In light of everything that’s been going on in the Middle East and North Africa over the last week, I have to comment.
First of all, as those who know me or have read my scribbling over the years are aware, I’ve long maintained that the idea of a Western-style democracy successfully taking hold in the Muslim/Arab world is a pipe dream. There are no cultural underpinnings to support such an enterprise, and in fact their cultural and religious foundations are antithetical to the concept.
Our country suffers from two deadly weaknesses in our approach to the problems in the region. The first is that, with the exception of Reagan, no one inside the Beltway in post-Vietnam history has had Clue One about how the Arab/Muslim mind works. They think, in spite of all the historical evidence to the contrary, that the prevailing mindset is no different from our own. I think you actually have to have lived in the region to realize how wrong that idea really is. I spent my high school years in Iran, and I can’t imagine a more foolish concept.
The second weakness is our dependence on oil from the region. Unquestionably, that limits our options, and forces us into “alliances” that are contrary to our own national self-interests. A perfect example is our relationship with Saudi Arabia. Though that country is perhaps less anti-Western than others, they’re certainly not our friends in the way that a country like the UK is, for example. We’re simply a market for their product: oil. They’re still the source for international Wahabiism, and terrorists such as bin Laden draw much of their financial support from sources within that country. Don’t fool yourselves; they’re not our allies in the real sense of the word.
Which brings us to Obama. Obama is the “perfect storm” of ignorance of the region coupled with stupidly utopian idealism coupled with a refusal to take any realistic actions to lessen our dependence on oil from the region. A disastrous trifecta of insane policy.
As I’ve said before (here, here and here) we’re sitting on an ocean of oil we’re just letting sit in the ground purely for political reasons. We have more known and recoverable oil than any other nation on the planet; three times as much as Saudi Arabia. The solution to our “energy dependence” problem is very simple: Drill, baby, drill!
But we can’t do that because the amateur in the Oval Office won’t allow it. The pump price of gasoline has doubled since Obama took office, but he’s stuck on stupid when it comes to oil, and would rather hitch his wagon to fantasies about “alternative energies” that don’t even exist at this point in time, rather than actually address the problem with the obvious and easy solutions that already do exist.
All we have to do is drill our own oil to free us from having to worry about the actions being taken by Muslim extremists who seem to spend their whole lives being “offended” by everything under the sun. We could simply flip them off and have done with it.
And just exactly what are the policies being implemented by Obama in the Muslim/Arab world? They’re a repeat of the exact same policies that worked so well under “Peanut Jimmy” Carter! Remember those good old days?
Carter proved how “tough” he was by engineering the downfall of the Shah of Iran, and his replacement by Ayatollah Khomeini, and look how well that turned out. Obama proved how tough he was by “killing bin Laden” and facilitating the “Arab Spring”, and look how well that’s turning out. Obama is Carter Redux. Worse, actually, because he’s refused to learn the lessons of history, and is repeating the same stupid actions that have already proven to be disastrous in the past.
If we insist on remaining engaged with the Arab/Muslim world, we have to do so from a position of unyielding strength and pragmatism that isn’t filtered through rose-colored lenses that project a vision of Western values that doesn’t exist in the region. We have to use our aid dollars as both a carrot and a stick. We have to find some pro-Western strongmen, and back them. Maybe over time a foundation can be laid that will allow Western-style democracies to develop there, but the key words are “over time”. A long time, probably generations at least.
At this time, we’re viewed in the Muslim/Arab world as being paper tigers; easy and impotent targets that never respond to provocation. In that world, that’s fatal. Until we learn that lesson and act accordingly, attacks against our interests and outposts will continue. It’s just that simple.
These are all lessons that are clear to see. Obama has proven to be an epic failure in this arena. His response has been to thrash around impotently, throwing blame hither and yon, then promptly getting back to the only activity he’s reliably pursued throughout his presidency (other than playing golf), campaigning for re-election. The current debacle in the region doesn’t seem to interest him as anything more important than just a minor campaign delay.
© Brian Baker 2012