Foolish Foreign Policy, Again

In Tunisia, where the Arab Spring so unexpectedly started, the Islamist Ennahada Party took a plurality of votes in the October election.

In Morocco, Mohammed VI avoided a Ben Ali dethroning but has been pressured to begin incremental reforms. Moroccans took to the voting booths and picked the Justice and Development Party, another Islamist organization, to represent them.

The Muslim Brotherhood came just short of getting half of the initial vote in Egypt, and the Salafist Nour Party is vying for a second place finish. 

The Arab Spring is fundamentally transforming the geopolitical landscape of the world. Will American foreign policy leaders respond appropriately? If the fall of Communism were an indicator, chances are probably slim. 

The Red Scare has subsided in its entirety. While some Eastern European and Asian stalwarts have opened their countries and economies at unacceptably slow rates, the two axes of Red Power—Russia and China—have surprised the world at their willingness to liberalize.

Much progress remains, but one thing is certain: China and Russia will not be de-liberalizing anytime soon, and they have no desire to force their worldly vision on the West.

Such a reality has been overwhelmingly evident for years. Nonetheless, military bases remain in Germany, South Korea, and Japan. The US, under the guise of NATO, is trying to build a missile defense shield aimed at Russia. And the UK, US and Israel, among some others, are quickly preparing for war with Iran—a very important and strategic ally of both Iran and China. 

It was as if nothing had ever changed.

While paying lip service to democracy, Secretary of State Hillary said:

So for all these reasons, as I said back in March, opening political systems, societies, and economies is not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity. But we are not simply acting in our self-interest. Americans believe that the desire for dignity and self-determination is universal—and we do try to act on that belief around the world. Americans have fought and died for these ideals. And when freedom gains ground anywhere, Americans are inspired.

So the risks posed by transitions will not keep us from pursuing positive change. But they do raise the stakes for getting it right. Free, fair, and meaningful elections are essential—but they are not enough if they bring new autocrats to power or disenfranchise minorities. And any democracy that does not include half its population—its women—is a contradiction in terms. Durable democracies depend on strong civil societies, respect for the rule of law, independent institutions, free expression, and a free press. Legitimate political parties cannot have a militia wing and a political wing. Parties have to accept the results of free and fair elections. And this is not just in the Middle East.

One would hope that Secretary Clinton and her team of advisers are doing some serious damage control, if not rethinking their entire policy in the region.

The Egyptians, Tunisians and Moroccans are not naïve. They all know who paid for and made a lot of the weapons that were used against them. They all know who gave money to the corrupt thugs at the top. They all know who really pulled the strings.

Each and every day, the citizenry of the Arab world is feeling more and more empowered. Desired reforms may not come all at once and may be extremely slow to come to fruition, but if China and Russia can liberalize to the extent that they have, what will stop Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt?

Now that power is slowly being dispersed amongst the people, it’s very hard to tell what they will do with it. One thing is for certain: acting as if the Arab world and the US will all of the sudden become friendly and hold common values will be as detrimental to American foreign policy as is the myth that the Cold War never ended.

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