Obama Smart To Stay Quiet On Middle East
by Sally Kohn
In a New York Times article today, Mark Lander and Helene Cooper explored President Obama’s seeming reluctance to boldly proclaim support for opposition movements popping up all over the Middle East. Of Obama’s critics — many of whom, I would note, would be critical even if Obama personally flew to Libya and wrestled Gaddhafi to the ground with his own hands — they write:
Some say he is failing to bind the United States to the historic change under way in the Middle East the way that Ronald Reagan forever cemented himself in history books to the end of the cold war with his famous call to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Except the analogy completely fails. Opposition leaders and ordinary citizens in communist nations were not, by and large, opposed to Western influence nor the ideals of America in general. In fact, to the contrary, America’s democracy and free market were explicit aspirations of those movements — in many ways, wrapped in outright admiration for the United States as a beacon of these principles.
The situation in the Middle East could not be more different. Yes, the spread of democratic ideals through the Arab world comes not in small part thanks to Western pop culture, much of which originates in the United States. But make no mistake about it; in a region of the world in which the direct role of the United States has historically been outright hostility and violence, brandishing a pro-democracy movement with red, white and blue may be the quickest way to kill it.
The United States president publicly proclaiming America’s support for opposition movements in the Middle East would allow extremists and establishment regimes to tar democratic leaders as “pawns of the West” and undermine the very real, and very important legitimacy the pro-democracy movements are deriving from being a very homegrown, very Arab-world-based phenomenon.
It may be generations before we know what our president on behalf of our nation is doing behind the scenes to support these people’s movements throughout the Middle East. Given the many awful secret things our government does every day in the name of national interest, it’s hard to imagine we’re not doing something positive to help install more US-friendly — and, uh, human friendly — governments in the region. But, unlike Peter King for instance, President Obama understands that one of the best ways for America to make friends in the Middle East is NOT to make enemies. Which is why he may be wise to be relatively quiet.Click here for reuse options!
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