Friday, April 15, 2011

When It Comes To The Middle East, Obama Is More Like Eisenhower Than Carter--Which Is Still Not Good

In Battling the Heirs of Nasser, Michael Scott Doran--a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense--compares the turmoil in the Middle East today with the revolutions in the region just 50 years ago: imperialism and Israel then vs. jobs and democracy now.

Today, it is Iran--and not Nasser--who is doing the most to take advantage of this situation.

Doran concludes his op-ed with advice on what the Obama administration should be--and isn't (yet?)--doing to deal with the growing crisis:
Therefore, one might expect Washington to adopt a comprehensive containment strategy. Such an approach would entail, among other things, renouncing engagement of Iran and Syria while seeking to strengthen the reform movements in both countries, especially in Syria, where the protesters’ strength is growing by the day.

Yet the Obama administration has rejected this strategy. Why?
For one, the immediate danger does not appear to justify such an elevated effort. The resistance bloc hardly constitutes a serious conventional threat; the danger is asymmetric.

In addition, the White House has made the Arab-Israeli peace process the organizing principle of its Middle East policy. Now, as the Obama administration has failed to make any headway in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the Syrian track has grown in importance. Still, Syria recognizes Washington’s fervent desire for negotiations and see in it an opportunity to bargain, even as it covertly supports Hamas attacks against Israel.

As the United States seeks to build a new order in the Middle East, it is worth remembering what happened in the course of the last Arab revolution. Like Obama, President Dwight Eisenhower came to power intent on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to line up the Arab world with the United States. Together with Britain, Eisenhower focused on brokering an Egyptian-Israeli agreement. Nasser, like Damascus today, played along, while simultaneously turning up the heat on the Israelis, working to oust the British, and sparking a region-wide revolution. By 1958, America’s position had grown so tenuous that Eisenhower felt compelled to send U.S. troops to Lebanon, lest one of the last overtly pro-U.S. regimes in the region fall to Nasser-inspired forces.

Although the resistance bloc may not be as influential as Nasser was, it is nevertheless poised to turn the turmoil of the region to the detriment of American interests. If Washington is to minimize the pain of the transition to a new order, it must remain focused, amid all the turmoil, on the sophisticated asymmetric threat that the resistance bloc presents.
Read the whole thing.

Go figure--Obama isn't the only one trying to transition to a new order.
But Iran so far is showing signs of being much more successful.

This op-ed is an abridged version of an article Doran wrote for Foreign Affairs--The Heirs of Nasser: Who Will Benefit From the Second Arab Revolution?

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