:
"The new imperial plan for the Middle East capitalizes on the willingness of the modern middle-classes of the region to enthusiastically serve the international class of super-rich..."
To put it gingerly, that is an idiotic analysis. Others like to think it is all the beneficence brought to the world by the radiating graces and professorial intellect of President Obama, complete with his magical ability to channel American goodness to cavemen enlightened by Google Earth to come to know there is a split between rich and the poor in their countries (…again, a wee bit off).

All of this gives too much credit to President Obama’s foreign policy, in that it suggests he actually has a policy. Rather, U.S. foreign policy can be much better described as “dithering” and otherwise without much sense of anything. Granted the events in the region are developing in ways that were previously assumed to be unlikely to occur, and it is important to have policies that reflect realities rather than dogma, but President of the United States is in a position to do more than pontificate on the events of the day.

The immense influence of the United States (breaking news, it is still the world's sole superpower) must be used. Instead of watching CNN interviews with a select group of activists (and Al Jazeera English too, since now the White House is very sophisticated), capitulating to the bluster of vain Islamists and debating what kind of statement will please the most people without taking any decision or risking being deemed as an imposition, the United States should be affirmatively providing direction for events. Direction does not mean sending missiles and aircraft into an aimless mission, or making blustery speaches with demands that open the door to chaos without follow-through plans. It means, by way of example, reaching out to capable reform elements by putting on a fast track a free trade agreement with Egypt and sending a U.S.-sponsored delegation of leading businesses to Egypt, and hosting a similar delegation in the States. It means meeting with leading, established, secular figures, and stopping to undercut them by accommodating Islamists who will never move the country in a direction better for Egypt or the United States. And it means instructing the generals with whom the Pentagon is so close to adopt a path that supports a liberal, market-oriented and open-minded Egypt.

And stop watching television.

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