Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Should U.S. Policy be Toward the Current Middle East Situation?

By Barry Rubin

People ask me what the United States should be doing toward the upheavals in the Middle East. Here's a short, quick list of themes:

1. Understanding that there are some people who want real democracy and others who don't, U.S. policy should be focused on battling the latter, especially the revolutionary Islamists, just as much as it might help the former.

2. The United States has a right to look after its national interests. If a few of its remaining allies in the world are dictatorships--and it is amazing how few there are, only about a half-dozen compared to something like 70 just 30 years ago--then those alliances are still necessary.

3. President Obama should never have said he has no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood being in Egypt's government. The way people in the Middle East think is that now Obama wants the Brotherhood in government! He should have said nothing.

4. Do not promote Muhammad ElBaradei who is a front man for the Brotherhood. If there is no presidential candidate good for U.S. interests just stay neutral. Admit that things can go wrong and make plans on what to do if an Islamist or anti-American Egypt were to emerge.

5. In every way possible (whether publicly or otherwise) help real democracy advocates, who have little money or organization, and not Islamists, who are well-funded and highly organized already.

6. Never make statements that the Muslim Brotherhood is harmless, moderate, and against violence. It is ridiculously untrue and does nothing for U.S. interests.

7. Let the American media publicize the extremism, antisemitism, anti-Christianism, and pro-terrorist activities of the Brotherhood. The American people should know who their enemies are.

8. Make sure the current regimes in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Morocco survive, with whatever reforms they are willing to make and that don't endanger them.

9. Know that no matter how much you distance yourself from Israel or fail to support that country your enemies will like you no better. Indeed, they will take that as a signal to increase their aggressiveness since they will assume that Israel doesn't have your backing. Maybe you could even recognize that the main barrier to peace is the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

10. Do everything possible to subvert the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. You've already made three big mistakes--pressing Israel into elimating most sanctions on Gaza, giving money to the PA to pass onto Gaza, and encouraging a revolution in Egypt that might align with Hamas even without an Islamist government in Cairo. It's time to stop empowering your enemies.

10. Assemble a broad alignment of anti-Islamist forces to combat the spread of revolutionary Islamism--whether from the Iran-led alliance or the Muslim Brotherhoods--which is the main threat to peace, stability, democracy, and Western interests in the Middle East.

11. Here's a good idea for a start: Assemble a multinational fleet and crush the Somali pirates, sink all their ships, and bring them--those still alive--to some form of justice. Don't accept the world sinking into anarchy. This is an achievable objective.

11. Direct your efforts against the most horrible and anti-American regimes to weaken them in whatever way is appropriate: Iran, Syria, Hizballah's domination of Lebanon, the current Turkish regime, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Iran is now supplying advanced rockets to the Taliban in order to kill Americans in Afghanistan and helping Iraqi insurgents to kill Americans in Iraq. Isn't that warfare?

It really isn't so hard to come up with a good and sensible U.S. policy. Yet over and over again in recent years I've been as frustrated as the great baseball manager Casey Stengel said when his team kept losing: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

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