The American Kafir

2011/12/08

The Obama Doctrine Defined

Source Article Link: Commentary Magazine

The Obama Doctrine Defined

By Douglas J. Feith & Seth Cropsey

The words “vacillating” and “aimless” are commonly used by both left and right to describe President Barack Obama​’s approach to the Libya war. His political friends and foes alike lament that he has no clear goal in Libya—and that, by failing to articulate one, he is revealing his unease at having been dragged into the fight to oust the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

Democratic Senator James Webb of Virginia issued a press release on March 21, 2011, noting that the U.S. mission in Libya “lacks clarity.” Former Republican Senator Slade Gorton wrote in the Washington Post: “We should never enter a war halfway and with an indecisive goal. Regrettably, that is where we stand today.”

The criticism has some validity, but it misses an important point: the administration’s approach has logic and coherence in the service of strategic considerations that extend far beyond Libya.

Since his campaign in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama has declared that he wants to transform America’s role in world affairs. And now,in the third year of his term, we can see how he is bringing about that transformation. The United States under Barack Obama is less assertive, less dominant, less power-minded, less focused on the American people’s particular interests, and less concerned about preserving U.S. freedom of action. It is true that he did not simply pull the plug on the war in Iraq, as he promised he would do, and that he increased the commitment of troops in Afghanistan. But those compromises reflect the president’s pragmatic judgment about the art of the possible, not his conviction about what kind of country America should ultimately become.

Obama determined early on, as the Libyan revolt developed, that no outcome would be more important to him than keeping the United States within the bounds set by the United Nations Security Council. He refused to act on Libya until the Arab League and the UNSC gave approval. He immediately renounced U.S. leadership of the military intervention—and when, due to default by U.S. allies, his own commanders had to take charge at the outset, he insisted they promptly pass the mission to NATO, which they did.

Having accused his predecessor of being too ready to resort to regime change by force, President Obama made sure that the Security Council resolution on Libya authorized military action only to protect civilians, not to oust dictator Muammar Qaddafi. American and allied commanders admitted publicly that their mission might end with Qaddafi still in power. In an April 26 press briefing, a journalist asked Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, the NATO commander of the Libya intervention force, if he saw the mission “ending with Qaddafi still in power.” Bouchard replied: “This mission comes to an end for me when the violence stops.”

If Qaddafi remains in power, however, Libyan civilians will remain in danger, so the intervention force might have to continue its mission indefinitely. Obama admitted as much in a CBS television interview that aired March 30, but he nonetheless opposes using military means to remove him. Meanwhile, even the narrowly scoped NATO mission is in trouble. The alliance lacks aircraft, munitions, and other resources that the United States has but is withholding. And, lacking U.S. leadership, the allies continue to quarrel about strategy. Yet, President Obama says that success in Libya is necessary to protect global peace and security.

Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that critics complain about incoherence. But the administration’s Libya policy makes sense in light of Obama’s intention to alter America’s place and function in the world. His ambition is novel and grand, though often couched in language that implies support for longstanding policies. It can be seen as a new doctrine—the Obama Doctrine.

And as the American approach to countering the Soviet menace came to be known as the “doctrine of containment,” the Obama Doctrine may come to be known as the “doctrine of self-containment.” Or, perhaps more fitting, given the echo of the foreign-policy approach that governed the Cold War​, the “doctrine of constrainment.”

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The Obama doctrine emerges from the conviction that in the new post-Cold War, post-9/11, post–George W. Bush​ world, the United States cannot and should not exercise the kind of boldness and independence characteristic of its foreign policy in the decades after World War II. That view runs roughly as follows: traditional ideas of American leadership serving American interests abroad are not a proper guide for future conduct. They have spawned crimes and blunders—in Iran in the early 1950s, then in Vietnam, and recently in Iraq, for example. To prevent further calamities, the United States should drop its obsession with its own national interests and concentrate on working for the world’s general good on an equal footing with other countries, recognizing that it is multinational bodies that grant legitimacy on the world stage.

Two large ideas animate the Obama Doctrine. The first is that America’s role in world affairs for more than a century has been, more often than not, aggressive rather than constrained, wasteful rather than communal, and arrogant in promoting democracy, despite our own democratic shortcomings. Accordingly, America has much to apologize for, including failure to understand others, refusal to defer sufficiently to others, selfishness in pursuing U.S. interests as opposed to global interests, and showing far too much concern for U.S. sovereignty, independence, and freedom of action. The second idea is that multilateral institutions offer the best hope for restraining U.S. power and moderating our national assertiveness.

President Obama promoted this perspective of American history in his June 2009 speech in Cairo, which remains his presidency’s most important foreign-policy pronouncement. In that carefully crafted discourse, Obama explained the poor relations between America and Muslims generally by citing “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims.” He contrasted his own all-encompassing view of humanity with the parochialism of his countrymen in general, lamenting: “Some in my country view Islam as inevitably hostile…to human rights.” Americans’ response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, Obama noted apologetically, “led us to act contrary to our ideals.” Suggesting that long-standing American efforts to establish standards of acceptable international behavior amount to no more than a self-interested and doomed attempt to impose our will on others, he proclaimed that “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.” He was here condemning what he perceives as overweening and unrestricted American power and declaring independence from America’s record of bad behavior.

Obama cited a significant example of that bad behavior: “For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” This implies that the hostility between the countries was the result of American action in 1953 in helping to overthrow a leftist Iranian politician whom the Iranian clergy generally despised. This reading of history (concentrating on events that predate by more than a quarter century the revolution that brought to power the ayatollahs who view America as “the great Satan”) served his purposes because it depicted the United States as ultimately culpable for the major, long-running problem of Iran’s anti-Americanism. It became an argument for constraining American power.

A telling passage in the Cairo speech was the quotation from a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson after his second presidential term in 1815: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.” Obama took the quote out of context. Jefferson wrote those somewhat paradoxical words only after, in the same letter, stating his hope that Napoleon would “wear down the maritime power of England to limitable and safe dimensions.” Jefferson put his faith in naval power, not wisdom or restraint, to protect America from British forces. Jefferson was, after all, one of the fathers of the U.S. Navy and the man who ordered it to carry the Marines into action against pirates on “the shores of Tripoli” (in modern-day Libya, as it happens)—pirates who demanded that the American people convert to Islam. Indifferent to the irony of Jeffersonian policy, however, Obama invoked Jefferson to support the notion that America should act with less power in the world.

The main ideas in the Cairo speech were foreshadowed in an article Obama wrote for Foreign Affairs in 2007. He associated the words “freedom” and “democracy” with Bush administration rhetoric: “People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march. Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change.” Fighting terrorism, Obama said, requires “more than lectures on democracy.”

Obama expostulated that America “can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission.” And so he called for a strategy against terrorists that “draws on the full range of American power, not just our military might.” Reform of multinational institutions, he declared, “will not come by bullying other countries to ratify changes we hatch in isolation.” What is more, “when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others.”

Promising to couple U.S. foreign assistance with an insistence on reforms to combat corruption, he added: “I will do so not in the spirit of a patron but in the spirit of a partner—a partner mindful of his own imperfections.” The essence of these comments is so noncontroversial as to be banal. What is remarkable is the way they are formulated to portray the United States as a militaristic, patronizing bully.

In promoting that image of the United States, Obama and members of his national-security team are drawing on the large body of literature produced by politically progressive American academics and thinkers who have harshly criticized America’s national-security policy—and not just that of the George W. Bush administration.

One such thinker, Samantha Power, is now a special assistant to President Obama. In a 2003 article for the New Republic, Power argued that since “international institutions certainly could not restrain American will,” American unilateralism was the force giving rise to the anti-Americanism commonplace in intellectual circles abroad. “The U.S,” she wrote, “came to be seen less as it sees itself (the cop protecting the world from rogue nations) than as the very runaway state international law needs to contain.” But hers were not criticisms only of the Bush administration. The actions she regretted occurred during the Clinton administration as well and included the refusal to pay United Nations dues and being opposed to the International Criminal Court​ treaty, the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the land mines ban, the Comprehensive [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty, “and other international treaties.”

Power wrote that America’s record in world affairs had been so harmful to the freedoms of people around the world that the United States could remedy the problem only through profound self-criticism and the wholesale adoption of new policies. Acknowledging that President Bush was correct in saying that “some America-bashers” hate the American people’s freedoms, Ms. Power stated that much anti-Americanism derives from the role that U.S. power “has played in denying such freedoms to others” and concluded:

U.S. foreign policy has to be rethought. It needs not tweaking but overhauling….Instituting a doctrine of mea culpa would enhance our credibility by showing that American decision-makers do not endorse the sins of their predecessors. When [then German Chancellor​] Willie [sic] Brandt went down on one knee in the Warsaw ghetto, his gesture was gratifying to World War II survivors, but it was also ennobling and cathartic for Germany. Would such an approach be futile for the United States?

Thus, even at the beginning of the Bush presidency, Power saw Brandt’s apology for the Nazis’ destruction of European Jewry as the model for an American leader to seek pardon for the sins of U.S. foreign policy.

Anne-Marie Slaughter​, of Princeton University, whom President Obama would later appoint as the State Department​’s head of policy planning, likewise exhorted whomever would succeed President Bush to apologize for America’s role in the world. In a February 2008 article in Commonweal entitled “Good Reasons to be Humble,” she wrote:

[I]t will be time for a new president to show humility rather than just talk about it. The president must ask Americans to acknowledge to ourselves and to the world that we have made serious, even tragic, mistakes in the aftermath of September 11—in invading Iraq, in condoning torture and flouting international law, and in denying the very existence of global warming until a hurricane destroyed one of our most beloved cities….

[W]e should make clear that our hubris, as in the old Greek myths, has diminished us and led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

All this helps explain the remorseful tone of the Cairo speech. It also sheds light on Obama’s determination to set precedents and create institutional and legal constraints on the ability of the United States to take international action assertively, independently, and in its own particular interests. Without reference to this severely jaundiced view of American history, one cannot make any sense of the hesitation and meekness, the extreme deference to the Security Council and shyness about encouraging opponents of hostile dictators that have characterized the Obama administration’s policy toward Libya—and, for that matter, toward the anti-Assad-regime upheaval in Syria and, in 2009, toward the Green Movement anti-regime demonstrations in Iran.

In a 2007 article in Harper’s, Slaughter argued against traditional conceptions of American international leadership and against the importance of American freedom of action. She promoted a theory that detaches power from influence in the world. She asserted that America is “more powerful than ever…and never more reviled.”

Stressing that “force has its limits” and that diplomacy “is a game of suasion, not coercion,” Slaughter predicted: “The more that America is respected and admired in the world, the greater will our diplomatic powers be.” That may be true in some cases, but Slaughter effectively turned the idea of leadership on its head. She argued a paradox: that leadership means not leading. In other words, by not putting itself out front on matters, America can be more effective as a leader, if leadership is understood as asking for others’ consent in advance and accepting constraints. This reasoning underlies the widely noted statement by an unnamed senior administration official in Ryan Lizza​’s May 2, 2011, New Yorker article that Obama’s policy in Libya demonstrates the innovative principle of “leading from behind.”

The key to respect and admiration, in this view, has nothing to do with military capability, strategic vision, courage, effectiveness, economic strength, willingness to defend one’s own interests, or taking risks. Rather, the key lies in the virtues of “equality” and “humility.” Slaughter made the case that America can be a leader only if it is “the country I know and love” that “flies its flag alongside other nations, not above them”,  “negotiates rather than dictates,” and “leads through self-restraint rather than by proclaiming itself free of all constraints.”

Especially noteworthy here is her implication that it is selfish and unproductive for the United States to protect its right and ability to act unilaterally to advance its national interests. She deprecated the idea by saying the U.S. was “proclaiming itself free of all constraints.” This was part and parcel of an argument that the United States should become party to additional treaties and international organizations and arrangements—including the International Criminal Court, climate-change forums, and nuclear-disarmament initiatives—and should strive to increase the voting power and influence therein not of the United States, but of other nations.

At the end of the day, the United States would have less of a voice and less freedom of action. This would be worthwhile, however, in Slaughter’s words, because of “the paradox of American foreign policy”—namely, by reducing its own profile and limiting its own sovereignty, America would gain respect around the world and thereby increase its success in winning other nations’ cooperation for efforts in the common interest.

Slaughter warned that “an entire generation of citizens around the world is being reared with no memory of the role the United States played in World War II and the Cold War but with plenty of evidence that the world’s lone superpower is arrogant, incompetent, and indifferent.” She cited a Voice of America broadcaster named William Harlan Hale, who, in 1947, described the postwar world as one “in which the United States—the greatest military and economic power and the unchallenged victor of World War II—was in danger of being seen as arrogant and imperialist.”

“Does this sound familiar?” she asked. America—as she presented it—had not fallen into international disrepute during the Bush administration. It had teetered on the edge of contemptible arrogance and imperialism since at least the end of World War II.

The ideas of Anne-Marie Slaughter and Samantha Power are in no way considered radical or daring at leading American universities. In fact, their highly critical perspective on American history is the predominant one. Their community is Barack Obama’s community. These are the people with whom he studied and with whom he worked as a faculty colleague. He drew heavily on his fellow progressive academics to fill top jobs in his administration, and it is evident they have helped shape his understanding of American history, his perception of international affairs, and his strategy for transforming America’s purpose and role in the world.

Putting a strategy into action is a difficult and messy challenge for a president. It is never easy to achieve interagency cooperation, and political pressures often force presidents to bend or violate their preferences. Obama’s national-security policies seem to be an ideological hodgepodge—sometimes philosophically “realist” (emphasizing power and practical interests) and sometimes “idealist” (supporting the spread of freedom). Sometimes he acts tough, as with his Predator strikes against terrorist targets and the courageous raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and sometimes he acts weak, as when he withheld encouragement to the anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrators in Iran in June 2009, lest he offend the clerical regime and jeopardize diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program. Sometimes his rhetoric is humble, bordering on the abject, as in his Cairo speech, and sometimes he touts the importance of American leadership.

When Obama looks indecisive or inconsistent, the cause generally is not a clash of ideas, but a clash between his ideas and his political requirements. Obama embraces his ideas with conviction, but he is intent on political success and realizes that his unconventional strategic ambitions can be realized only if he preserves his carefully cultivated political persona as a nonideological figure, a moderate who bridges the old liberal-conservative divide. Accordingly, he is willing at times to conform to the conventional expectations of Congress and the public. Obama’s famous pragmatism—demonstrated most notably in the prosecution of the Iraq war, which he had harshly denounced as an utter failure, and in the continued operation of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, which he had characterized as a disgrace and promised to shut down without delay—shows that he is sensitive to the political risks of his strategy to constrain America.

President Obama is skilled in handling criticism by addressing complaints head-on and claiming (sometimes misleadingly) that he largely agrees with his critics. The way he has dealt with the chief complaints about his Libya policy illustrates this point.

First, because of his early inaction and his statement that America would not take charge, Obama was criticized for opposing U.S. leadership. As the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen put it: “Amazingly, the White House wants to wait on nearly everyone to do almost anything—the United Nations, NATO, ‘multilateral organizations and bilateral relationships,’ in the words of [White House official Benjamin] Rhodes. This is a highfalutin way of saying that first we’re gonna have a meeting and then break into committees and then report back here sometime soon…the good Lord willin’.”

Effectively acknowledging the criticism, President Obama then declared, “American leadership is essential.” He explained that “real leadership” means creating the conditions for others to step up. The explanation has in it an element of truth, but the term “leadership” usually refers to the act of taking initiative to drive an effort toward a valuable goal. Obama used the term to refer to ensuring a process in which other states would take on various responsibilities, whether or not they would produce a useful result. Obama thus endorsed the paradox highlighted by Anne-Marie Slaughter: American leadership requires our refusing to lead.

This corkscrew approach allows Obama to make the politically popular point that he champions American leadership in the world while remaining true to his goal of a more constrained America. In the case of Libya, it allows him to boast of his own leadership for having created a vacuum that others have attempted, albeit wholly inadequately, to fill.

And because he adamantly refused to act before the Security Council gave its permission, even at the risk of the complete annihilation of the rebel force, President Obama came under critical assault even from those who generally support him. Typical was the slap by CNN television host Eliot Spitzer​, the former Democratic governor of New York: “Secretary of State Clinton reiterated that a United Nations resolution was necessary. We are hostage to the United Nations Security Council and the threat of Russian and Chinese vetoes. We have made our foreign policy dependent on the Russians and Chinese.” Obama responded to the point, offering reassurance that he “will never hesitate to use our military swiftly, decisively, and unilaterally when necessary.” There is political benefit and little downside in his accepting unilateral action in principle while his administration does whatever it can to discredit and preclude it.

The key to impeding U.S. “unilateralism”—and to implementing Obama’s strategic vision generally—comes through deepening American involvement with multinational institutions. That is how Obama can bind the United States beyond his own term. He favors cooperation with the International Criminal Court and pledges “rededication” to the United Nations organization. He champions progressive treaties and has declared it a priority to win Senate approval of the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the UN treaty on the rights of women.

Obama is also committed to legitimating the “transnational law” movement, a vehicle for political progressives to constrain the power of democratically elected government officials. The movement works to circumvent legislatures by arguing that government administrators and judges should adopt its ideas as “rights.” The new rights—regarding the laws of war, arms control, the death penalty, and other matters—are grounded not in national constitutions or domestic statutes but in protean notions of international “norms,” “customary” law, and “consensus” among groups of scholars, activists, and jurists. The movement creatively responds to frustrations among progressive activists that democratic legislatures often refuse to support their ideas.

A leading champion of this movement, Harold Koh​, former dean of Yale Law School, has written voluminously on how “transnational norm entrepreneurs, governmental norm sponsors, transnational issue networks, and interpretive communities” can overcome political majorities in what he calls “resisting nation-states.” In a Penn State International Law Review article in 2006, he contrasted the views of transnationalists and their critics, whom he designates “nationalists”:

Generally speaking, the trans-nationalists tend to emphasize the interdependence between the United States and the rest of the world, while the nationalists tend instead to focus more on preserving American autonomy. The transnationalists believe in and promote the blending of international and domestic law, while nationalists continue to maintain a rigid separation of domestic from foreign law. The transnationalists view domestic courts as having a critical role to play in domesticating international law into U.S. law, while nationalists argue instead that only the political branches can internalize international law. The transnationalists believe that U.S. courts can and should use their interpretive powers to promote the development of a global legal system, while the nationalists tend to claim that U.S. courts should limit their attention to the development of a national system. Finally, the transnationalists urge that the power of the executive branch should be constrained by judicial review and the concept of international comity, while the nationalists tend to believe that federal courts should give extraordinarily broad deference to executive power in foreign affairs.

Two points are notable here. The first is that judges should use the concept of “international comity” to constrain the power of the executive branch. It is a vague and open-ended notion that allows judges to legislate undemocratically from the bench.

The second point to note is the disapproving reference to “preserving American autonomy.” Traditional American policy, with long-standing bipartisan support, has been to safeguard the president’s authority and ability to act independently to defend the country’s national-security interests. It was a Democratic president, Harry Truman, who ensured that the United Nations Charter gave the United States a veto over resolutions of the Security Council, the only UN body that can make legally binding decisions. He favored international cooperation but not at the expense of American freedom of action or of the president’s constitutional authority to act as he or she sees fit to defend the country or advance its interests. John F. Kennedy did not seek UN permission to “quarantine” Cuba, nor did President Bill Clinton​ obtain UN authorization for the U.S.-led intervention in Kosovo. Harold Koh, however, writes of American autonomy as a problem to be solved rather than a principle to be preserved.

Obama appointed Koh as the top lawyer at the State Department, where he has been instrumental in interpreting the laws of war and leads the U.S. delegation to multinational meetings on the International Criminal Court treaty.

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In the seven decades following World War II, when America achieved the dominant position in world affairs, realists and idealists have agreed on a number of fundamental ideas about U.S. national security. They are these: American interests, rather than global interests, should predominate in U.S. policymaking. American leadership, as traditionally defined, is indispensible to promoting the interests of the United States and our key partners, who are our fellow democracies. American power is generally a force for good in the world. And, as important as international cooperation can be, the U.S. president should cherish American sovereignty and defend his ability to act independently to protect the American people and their interests.

As we have seen, President Obama and his advisory team are skeptical of all these ideas, or have rejected them outright.

Ideas matter, and especially to intellectuals like President Obama. He is not a rigid ideologue and is capable of flexible maneuvering. But his interpretation of history, his attitude toward sovereignty, and his confidence in multilateral institutions have shaped his views of American power and of American leadership in ways that distinguish him from previous presidents. On Libya, his deference to the UN Security Council and refusal to serve as coalition leader show that he cares more about restraining America than about accomplishing any particular result in Libya. He views Libya and the whole Arab Spring as relatively small distractions from his broader strategy for breaking with the history of U.S. foreign policy as it developed in the last century. The critics who accuse Obama of being adrift in foreign policy are mistaken. He has clear ideas of where he wants to go. The problem for him is that, if his strategy is set forth plainly, most Americans will not want to follow him.

About the Authors

Douglas J. Feith and Seth Cropsey are senior fellows at the Hudson Institute​. Feith served as under-secretary of defense for policy from 2001 to 2005 and is the author of War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (Harper). Cropsey served as a naval officer from 1985 to 2004 and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

2011/11/04

How Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will win

Source Article Link: Foreign Policy

How Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood will win

By Shadi Hamid

The performance of the Islamist party Ennahda in the October 23 Tunisian elections, in which it won 41.5 percent of the seats, has refocused attention on the upcoming Egyptian elections scheduled to begin on November 28. Some analysts have minimized the Muslim Brotherhood’s prospects for success by pointing to polls suggesting that the group — the largest and best organized in Egypt — hovers between 15 to 30 percent approval. It may be true that the Brotherhood isn’t as popular as we might think. But elections aren’t popularity contests. In fact, as the campaign unfolds, it appears likely that Egypt’s Islamists will do even better than expected, just like their Tunisian counterparts.

In the run-up to the Tunisian elections, Ennahda was polling around 20 percent. Yet they ended up with nearly double. In elections — particularly founding elections in which new parties need to introduce themselves to voters across the country — organization and strategy are what counts, not high approval ratings. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood excels on both counts. While most liberal and leftist parties are effectively starting from scratch, the Brotherhood already has a disciplined ground game, fine-tuned from three decades of contesting syndicate and national elections.

During last November’s parliamentary contest — arguably the most fraudulent Egypt had ever seen — I had the chance to witness the Brotherhood’s “get-out-the-vote” operation up close. One Brotherhood campaign worker, perhaps unaware it would sound somewhat implausible, told me that the organization has an internal vote turnout of nearly 100 percent. In other words, everyone who is an active Muslim Brotherhood member is expected to vote and actually does. Even if this is a stretch, it is true that the Brotherhood, in part because it is a religious movement rather than a political party, has the sort of organizational discipline of which competing parties can only dream.

This discipline is deeply rooted in the organization’s culture. Each Muslim Brotherhood member signs on to a rigorous educational curriculum and is part of something called an usra, or family, which meets weekly. If a Brother chooses to stay home on election day, other Brothers will know. But it’s not just a matter of peer expectations. At each polling station, there is a Brotherhood coordinator who essentially does a whip count. Because the number of voters at a particular polling station can be quite small — with the number of Brothers in the hundreds — this is feasible in many districts. The “whip” stays there the entire day, watching who comes and goes and tallies up the figures. If you were supposed to go and didn’t, the whip will know. Perhaps sensing my skepticism, one such whip assured me, “Well, you have to understand — I know every single Brother who lives in the area.

With an electoral system that is, in the words of one activist, “algorithmically complicated,” knowing your district takes on even more importance. As Daphne McCurdy pointed out in a recent POMED report on Tunisia, “Most polling in Tunisia has focused on nationwide levels of support, entirely overlooking variation within specific electoral districts.” Ennahda was the only party that had coverage throughout the country, with tailored strategies for each district, including rural areas. Here, the Brotherhood has yet another built-in advantage. With 88 deputies in the previous parliament (2005-2010), the group was able to provide a greater array of services on the local level and build stronger relations with constituents.

What about the Brotherhood’s competition? The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), is joined by Ayman Nour’s liberal al-Ghad party, the Nasserist Karama party, and a smattering of smaller parties, forming the “Democratic Alliance” list. There are four other major lists, three of which have a liberal or leftist orientation (Egyptian Bloc, the Revolution Continues, and the Wafd list). With their considerable funding and patronage networks, the right-of-center Wafd party, headed by multi-millionaire Al-Sayyid Badawy, and remnants of the old ruling National Democratic Party, are also well positioned to secure a significant share of the vote.

For their part, the newly formed liberal parties have suffered from an inability to articulate a clear ideology or agenda — a major failing in a country where “liberalism” continues to have a negative connotation. Many liberal parties have sometimes appeared to stand for little more than not being Islamist, opting to stoke public fears of impending theocracy. Such a strategy is likely to backfire in a country where 67 percent of Egyptians say that laws should strictly follow the Quran’s teachings, while another 27 percent say that they should in some way follow the values and principles of Islam, according to an April Pew poll. In Tunisia, the Progressive Democratic Party, which positioned itself as the anti-Islamist choice, got pummeled in the polls, while the two liberal parties that maintained good relations with Ennahda — Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol — faired relatively well, finishing in second and third place respectively.

This leaves an obvious course for leftist and liberal parties, one that offers considerably more promise — a razor-sharp focus on Egypt’s mounting economic troubles. But this, too, is challenging, as most parties — leftist or not — use similar rhetoric on the economy: Poverty is bad; jobs are good; social justice is better, and so on. As Ayesha Sabayala of the Economist Intelligence Unit pointed out regarding Tunisia, “If you look at parties’ manifestos, with the exception of the far left parties, most have the same economic objectives: to reduce unemployment and increase infrastructure in interior.” The Muslim Brotherhood has smartly positioned itself as a voice for the poor, even though its economic platform (something designed more for foreign investors and the international community) is surprisingly free market-oriented. Recently, for example, the group launched “Millioniyyat al-Khayr” (the million-man act of goodwill), an initiative to provide 1.5 million kilos of meat to 5 million Egyptians for the Eid al-Adha holiday.

There is still the possibility that the Brotherhood may underperform — as they did in the recent Doctors’ Syndicate elections. But, be careful what you wish for. The alternative to moderate Islamists may very well be less moderate Islamists. Well before the Arab Spring, Brotherhood leaders often told me that their youth were increasingly being swayed by Salafi ideas. One Brotherhood official told me that Salafis outnumbered them five to one. Salafi groups have repeatedly sounded ambitious notes, with one leader claiming that they would win 30 percent of the seats. Ambitious as they are, Salafis are political novices, with virtually no experience running parliamentary campaigns. But they are proving quick learners and have managed to unify their ranks, bringing together four Salafi parties under the banner of the “Islamic alliance.” Moreover, liberal claims (or hopes) that Salafis are well outside of the mainstream may be wishful thinking. In a December 2010 poll, 82 percent of Egyptians said they favored stoning adulterers, while 77 percent supported cutting off the hands of thieves. The only movement besides the Brotherhood with a nationwide grassroots base, Salafis have taken to organizing traffic in congested areas of Alexandria, engage in door-to-door education campaigns, and provide health services to the poor.

These elections, then, are not necessarily about ideas. They are about voters. And, in this respect, Egypt’s elections are looking a lot like they do in the United States. The “good guys,” whoever they are, don’t always win. Indeed, if Islamist parties do as well they might — winning upwards of 50 percent of the vote — the alarmism and hand wringing from Western quarters will be considerable. The important metric for Egypt’s troubled transition, though, isn’t who wins, but rather, if Egyptians have the opportunity to choose their own representatives free of intimidation and interference. Democracy, as Western democracies have long known, is about the right to make the wrong choice.

Shadi Hamid is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. 

2011/10/31

Teaching Your Child to be a Dictator’s Lackey

Teaching Your Child to be a Dictator’s Lackey

by Daniel Greenfield

Imagine your child’s school teaching him how wonderful dictatorships are by having him and his friends model their very own group of dictatorships as part of their education. Like so many other Orwellian nightmares in the American educational system, this one is very real and takes place through the Model UN program.

The Model UN program teaches American students that global government is better than national government and that the corrupt kleptocracy on Turtle Bay is the ideal state of mankind. Finally it trains them to put American presidents on trial for violating United Nations laws.

Twenty-two Model UN events are scheduled to take place in November alone and many more are set to follow month after month throughout the school year as the advocates of global government exploit the school system to indoctrinate a new generation in their roles as servants of the conclave of totalitarian regimes.

The Model UN program teaches students to act out roles as representatives of different UN nations, but its real goal is to teach them to reject American exceptionalism in favor of multilateralism by convincing them that countries vary in interests, not in character, and that the People’s Republic of China and Saudi Arabia are no different than the United States in their legitimacy or their form of government.

The great lie that the United Nations was built on is that the voices of all nations are equally valid, regardless if they are banana republics, brutal Islamic theocracies, Communist tyrannies or nations with free and open elections that offer human rights to all. The United Nations is a democracy, but it is a democracy of dictatorships.

The vast majority of the world’s population lives in the thrall of tyrannies and the Model UN program models the farce that this great collective of the oppressed is legitimately represented by the lackeys of tyrants who speak in their name under the United Nations flag. There are 26 full democracies to 55 authoritarian regimes with the latter outnumbering the former in population three to one. The average UN representative is not representing a people or a nation, he is there as the personal representative of an Assad, a Kim Jong Il or a Khaddafi.

The democracy of dictatorships is why global multilateralism does not work and can never work, but the Model UN program helps embed the lie that it can and should into the growing minds of the leaders of tomorrow.

“You may be playing a role, but you are also preparing for life,” UN Secretary General Ki Ban Moon said in an address to the students of a Los Angeles classroom, “You are acting as global citizens.”

Global citizenship under the auspices of the United Nations is incompatible with American citizenship. It violates the United States Oath of Allegiance which states, “I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty” and it sets aside the national sovereignty of the United States and its open system of government in favor of a closed global system ruled by foreign princes and potentates.

What is not taught to students at the Model UN is that while American, Canadian and Australian leaders can be changed through national elections, and they can then recall their representatives, the majority of the UN’s representatives answer to rulers who cannot be recalled or removed except through revolution, civil war or death. That makes the UN a closed system whose charade of democracy disguises its core undemocratic and unrepresentative nature. Instead students are tricked into admiring its oppressive edifice and acting out their parts in its global tyranny.

The most widespread UN Model program is conducted through the Global Classrooms program of the United Nations Association of the United States of America. The UNA-USA’s National Council is chaired by none other than former president, Jimmy Carter, who did more than any previous leader to undermine America’s national sovereignty.

Read the rest of the article at FrontPageMag

2011/09/23

Turkey’s Erdogan: Mideast Troublemaker

Filed under: anti-Semitism, Dictators, Israel, Turkey — Tags: — - @ 2:40 pm

Source Link: Wall Street Journal

Turkey’s Erdogan: Mideast Troublemaker

The prime minister has turned his back on America and demonized Israel.

Written By Jack Rosen

The decades-long alliance between Turkey and Israel is in shambles, and American diplomats are working overtime to fix what’s broken. Conventional wisdom holds that the differences between Ankara and Jerusalem can be repaired, that their shared interests are too important to allow the relationship to wither.

But what if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if Turkey finds its increasingly adversarial stance toward Israel so politically advantageous that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan actually seeks to stoke the fire?

The event that led to the current conflict was the Turkish flotilla that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Turkey initially said it would abide by the ruling of a United Nations commission set up to determine what happened. The commission’s report, released on Sept. 2, noted that Israel is within its legal rights to impose a blockade against Gaza. Turkey says the report is worthless and continues to demand an apology, even though Israel repeatedly has said it regrets the loss of life as its forces responded in self-defense.

Moreover, Turkey has promised to send more flotillas, accompanied by the Turkish navy, which Mr. Erdogan insists will assume a more aggressive profile throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The military threats from Turkey have extended to preventing Israel from drilling for oil and gas off its own coast.

AFP / Getty Images

Mr. Erdogan chose Gaza long ago as the hook on which to hang his aggressive policies against Israel. After thousands of rocket attacks, and civilians demanding an end to raising their children in bomb shelters, Israel’s military finally responded with military force against the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist organization in late 2008. No leader criticized Israel more harshly than Mr. Erdogan, who created an international incident by insulting and then walking out on Israel’s President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in January 2009.

None of this is an accident. Since Mr. Erdogan and his AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power a decade ago, Turkey has redirected its strategic thinking away from the United States and the West. The notion that Turkey will only go “so far” and will feel compelled, at the end of the day, to return to the West’s fold, reflects wishful thinking.

Some are convinced that Turkey remains in the West’s orbit, pointing to its willingness to host missile-defense facilities designed to thwart Iran. But engaging in a balancing act that buys Ankara credit in Washington while serving the strategic interest of diminishing its regional Iranian rival shows Turkey knows how to use the West to achieve its goals in the East.

Turkey sees its economic future in the East, having left the issue of European Union membership in its rearview mirror. Since the AKP won re-election handily in June, Mr. Erdogan feels he’s in the driver’s seat, with an enormous amount of political capital at his disposal. As recently revealed in a WikiLeaks document, Mr. Erdogan’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, talked about Turks as the “New Ottomans,” the dominant player in the region.

Israel is the perfect foil for Turkey’s ambitions, allowing Ankara to champion its Muslim credentials. It has made its assessment on the basis of costs versus benefits, and thrown Israel overboard. Leaders in Jerusalem and Washington need to conduct their own reassessment.

The US has reached out to Turkey during the Erdogan era and received very little in return, starting with Ankara forbidding the US Army’s Third Infantry Division to enter Iraq overland through Turkey. Had that force worked its way south toward Baghdad in 2003, history might well have played out differently in terms of the strength of the Iraqi insurgency and its capacity to generate years of unrest and kill thousands of US troops.

With no one willing to call Mr. Erdogan to account, his Islamist regime regularly bashes the press, narrows the parameters of civil liberties at home, and defends terrorists such as Hamas abroad. In return, President Obama traveled 5,000 miles to Ankara in 2009 to extol the virtues of the Erdogan regime.

For a change, when Turkey talks about flexing its muscles in the Mediterranean, the US should remind Ankara that the US has interests in the region, and that the Sixth Fleet is still in business. And Congress once and for all should remind Turkey that there is no statute of limitations on genocide. With Ankara so keen on seeking apologies, it’s time we heard Turkey offer one for the massacres of a million or more Armenians during and after World War I, as well as an offer of reparations payments for Armenian families.

Turkey seems to think the US no longer matters, that its own destiny as regional superpower is assured, and that no one can challenge its moralistic stance as it sits grandly in judgment of all its neighbors. Whether the US can succeed in influencing Turkish behavior remains to be seen. But the days of going to the diplomatic table with a basket of carrots and no sticks must end.

Mr. Rosen is chairman of the American Council for World Jewry.

2011/08/22

Gaddafi Toppled: What Does Bible Prophecy Say About The Future Of Libya?

Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Darkness and Light, Dictators, Jews, Libya — - @ 6:45 pm

I have been reading Joel Rosenberg’s Blog consistently for quite awhile. Please read the many posts he has on his site concerning the turmoil in the Mid East and Bible Prophecy. I truly believe we are at a time where we need to get the Word to many people and share with them of our Salvation through knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. W

Bible prophecy also tells us the government and many of the people of Libya will be engaged in great evil in the End of Days.

  • In Ezekiel 38-39, we learn that Libya is one of the nations that joins the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel in “the last days.” In this prophecy, Ezekiel uses the name “Put.” The first century historian Flavius Josephus wrote in his famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews, that “Put” or “Phut” is “ancient Libyos.” Ancient Libyos, we know, certainly included the territory of the modern nation state we refer to today as Libya, but also included Algeria and possibly Tunisia. This tells us the no matter what the near term outcomes of the revolutions underway in North Africa are, in the not-too-distant future Libya for certain and possibly her neighbors will have virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel leadership who will eagerly join a coalition bent on destroying the Jews and occupy the land of Israel. Gaddafi, of course, is already such a leader. Perhaps he will ride out this storm and stay in power. Perhaps someone worse will rise up after him. Hopefully Gaddafi will be deposed and a more moderate leadership will rise up for a season before the prophecy of the “War of Gog and Magog” comes to fulfillment. Either way, the Church should be using this window of time to do everything possible to get the gospel into Libya and to strengthen the persecuted believers in Libya before the country faces God’s judgment for attacking Israel.
  • In Daniel 11, we learn that Libya is one of the countries that will be under the control and direction of the Antichrist in “the last days.” The Hebrew Prophet Daniel tells us that “a despicable person will arise” during “a time of tranquility” and will seize global power “by intrigue” and by “overflowing forces” in the End Times. This person, known in Christian theology as the Antichrist, ”will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.” The Bible tells us the Antichrist “will enter the Beautiful Land” — that is, Israel — and “will stretch out his hand against other countries.” Eventually, the Antichrist will gain control of the entire world and force all people who haven’t received Christ as Savior and Lord to bow and worship him or be beheaded. But the Bible specificially notes that the Antichrist ”will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians [the people of “Cush,” which includes modern Sudan, Ethiopia and possible Eritrea] will follow at his heels.” It is not entirely clear why the Bible points specifically to “Libyans” and “Ethiopians” as among those who will follow and serve the Antichrist, but this is what the Lord tells us in advance will happen.

This is all the more reason the Church must seek to reach all of North Africa with the gospel of Jesus Christ before it is too late. Please be praying faithfully for Libya and all of North Africa at this critical hour.

Read the entire article as well as others at Joel Rosenberg’s Blog Site

2011/04/01

Syria’s ‘reformer’

Filed under: Dictators, Hillary Clinton, National Security, Obama, Syria — - @ 2:52 pm

Source Link Washington Post
Written By Charles Krauthammer

Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.

— Hillary Clinton on Bashar al-Assad, March 27

Few things said by this administration in its two years can match this one for moral bankruptcy and strategic incomprehensibility.

First, it’s demonstrably false. It was hoped that President Assad would be a reformer when he inherited his father’s dictatorship a decade ago. Being a London-educated eye doctor, he received the full Yuri Andropov treatment — the assumption that having been exposed to Western ways, he’d been Westernized. Wrong. Assad has run the same iron-fisted Alawite police state as did his father.

Bashar made promises of reform during the short-lived Arab Spring of 2005. The promises were broken. During the current brutally suppressed protests, his spokeswoman made renewed promises of reform. Then Wednesday, appearing before parliament, Assad was shockingly defiant. He offered no concessions. None.

Second, Clinton’s statement is morally obtuse. Here are people demonstrating against a dictatorship that repeatedly uses live fire on its own people, a regime that in 1982 killed 20,000 in Hama and then paved the dead over. Here are insanely courageous people demanding reform — and the U.S. secretary of state tells the world that the thug ordering the shooting of innocents already is a reformer, thus effectively endorsing the Baath party line — “We are all reformers,” Assad told parliament — and undermining the demonstrators’ cause.

Third, it’s strategically incomprehensible. Sometimes you cover for a repressive ally because you need it for U.S. national security. Hence our muted words about Bahrain. Hence our slow response on Egypt. But there are rare times when strategic interest and moral imperative coincide completely. Syria is one such — a monstrous police state whose regime consistently works to thwart U.S. interests in the region.

During the worst days of the Iraq war, this regime funneled terrorists into Iraq to fight U.S. troops and Iraqi allies. It is dripping with Lebanese blood as well, being behind the murder of independent journalists and democrats, including former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. This year, it helped topple the pro-Western government of Hariri’s son, Saad, and put Lebanon under the thumb of the virulently anti-Western Hezbollah. Syria is a partner in nuclear proliferation with North Korea. It is Iran’s agent and closest Arab ally, granting it an outlet on the Mediterranean. Those two Iranian warships that went through the Suez Canal in February docked at the Syrian port of Latakia, a long-sought Iranian penetration of the Mediterranean.

Yet here was the secretary of state covering for the Syrian dictator against his own opposition. And it doesn’t help that Clinton tried to walk it back two days later by saying she was simply quoting others. Rubbish. Of the myriad opinions of Assad, she chose to cite precisely one: reformer. That’s an endorsement, no matter how much she later pretends otherwise.

And it’s not just the words; it’s the policy behind it. This delicacy toward Assad is dismayingly reminiscent of President Obama’s response to the 2009 Iranian uprising during which he was scandalously reluctant to support the demonstrators, while repeatedly reaffirming the legitimacy of the brutal theocracy suppressing them.

Why? Because Obama wanted to remain “engaged” with the mullahs — so that he could talk them out of their nuclear weapons. We know how that went.

The same conceit animates his Syria policy — keep good relations with the regime so that Obama can sweet-talk it out of its alliance with Iran and sponsorship of Hezbollah.

Another abject failure. Syria has contemptuously rejected Obama’s blandishments — obsequious visits from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and the return of the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus  since the killing of Hariri. Assad’s response? An even tighter and more ostentatious alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.

Our ambassador in Damascus should demand to meet the demonstrators and visit the wounded. If refused, he should be recalled to Washington. And rather than “deplore the crackdown,” as did Clinton in her walk-back, we should be denouncing it in forceful language and every available forum, including the U.N. Security Council.

No one is asking for a Libya-style rescue. Just simple truth-telling. If Kerry wants to make a fool of himself by continuing to insist that Assad is an agent of change, well, it’s a free country. But Clinton speaks for the nation.

letters@charleskrauthamm er.com

2011/03/23

Israeli-born Kiss founder sticks out his long tongue at Israel boycott supporters

Source Link:Israel Insider

The Israeli-born singer-musician Gene Simmons, founder of the band Kiss, has something to say about the b-list musicians who have refused to perform in his homeland.

“They’re fools,” the legendary bassist told the AP in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

He says artists who avoid Israel — such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies and Roger Waters, — would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators. “The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling,” he said. “People long to be free … And they sure as hell don’t want somebody who’s a ruler who hasn’t been elected by them.”

Simmons is making his first return to Israel since he left the country as a child more than 50 years ago. He described the visit as an emotional “homecoming.”

“I’m Israeli. I’m a stranger in America. I’m an outsider,” he said, speaking in a hotel lobby across a valley from the walls of Jerusalem’s historic Old City. “I was born here and I’m proud of it.”

Simmons was born Chaim Witz and spent his childhood in the northern Israel town of Tirat Carmel before making it to the big time in America.

2011/03/12

Symposium: The Red Arabs

Source Link: FrontPageMag

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