The Commentariat is reported to be deeply disappointed by the Arab Spring. Those poor Arab people have misunderstood our good intentions and our help in throwing out the bad guys. But since this is just a misunderstanding, we will work harder at clarifying our intentions and good motives. We will win them over in the end.
But the Arab Spring has come and gone. We are now in a fierce hot summer storm of riots protesting against the West in general and the US in particular all across the Muslim world.
Firstly, let's just note the naive foolishness of the "useful idiots" in the West who actually believed that the Arab Spring would produce Muslims who would think like Western secular post-Christian human rights idealists. This from the Reuters wire:
You don't say. What is it about democracy that blinds the minds of Western elites so darkly? After all when nearly 80 percent of Egyptians think that people who convert from Islam to Christianity ought to be executed, why would the institutionalisation of that world-view in the new Egyptian government seem unexpected and strange? Surely moving to democracy would have made it inevitable.
Still, the "Arab Spring" appears not to have made as many friends for America as Americans might have hoped. The very countries in which Washington helped facilitate popular-backed regime change last year - Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen - are seeing some of the greatest anti-West backlash.
The young pro-democracy activists who leapt to the fore in 2011, Washington now believes, have relatively little clout. That leaves U.S and European officials having to deal with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. There is concern that regional governments such as Egypt might now be playing a "double game", saying one thing to the U.S. while indulging in more anti-Western rhetoric at home.
(The Pew Research organisation has found the following in Egypt:
ON TRADITIONAL MUSLIM PRACTICES
-- Should men and women be segregated in the workplace? 54 percent said "yes" and 44 percent "no."
-- Should adulterers be stoned? 82 percent said "yes."
-- Should apostates from Islam face the death penalty? 84 percent said "yes."
-- Should thieves be flogged or have their hands cut off? 77 percent said "yes.")
Apparently it is coming as a bit of a surprise that the US is finding that democratically elected Islamic governments have less flexibility and "reasonableness" than when autocrats ruled.
Rachel Kleinfeld, CEO and co-founder of the Truman National Security Project, a body often cited by the Obama campaign on foreign policy, said the new political leadership often had less flexibility than the dictators before them.You don't say. We didn't see that coming.
For the record, we are firmly opposed to one nation telling another nation what to do, let alone trying to force them to do it. In that regard New Zealand is forced into a far more sensible non-aligned position. As a tiny nation we cannot afford to offend other countries. For a while NZ internationalists looked to the UN as a way for us to push other nations around. But that has long since gone the way of the dodo. Reality has set in--at least for the moment--although we do not doubt that in time another government will arise attempting to resurrect the socialist international ideal and the UN will again be seen as our secret weapon to achieve the transformation.
But the US can afford to interfere in the affairs of other nations--although this ability is rapidly ebbing as the debt mountain rises. It also has the military power to execute its interference. That means the rest of the non-aligned world starts from a position of wariness at best, fear and loathing at worst towards it. The best thing--the most constructive thing--the US could do is itself become non-aligned. Treat all nations with courtesy and respect, yet carry a big stick to thump anyone or anything who attacks US territory or citizens.
There are two reasons why the US will not adopt this more just and reasonable position. The first is the capture of the US government by vested commercial interests that look to the US government to blur national and commercial interests making them one. Campaign contributions flow accordingly. Vested commercial interests make the government captive. The second is the brazen idolatrous belief that the US is the world's redeemer; its role or manifest destiny is to lead other nations and peoples to a better place. Both of these combine to goad the US bull into the ring where it thrashes round madly at global injustice and violations of human rights.
This is the role Obama sees for the US. It is what the Republicans see for the US. The only debate is over tactics--and that's a small matter.
While many Americans would like nothing more than to turn their backs on the region (of the Middle East), Obama made clear this week he does not see that as an option: "The one thing we can't do is withdraw from the region," he said. "The United States continues to be the one indispensable nation."The One who leads the One Indispensable Nation.