Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's The Proper U.S. Middle East Policy? It's Simple Though Not Easy

By Barry Rubin

Since there is so much bad policy on the Middle East to critique and since there’s no hope of the Obama Administration listening to alternative strategies, I often focus on the former. There is no great mystery, however, to what a good Middle East policy would be for the United States. You can apply this to any article I write as my constructive answer to the messes, crises, and dangers being faced.

The United States should take leadership. This is what its allies and dependents want. The UN at times can be a useful instrument but why depend on an organization often dominated by anti-American dictators and totally indifferent to U.S. interests?

Identify the greatest threat today as revolutionary Islamism. Build a broad alliance with all those opposed to revolutionary Islamism. This list includes:

Canada; European allies; Israel; and the remaining relatively moderate Arab governments on international affairs: Morocco; Algeria; Saudi Arabia, Kuwait; Bahrain; Oman; the United Arab Emirates; Iraq, South Sudan, and Jordan. Add to that the oppositions in Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey, and the truly moderate elements in Syria. Work with the real moderates and the army in Egypt (though these two are at loggerheads) and Turkey (where it is being weakened near or beyond the point of no return).

Plug in also with India, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and a number of other governments in Asia and Africa, too that face radical external and internal threats . China's interests should be appealed to based on its desire for stability, need for secure sources of energy and supply routes, and concerns over its own Muslim minority becoming radicalized.
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The goal is to keep revolutionary Islamists out of power wherever possible, as was done with Communists in the Cold War. Revolutionary Islamist states and movements should be subverted and weakened. It should be comprehended that terrorism is a tactic used sometimes by some revolutionary Islamist groups and not a movement in itself.

The connections between what is today the mainstream interpretation of Islam and revolutionary Islamism should be honestly recognized and U.S. personnel should be given truthful training. The idea that apology, appeasement, or concessions will moderate Islamists should be abandoned. The idea that the West can somehow produce its own moderate brand of Islam or will be rescued by tiny groups of doctrinally moderate Muslims should be dropped.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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