Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Barry Rubin Offers A Middle East Policy for President Romney

“We don’t want an American president who acts like an Arab. We want an American president who acts like an American.”
Private Arab citizen in a private conversation

Mitt Romney
What would his Middle East
Policy Be?
Credit: Wiki Commons
In suggesting A Middle East Policy for President Romney, Barry Rubin notes that during the Republican National Convention there was naturally an emphasis on the economy and domestic issues. As a result, there was practically no discussion during the convention of foreign policy.

But more than that, there haven't been many articles in general discussing Romney's approach to foreign policy -- and that is an issue that even if not primary, is still important.

Rubin notes that the key is that for the Republican Party as a whole, there are a variety of choices and because of the complexity of the issues that the US will be facing, the approach taken might not need to be -- and perhaps should not be -- consistent.

Of course, there are the general principles: make America strong and respected again; support the soldiers; help friends and make enemies sorry that they are enemies. There must be an end to apologies and the defense of legitimate U.S. interests. Popularity is okay but respect and trust are far more important. Avoid either isolationism or excessive interventionism and get over the democracy-solves-all naivete. Don't be chomping at the bit to go to war with Iran as a supposed panacea.

These are important but these principles don’t necessarily tell us how to do things. An average Arab citizen put it best in private conversation: "We don’t want an American president who acts like an Arab. We want an American president who acts like an American."  The old diplomatic virtues of credibility, national interests’ protection, preserving alliances and promises, recognizing friends and enemies, and so on need to be reinstalled.
While Rubin considers the defeat of radical Islamism to be the backbone of sound US policy, he points out -- and offers advice on -- some Middle East countries that should be given special consideration:
  • Afghanistan
  • Yemen
  • Qatar
  • Pakistan
  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Iran
  • Egypt
  • Israel
For example, on Syria the issue of intervention is secondary to recognizing that the Syrian civil war has more than 2 sides to it. Therefore, it is necessary for the US to be on the side of the true moderates -- among whom he lists the urban Sunni middle class, the Kurds who want their autonomy, the Christians who just want to survive, the nationalistic army officers who defected and even Sunni Muslim traditionalists.

On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood and the jihadists must be opposed and all aid withheld from them. Not one gun should go to them; not one bulletproof vest, not one dollar. The problem is that the Syrian civil war has more than two sides to it.

While the economy would be the main focus of a Romney presidency, foreign policy in general -- and Middle East foreign policy in particular -- will not be giving an US president a moments rest.

Going through Barry Rubin's list of trouble spots and an overview of what needs to be done will show why.

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