Monday, September 16, 2013
By Barry Rubin
To see an alternative policy for the Middle East--presented four years ago and still timely, see:
It is likely that the efforts of the Obama Administration during its second term will fail, not only because of its lack of understanding of the region and its ideology but also due to the specific agenda.
NO MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY--ONLY HOSTILE ONES OR MOVEMENTS--CAN DEPEND ON THE UNITED STATES.
And to clarify this further:
NO COUNTRY--INCLUDING ISRAEL--CAN DEPEND ON THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.
But as I noted above, this U.S. policy of Obama’s second term will fail. For example, the main goals of the second term are four big issues:
--Egypt government coalition with Muslim Brotherhood
--Syrian civil war resolution with rebel victory
--U.S.-Iran rapprochement resolving nuclear issue.
Yet because of irreconcilable differences, these may well be unresolvable. Due to such failures and hardline radical positions (Palestinians, Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian Islamists and regime, Iranian regime), the next administration would probably be forced back on recognition of extremism, support of allies, and U.S. interests.
Thus, regarding the “peace process,” we may well see the typical pattern in which the Palestinians wreck the peace process by rejecting or demanding even more concessions. Once again, it will only be necessary to wait until American negotiators learn better why their goals are impossible. Radicals will just raise their demands and demonstrate their anti-Americanism, and necessary priorities will shift.
The difference this time would be that the policymakers would not learn until the next president. Yet there are other reasons for hope, too, and these must be integrated into the strategies of would-be allies of the United States.
These include several points:
--Since U .S. policies do not take into proper account the legitimate interests of allies, a greater element of defiance will be necessary. With the Saudis, for example, they had to rescue the client regime in Bahrain, because the Obama Administration refused, step in and subsidize the coup regime in Egypt and subsidize the Lebanese opposition.
Countries must be ready for a higher level of potential friction with the Obama Administration, which will not damage future foreign policy when the time comes that the current president will be replaced by a different Democratic or Republican one.
--When required to make a tactical retreat due to lack of U.S. support, it should be stretched out, because the clock is ticking on January 2017.
--Of course the clock is ticking too on wasted time. Iran will be closer to having nuclear weapons, for instance, but that just indicates the actual harm done by the Obama Administration policies. Islamists will also be stronger than would have been true otherwise. This was, however, not true in Egypt, where there was local resistance backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
--The creation of parallel alliances and what might be called objective alliances, which can include countries that are nominal enemies. These include building bonds with Asia, including China and India, as powers. In other words, if America will not play a leading or supportive role, others must be found to do so.
But the most important single factor is the genie offer. In this scenario, a genie appears and offers the beneficiary three wishes, but with each one, the genie gives his enemy twice that amount.
Okay, says the clever man, I want to go half bankrupt. (This would make his rival fully bankrupt.)
This is not a joke. The instability, bad economic policies, adventurous actions, and other temptations that American weakness and error lured one into are counterproductive and self-damaging. The best examples are the Muslim Brotherhood's management of politics and the Palestinians’ overplaying of their hand to lose a real chance to get an independent state. And Syria wrecking itself with Islamists and radical nationalists killing each other.
You could call this the “Home Alone strategy,” which is going to be needed by would-be U.S. allies--at least until responsible adults show up to direct U.S. foreign policy. And that will take at least another 3 years and 4 months.
Posted by Barry Rubin at 3:22 PM