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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Reality...If they have freedom they won't like the US

posted by Ron Beasley at 1/12/2005 05:31:00 PM


In his piece in the Asia Times, Street-wise Washington backs off, Ashraf Fahim discusses the reality that is descending on the Bush administration; a truly democratically elected government in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East will not be pro-American.
"We hope, at some point in time, everybody is free."
- US President George W Bush , responding to a question about Iran during his December 20 press conference.

As the above quote indicates, the Bush administration's rhetorical zeal for democracy-making in the Middle East appears to be waning. While "freedom" is still spoken of as the desired end state, it isn't being suggested that its reign is imminent with the same fervor that preceded the Iraq war. As a recent op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor put it, after Iraq, "A crestfallen America seems to have abandoned its idealistic aspirations to the point that it now favors working with the same unsavory regimes that promise the chimera of stability."

To a degree, the return to realism is a reaction to the sheer trauma of the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq. But it may also reflect heightened uncertainties about what will emerge in Iraq and the wider Middle East as a result of democracy's promotion or imposition. In Iraq, the United States is now caught between an insurgency and a theocracy, and both are broadly anti-US, because most Iraqis oppose US policies. The potency of Iraqi nationalism, which fuels the insurgency, has been a stultifying reminder to US policymakers that the popular will won't necessarily comport to US strategic interests, especially in the narrow and one-sided way they are currently defined.
As we are all painfully aware the Iraq war was based on a multitude of faulty assumptions.
The US neo-conservatives had built their campaign for instantaneous democratization on two erroneous assumptions: that the nationalist, anti-US policies of such states as Ba'athist Iraq, Syria and Iran defied the popular will; and that regional violence is the product of tyranny and failed societies more than unpopular US policies. Bush has swallowed the second assumption whole. "The root causes of terror and hatred ... is frustration caused by tyranny," he said last Friday.

Those two assumptions have unraveled in Iraq, where the US is, for once, up close and personal with the mythical "Arab street" and discovering both that it is just as nationalistic as the former Iraqi regime, and that wariness of US intentions is destabilizing Iraq more than the dysfunctional nature of Iraqi society - a microcosm of the regional dynamic.

The results of a poll by Zogby International conducted in November in five Arab countries on the subject of reform confirmed that people in the region are far more interested in a change in US policies, such as unequivocal support for Israel, than US assistance in democratizing. In fact, the Arab-Israeli conflict ranked second in issues of importance, while such issues as expanding democracy ranked near the bottom. In no country polled did a majority want US help democratizing (in Saudi Arabia, only 1% did).
So there is little interest in "democracy" and a great deal of interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict. I think many of this knew this a long time ago, unfortunately the delusional neo-cons in charge did not. But as much as they may hate it "reality" is intruding. The experience in Iraq has resulted in a re-evaluation of policy towards Syria and Iran and less bellicose rhetoric from the administration. The Iranian gas deal by a Halliburton subsidiary may be a part of this new policy.
Analysts say that the agreement may be more than just business and part of a larger diplomatic effort to convince Iran to abandon plans it may have to develop nuclear weapons.

Sean Murphy, a law professor at George Washington University, told RFE/RL that US laws that prohibit firms from working in certain countries usually allow for exceptions to serve diplomatic ends. He said the US may be using the Halliburton deal to send a positive signal to the Iranians.