Moment of Opportunity
Being a citizen of the USA earns me a secondary interest in the Arab Spring. This is not, unfortunately, based on my own heritage of revolution, but because of my nation's dedication (ostensibly in my name) to stick its nose into every global corner. Despite the fact that these constant demands on citizenship are exhausting, I did find the energy to tune in President Obama on May 19th when he outlined his administration's position on the inspiring uprisings labeled the "Arab Spring".
Because I am not satisfied that the ensuing coverage, analyses and punditry adequately informed the public about the most important aspects of the speech, I feel once more obligated to launch myself into the blogosphere.
The speech was divided into two parts. The first part dealt directly with the USA's posture regarding the "Arab Spring" and the second part dealt exclusively with the Israel/Palestinian question. The decision to devote equal time to both these subjects was a very poor one on the part of President Obama.
In the first place, the decision to place on an equal rhetorical footing the sweeping and game-changing uprisings in the pan-Arabic world comprising some four hundred million souls with the problems caused by those two relatively small and unimportant peoples involved in the Israel/Palestinian dispute is an insult to every fair-minded person, but particularly to those four hundred millions. It demonstrated clearly, once again, the exaggerated importance little Israel plays in USA politics. To give Israel consideration equal to the entire Arab world only serves to undercut the president's assurances.
Secondly, and utterly predictably, the president's remarks on Israel completely washed away any importance his remarks on the Arab Uprising might have deserved. From the second he diverted his speech from the Arab Uprising to Israel he guaranteed all the following discussion on the speech would be devoted to that sub-section alone, and would almost totally ignore the dramatic shift in USA policy regarding pan-Arabia. If he had intended his speech to focus attention on US support for the Arab Uprising, a profound shift in policy, one must wonder how serious the president is when he concludes with a section on Israel guaranteed to diminish and obfuscate those very changes. He himself is responsible for the meager attention this dramatic policy shift has enjoyed - a very serious mistake.
My personal opinion is that I am happy to have our president place the USA on the side of democratic uprisings, wherever they occur. Because, in the pan-Arabic world, we have so long supported tyranny, this shift must survive the well deserved criticism of being two-faced. After all, it has only been a scant two years since this very same president gave his famous speech on US-Arab relations in Cairo. At that time, today's champion of democracy was honored to be a guest in Mubarak's Egypt.
Even though we must acknowledge that there is no history of this president supporting democracy's rebels in Egypt, or anywhere else in the Arab world, and understand that he is simply responding to events rather than leading, I am pleased that we have finally arrived on the right side of humanity. We should not be too hard on Mr. Obama for thishypocrisy. He is just a politician. Opinion in the USA and worldwide is generally on the side of these kids. When was the last time you saw a politician buck a rising tide in global opinion? When it comes to surfing popular waves, few politicians can hang ten better than President Obama.
While I would prefer that any and every citizen of the USA would see these events in the light of a Concord Green, and that vision would be sufficient to inspire our reaction, it seems that the Obama administration draws its inspiration from a different source. It is not from the most comparable event in our own "western" history- the volksfruhling of 1848 that means "peoples spring" and is the historical term that inspired the current handle "Arab Spring"- that motivates the president.
He likens the current events to the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent integration of those newly independent nations into the free world. While the United States deserves quite a bit of credit for Eastern Europe's liberation, no such connection exists between the United States and the Arab Spring. It is a false analogy. We cannot take credit for this overthrow of tyranny. By drawing an analogy between the demise of the Reds in Eastern Europe and the overthrow of tyranny in pan-Arabia, the president attempts to accomplish two things.
First, not only to identify the United States as a supporter of democratic uprisings (which is a good thing) but to also suggest the false idea that we had opposed the tyranny they rebel against, just as we had opposed Communism.
Second, to condition the reaction to the Arab Spring to conform to the policies that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is, to focus on the economics of the situation, rather than the politics.
This is what stuck in my craw and prompted a rush to the keyboard.
After "The Week in Review" section of the president's speech, he enumerated four concrete measures that the United States would pursue to support the Arab Spring. They were all economic. They were all in response to Mr. Obama's conclusion that the real reason for these uprisings was not political; not a simple desire for liberty and freedom, but rather a result of poorly run economies that did not provide opportunity. This view is consistent with the hoped for attitude adjustment that shifts responsibility from supporting tyranny to blaming poor planning.