by Barry Rubin
Please feel free to send this to any appropriate people you know personally.
Dear Distinguished Reader:
You have spent years working for the interests of the United States and years thinking about international affairs. Perhaps you have served in the State Department, Defense Department, National Security Council, or intelligence. Perhaps you are a member of the Council on Foreign Relations or the Foreign Policy Association. Or maybe you are a university professor or work in a research center.
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The time has come to speak out because the U.S. national interest is in danger and you know it.
You are reluctant, though, to say anything publicly about the perilous state of U.S. foreign policy today. Perhaps you are a Democrat or see yourself as a liberal (I know you don’t see yourself as a radical or Leftist). Possibly you believe in always supporting the government publicly. No doubt many of your friends and the newspapers you read tell you that everything is going great. And then there’s the matter of your prestige and, if you are still in government, of your career.
I understand all that but surely you see how bad, how mismanaged, is American diplomacy right now.
And it isn’t as if you or your colleagues held back your criticism of President George W. Bush.
You know people from different countries who are friends of the United States. What are they saying to you in private? That they think their country is better off with the current U.S. leadership and its policies? No. That they aren’t worried? No. That they see their enemies and those of the United States advancing? Yes.
Aren’t they asking you for help?
I could talk about Asia, or Latin America, or Europe or Africa. Each region, each country, has special needs, problems, and complaints.
But let me speak to you about the Middle East since that’s the area I work on.
First, though, let’s clear the air. You know that I support Israel and you might either be neutral or hostile to that country. But that’s not the issue here. Neither is being liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican. Many of you have served presidents of different parties and put producing an honest analysis — and the well-being of the United States — above partisanship or ideology.
American policy has been built for decades on opposition to America’s enemies (Communism, radical Arab nationalism, terrorism, revolutionary Islamism) and by building alliances with friendly states in the region (Morocco and Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates, Turkey, Israel, and others).
Many of you who work on the Middle East feel that Israel has gotten in the way of those relationships; made your job harder; stirred up anti-Americanism; and created unnecessary crises.
But this is not the key issue at present. The key issue is that revolutionary Islamism — anti-American to the core whatever soothing words are spoken — is advancing. And U.S. policy in this administration is helping.
And meanwhile, U.S. policy is engaging enemies as it ignores friends. There was the engagement with Iran (albeit now over with, due to Iran’s unrelenting inflexibility); with Syria; with Islamists and especially the Muslim Brotherhood; and even with the Taliban.
Do you think this will work?
The United States has lost Turkey as a true ally, despite the illusions. Read the State Department reporting in Wikileaks. The U.S. embassy in Ankara knows this. What are your Turkish friends telling you?
A friendly and moderate government in Lebanon has been thrown out by Hizballah and other clients of Syria and Iran. What are your Lebanese friends telling you?
The government of Egypt, America’s most reliable ally in the Arab world, was tossed on the rubbish heap by the White House even as the State Department tried to manage a smooth transition that would maintain a stable, friendly government there.
Jordan? Did you read what the king said? When the king of Jordan publicly criticizes the United States and says he cannot rely on it doesn’t that set off alarm bells?
Tunisia? The most moderate and secular Arab state will now be governed by Islamists.
The Saudis haven’t concealed their outrage. The White House didn’t consult them about Egypt or Bahrain or work with them against Syria or to preserve a moderate Lebanese government.
In Afghanistan it is negotiating with the Taliban and even al-Qaida linked elements trying to kill Americans.
And how about you with military, Defense Department, and national security backgrounds? Do you think American forces are being spread too thin? How do you feel about the strategies in fighting three wars? Do you really view this administration as respecting the culture, tradition, and contributions of the armed forces? How do you feel about fighting to put an Islamist government into power in Libya?
Are you prepared to fight unnecessary wars and conflicts resulting from the strategic mistakes being made and the enemies being put in power or encouraged to be more aggressive by U.S. weakness?
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, do you think the unilateral abdication of U.S. leadership in the world is going to contribute to American interests, international stability, and the well-being of people in the United States and throughout the world?
Again, this is not a matter of Democratic and Republican or liberal versus conservative. It is an issue of honestly evaluating the state of the world and the impact of current mistaken policies. You have worked with presidents of differing character, philosophy, and party. Is this about the worst you have seen? Don’t you have a duty to speak out, analyze what’s happening with honesty, point out errors, and propose alternative policies?
So if you are working in the government, please argue for your positions and alternatives in meetings and your reports. Warn about the mistakes being made. Urge a different course. And if you are retired, gone on to other work, or are part of the non-government foreign policy establishment, please speak up.
The country is depending on you to help get it back on the proper track. Time is of the essence.
Think about it. Then do something about it please.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com