Thursday, May 5, 2011

Barack's Bin Laden Bounce: How Long Will It Last?

Mr. Obama's poll numbers are up (for now), and some are writing that his re-election in 2012 is assured.  The professorial stripling has become a decisive tough guy.  We can be sure that Fox News, Limbaugh, the National Review, Commentary,  et al. will be searching diligently and desperately for chinks in his armor.

Events in the Middle East over the next few months will likely provide them - and in today's Haaretz, Ari Shavit previews what he believes those events might be - and in the process, sets up some talking points with which the American and Israeli right can chip away at Obama's newly acquired eminence:
One problem is Iran. The Arab spring has caused a situation in which no Sunni power except for Saudi Arabia now stands in the way of the ayatollahs. The revolutions in Arab countries have also improved the economic situation in Tehran by pushing up the price of oil. Improved strategic and economic positioning allow Iran to rush toward a nuclear reactor and erode America’s hegemony in the region.

Turkey poses another problem. In mid-June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to win reelection in a landslide victory. Right after that, the temporary respite he’s granted himself will end. Encouraged by the scope of his mandate to govern, this ambitious Islamist will try to build a neo-Ottoman Empire. He’ll work with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran to undermine the U.S. foothold in the Middle East.

The third problem is Palestine. As everyone knows, another Black September is in the offing. Palestinian Authority President Mohammed Abbas is provoking Obama by his plan to undermine Israeli stability with the expected international recognition of a Palestinian state and his reconciliation with bin Laden’s supporters in Gaza. If a Hamas-Fatah government leads to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s disappearance from the scene, the result will be the collapse of American’s peace policy.

The fourth problem, Egypt, is the most severe of all. Egypt is likely to go bankrupt by the end of the year because of the loss of income from tourism, the strengthening of the army’s monopoly and the new government’s inability to be anything other than populist. Mubarak was bad? The White House will be longing for him way before Christmas. The economic growth he created will contract. Poverty will turn into shortages, shortages into despair, despair into protest. The army will not be able to withstand the disappointment and rage.

Egypt will become a black hole.

Personally, I find it difficult to paint Turkey's Erdogan as an Islamist fellow-traveler with the likes of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran (and I'm curious that Shavit didn't complete his evil quartet by adding Hezbollah to the mix).  Erdogan has made it plain that he respects Turkey's officially Kemalist-secularist ideology enough to not give Turkey's military cause to step in.

Whatever the particulars about Turkey, it's obvious that Shavit is choosing to put the most dire possible spin on the course of near-future events.  All of the fear-monger words are there:
  •  Iran's "ayatollahs" who want to "rush" toward a nuclear reactor;
  •  Erdogan as an "Islamist" set on building a "neo-Ottoman empire" and working with "terrorists" (not Shavit's word, but come on . . . .);
  •  the Palestinian president working with "bin Laden's supporters in Gaza" (even though both Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, have disavowed the Osama/al-Qaeda violent global jihadist model),
  •  Egyptians moving inexorably to "despair" and "rage" ("rage," of course, being something to which Muslims and Arabs are especially prone).

And as if on cue, Mr. Netanyahu wants to remind us all (on CNN, at that) that, with Osama out of the picture, it's the 70-something, ill Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, who  " is infused with fanaticism," that now threatens to destroy the world.
"If the Iranian regime gets atomic bombs, it will change history," . . .  the "future of the world -- the future of the Middle East -- is certainly at stake." . . . .  "The biggest threat is the possibility that a militant Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons -- or that nuclear weapons could acquire a militant Islamic regime,"
And as for negotiating with the newly unified Palestinians, Bibi says he won't talk with a "Palestinian version of al-Qaeda."

As I noted above, all of the talking points have now been laid out for the US and Israeli right - and for AIPAC, CUFI (Christian United for Israel), and, for that matter, the U.S. Congress, before whom, of course, Bibi is set to speak in a few weeks.  Americans' memories are famously short, and with the 24-hour news cycle driving political debate, you can bet that, in no time at all, Obama's post-Bin Laden bounce will be reduced to that of a Nerf-ball.

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