By Barry Rubin
Kerry shuttle diplomacy? Ha. Let’s talk about what is really going on in the Middle East:
Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 25, 1863
At the assault on Lookout Mountain, the Union advance faltered against the Confederate lines high atop Missionary Ridge. Suddenly Union soldiers spontaneously advanced without orders led by six flag-bearers, one of them Arthur MacArthur, father of Douglas MacArthur. A Union officer remembered:
“Each battalion assumed a triangular shape, the colors at the apex….[A] color-bearer dashes ahead of the line and falls. A comrade grasps the flag…. He, too, falls. Then another picks it up… waves it defiantly, and as if bearing a charmed life, he advances steadily towards the top.”
And so sometimes when the general is incompetent, incapable of delivering victory, even ready to throw it away, those in the ranks must take up the slack.
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,” said Obama in his 2009 inaugural address.”
Instead it was Obama who, in the Middle East, was on the wrong side of history. “Corruption,” “deceit,” ”clinging to power,” “silencing of dissent?” That’s a description of the regimes in Iran, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority (PA, its refusal to negotiate or make peace), the Gaza Strip (Hamas, which the White House protected from overthrow), Sudan, Tunisia, Syria (where the White House courted the regime for more than two years and then supported Muslim Brotherhood leadership over the opposition) d until recently Egypt. Perhaps we should say: Mr. Obama, join us, get on the right side, and tear down that wall. Then you will be on the right side of history.
It is the proper duty of the president of the United States to clench his fist and, in some manner, bop these enemies of America and of freedom upside the head.
And since, then, he wouldn’t help them defend themselves and sided so often with their enemies, the people and non-Islamist governments of the Middle East have now turned a corner—not the corner but a corner—toward victory. Out of self-preservation they have acted. If only they had more help!
In Egypt, they rebelled against the Islamist regime that the Obama Administration and the Muslim Brotherhood in partnership with many even more extreme Salafists gave them. True, it is not an ideal situation and the Egyptian army was–as in 2011– the determining factor. Yet at least the Egyptians—at least about half of them who don’t want a fundamental transformation of their society—will get their way. Obama was on the wrong side.
In Turkey they have rebelled at last they demonstrated peacefully and were attacked by the repressive forces of another elected dictatorship. In Tunisia despite the elected dictatorship’s assassination of their most dynamic leader, they are trying to defend their rights. And they would do so in Lebanon as well if the United States had not spent years appeasing a Hizballah-Syrian puppet regime there.
As for Israel, the real democratic government in the region was treated with disdain for effectively defending itself, refusing to make risky and unrequited concessions. Sure, the words were still fine but the tone and ideas were that these Israelis were too stupid or too mean they didn’t know what was in their own interests. For the first time ever much of the American Jewish community, hypnotized, didn’t remember who the good guys are any longer.
In Iran people voted for the least of seven evils, the regime-backed hardliner who at least signaled that he was a little less so, unfortunately in a Tehran government-hatched bait-and-switch scheme.
The true tragedy is Syria where, due in large part to foolish U.S. policies that backed the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the real moderates, the progressive forces—how ironic!—in that society were left with a choice between a repressive dictatorship that would massacre some of them and a would-be repressive dictatorship that would massacre others.
The small remnant of Christians have been left on their own in Iraq, must seek protection from an authoritarian regime in Syria, were run out of the Gaza Strip, and face daily attacks in Egypt. No U.S. government voice has been raised. Is a Christian-free Middle East being on the right side of history?
Even the Saudis and Gulf Arab states at times (except for Qatar) have tried for their own strategic interests, been on the right side of history, in Lebanon and Egypt if not in Iraq and Syria. With U.S. leadership they would have done better.
But as I showed in my previous article, the Obama Administration really does believe that the future belongs to the Islamists, just as others on the wrong side of history once thought that history was on the side of Communists, fascists, Third World radical dictatorships, and Arab nationalists.
Like defeatists and those who would trade away others freedom have always said—and as two National Security staffers recently argued explaining the words out of Obama’s mouth, any effort to defeat the Islamists would fail and turn them toward even more terrorist tactics.
Guess one should help them win peacefully then? The film, ‘’Bridge on the River Kwai” describes how Colonel Nicholson, British commander of World War Two prisoners-of-war, so loses his sense of priorities that he tries to prevent the sabotage of a bridge being his slave laborers had to build to help the Japanese enemies’ war effort. When one of his officers asks,
“The fact is, what we’re doing could be construed as – forgive me, sir – collaboration with the enemy. Perhaps even as treasonable activity….Must we build them a better bridge than they could have built for themselves?”
“We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame.” To help them construct a better dictatorship, a better enemy.
No. For the last four years the United States should either have been on the side of the freedom-seeking peoples, U.S. strategic interests or, whenever possible, both. But if U.S. policy and misguided and uninformed elitists who know nothing about the Middle East are on the wrong side of history don’t help, the battle will be carried on without the United States.
On another occasion in the “Bridge on the River Kwai” the officers’ have this discussion:
Commander Shears: “You mean, you intend to uphold the letter of the law, no matter what it costs?”
Colonel Nicholson: “Without law, Commander, there is no civilization.”
Commander Shears: ”That’s just my point; here, there is no civilization.”
Colonel Nicholson: “Then we have the opportunity to introduce it.”
No, this isn’t going to happen.
Many people in the Middle East—most of whom are Muslims who don’t interpret that religion this way–reply, No Axis-style or Islamist authoritarian civilization, thank you very much. We now know the West won’s help us. We’ll have to fight for our own survival.’Win or lose.
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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 latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press.
Other recent 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 and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.