The most appalling foreign policy betrayal in the history of the U.S. Presidency.
The question one asks oneself, upon listening to President Barack Obama’s Middle East speech yesterday, is almost impertinent, certainly surprising given the expectations that preceded it: Where has the man been for the past six months?
Here is the leader of the United States, the most powerful country on earth and its last, best hope for freedom, and he is telling us — and the world — that finally, at last, under his guidance, we have found the right policy for the Middle East:
A billion dollars. 1967 borders.
The American politician’s habit of throwing money at problems meets the Arab terrorist’s habit of denying his opponent’s right to live. President Obama’s specific policy proposals are these: “…
[W]e have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt.… [W]e must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval… [W]e do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of $1 billion in debt, and… [guarantee] $1 billion in borrowing… to finance infrastructure and job creation.
This sounds like business as usual. This, and the promised aid to promote trade instead of aid, to encourage investment and entrepreneurship, is what we have been doing for decades: removing the responsibility for taking charge of their own destinies from the peoples concerned in these regions, by promising guarantees and subsidies.
The people who took to the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere may or may not have represented some kind of critical mass in these countries. We really do not know. President Obama compares them to the Boston patriots and the civil rights movement activists, like Rosa Parks. No doubt many of them are what the Europeans call liberals, people committed to the free competition of ideas in the political market place. That is what our liberals, in that sense, from colonial Boston to Jim Crow Birmingham, demanded: freedom, and the structure of free institutions — democratic representation, civil and political rights for all — that makes the exercise of freedom meaningful.
But just reminding ourselves of the abstract meaning of political freedom and civil liberty shows how little we really know about what has been going on in the Arab Revolt. Tunisians and Egyptians regurgitated the symbols of humiliation and scorn under which they felt oppressed, namely, the rai, or leader, who had grown old and corrupt and heedless. Zine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, were despised and hated — at least by the modernizing, urban classes — because they showed so brazenly how they despised their own countrymen.
Whatever else this means, it is not the same thing as clearly understanding, as our ancestors did, that their political rights as Englishmen were denied, that their civil rights as Americans were flouted. And there is something else: neither in the 18th nor in the 20th century did Americans demand a reward because they fought for freedom: it was its own reward, and they knew they would make of it what they, themselves, were capable of. Far from expecting a subsidy from France, or any other power, the young Republic announced it would pay the debts incurred during the Revolution years and the Confederation period.
Freedom, my friends, ain’t free.
But here is our president telling them right off the bat, before he even knows who is in charge or what their plans are, that we are going to pay for the damage. Frankly this strikes me as just another example of brushing the problems under the carpet — a carpet provided by American taxpayers. If, as the president said in his speech, the region is full of human potential — well-educated (if unemployed) young people; a full half of the population, the women, left out of the economy instead of contributing to it and to the political liberalization that inevitably will accompany their economic empowerment, and so on and so forth — then why in the world do they need us to pay for their progress?
The president pointed out, quite accurately, that the region is rich, not wealthy: that is to say, it has oil riches, but produces nothing anyone wants (“exports on the level of Switzerland,” he said, which is giving them too much credit). Of course not: the Arab economies are confiscated: “pockets of wealth” as the president put it, is much too nice; what they have is mafias. Instead of telling them all the nice gifts we are preparing for them, whether in export subsidies or anything else, we should be telling them to finish their revolts by liberating their potential to produce goods worth exporting, beyond the hydrocarbons that happen to be under their soil.
The president is quite right to note, as he in effect did, that keeping armies in Mesopotamia and Afghanistan is not a winning proposition for us and we must draw down. We need to keep fighting the barbarians in these regions, and it may be that we will be doing this for years to come — a new form of containment, in effect, more mobile, adaptable, innovative than the one that stared down the Soviet divisions in central Europe for 50 years. Perhaps it was diplomatically impossible for him to say that we cannot take responsibility for the failures of local politicians and we will not countenance their taking us for all they can.
By not saying this, however, President Obama undercuts his own unreal, or at least unproven, vision of a “new” Middle East led by people worthy of comparison with Thomas Paine and Rosa Parks. He undercuts it further by giving the Israel-Palestinian conflict exactly the pride of place that it always has had in the “old” Middle East. While making the obligatory rhetorical gestures toward Israel’s security and its ties to the U.S., he turned the canard of the “1967 borders” into official American policy.
No president, not even Jimmy Carter, ever did this so explicitly, and for a reason. Two reasons, actually: first, there are no “1967 borders,” only armistice lines that were drawn due to Arab efforts to exterminate every Israeli; and, second, referring to them is to concede the Arab (not just Palestinian) argument against the legitimacy of Israel, because it has always been understood in this region that going back to “1967” is the first step, and only the first step, toward going back to 1947, the British Mandate, no Israel at all.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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