Sunday, April 05, 2009

That Other Part of the World

Though I have little to say about his term, Poppy Bush got it right when he decided the costs and side effects of fighting in the Middle East were too high to commit this country to war. We know now that it galled the warmongers in his executive branch, and they gnashed teeth and plotted until they got the chance to pop themselves into those costs and side effects, at the expense of the U.S. We know they proved he was right, though that can't give him any satisfaction.

Among the many other problems the maladministration just departed left for the current president are its wars. The way that President Obama is approaching changing the nature of our action there is encouraging, in my view. Today an op-ed by David Ignatius expresses guarded optimism, something I share as well.

The Obama administration is preparing a broad stage for Middle East diplomacy stretching from the Palestinians to Syria to Iran. It's a supremely ambitious agenda, and before the curtain goes up, Obama should explore his options and risks carefully.

By seeking to engage all the major actors in the Middle East at once, Obama is pursuing a general settlement of tensions in a dangerously unstable region. That's intriguing and also worrying for countries in the Middle East. It makes Saudis and Israelis -- not to mention Iranians and Syrians -- nervous.
Arabs and Israelis are equally nervous about Obama's opening to Iran. Both fear being sold out by Obama in his eagerness for Iranian help in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel's new prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, put down his marker on Iran last week in a tough interview with the Atlantic: Either you stop the Iranian nuclear problem, or we will.

The Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni Arab countries have been sending Obama a similar message. "We don't want a war with Iran," says one Saudi source. "But we are asking whether a U.S.-Iranian understanding will recognize our interests, or will it be at our expense?" The Saudis hope that if Obama's charm offensive toward Iran fails, it will be followed by tough action. "He's building a case against Iran," predicts the Saudi source.

That captures an idea that the previous maladministration never seemed to be able to conceive, that by inserting ourselves into one or the other country of the Middle East we are making a statement to every other country in the area. The ability to handle more than one thought at a time, and an aversion to bumper sticker slogan communication, is promising in itself. The ability of this administration to work on difficult problems with the best interests of this country in mind as an ideal is absolutely thrilling.

Without the simple abandonment that President Nixon committed in Vietnam, the president shows his inclination to do what he can to help the invaded countries put back together working governments, then leave.

It's way overdue but he has gained a good deal of respect for the way he's going about it from a lot of the countries of the world. With support at least in principle - and he appears to have some - we can begin to undo the damage done by eight years of criminal misconduct.

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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Who was it said: Stay out of land wars in Asia? MacArthur?

Anyway, what we euphemistically call the "middle east' (east of Suez?) is, geographically at least, Southwest Asia.

part of that land mass against participation in military adventures wherein we have long been enjoined to abstinence...

12:34 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Land wars in anyplace probably are good to abstain from, actually. Let's throw in South/Central America and the Ollie North mercenary types, too.

3:43 AM  
Blogger Taru said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


7:35 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Thanks, Joannah, nice to have you along.

11:52 AM  

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