Photo: Wikispaces
There is a shift in America's strategic interests as the Middle East is left to wander.

By R. James Towe  james@sollicitus.us

I suppose the Arab Spring was an experiment by the West. A new wide-eyed, culturally relativistic American administration believed in the human family. Mankind's differences were artificial; created by oligarchs long ago to serve their selfish interests.


The Arab Spring was seen by the Left as an opportunity to 'right' the 'wrongs' of the past. Hosni Mubarak was American stalwart during the late days of the Cold War and the more recent War on Terror, but no matter. It was time for him to go, according to President Obama. The Egyptian people were chanting loudly for democracy.

In a bizarre development, the Obama administration viewed Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as somehow monolithic in design and nature. Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi as congruent. These regimes exercised different styles of governance and attitudes toward their citizens, yet they were viewed as equally slimy. Somehow Iran escaped this as the president was silent while students revolted against the mullahs. Disturbingly, America offered no support in that instance. But an American ally in Mubarak or a crazy thug in Gaddafi? We were right there and voiced our support for a new government. John McCain even made gutsy fly-ins to Libya as a show of support for the 'freedom fighters', a.k.a. al-Qaeda in the Maghreb.

Churchill in Egypt
The planet has a plethora of regions where 'stability' or 'American interests' mean nothing beyond just keeping the lid on the powder keg. Most of the Middle East fits this description, but it was not for lack of effort.

The Maghreb and the Middle East prior to the Second World War are presented as examples of colonial servitude and humiliation for the native Arabs. The less acknowledged result of colonialism was the injection of money and expertise to rebuild these ancient and crumbling societies. Britain modernized Egypt during the early 20th century and Winston Churchill drew the borders for much of the Middle East as we know them today. Quite unfortunately, the post-Cold War vacuum and subsequent rise in Islamic militantism has continued to stifle any hope of true modernization and rejection of violence as legitimate protest.

A question that few will address is whether these societies are culturally capable of non-autocratic self governance. Imposing Western values, including representative democracy, on Arabs and Muslim communities assumes a certain amount of homogeneity (Islamic sectarian division) and rational response (i.e. not committing political violence) in areas of disagreement.


Prior to the current American administration, Western governments understood fully that autocratic efficiency in the Arab world benefited the West. This status-quo policy generally suited the interests of the native population over the alternative of violence and chaos. 

The president restructured America's Middle East policy; now his labor is bearing fruit. It has created a new Afghanistan in Libya. There is almost no functioning government outside of Tripoli. Egypt is in peril. America holds its aid dollars because the Egyptian military removed a 'democratic' government and threw Mohammad Morsi in jail. This, despite the fact that Egypt was not to be 'democratic' much longer; but the United States had to make a gesture to democracy, even if just to a democratic abstraction. It sounded nice.


Now al-Qaeda moves throughout the Fertile Crescent, almost at will. It threatens to destroy the mission that was accomplished in Iraq. Mr Obama's rush to withdraw may soon reclassify the more than 4,000 casualties of American men and women to warriors dying in vain rather than for a just cause that concluded in victory. All so a president could say he ended a war; a war his predecessor had won.

So nothing productive has developed from America's general disengagement and selective involvement in the Middle East and Muslim world. If there were a time to set aside euro-centric ideals (representative democracy) and work within the confines of Arab and Muslim systems of law, government and traditions, this would be the moment. One would have thought that a committed Leftest and cultural relativist in Barack Obama would have been astute to the idea.