Monday, November 21, 2011

America as Middle East's Wallflower

The last couple of days have been chock-full of events and reports that make it clear: as far as the Middle Eastern "room" is concerned, the US has gone from 2-ton gorilla to wallflower.

OK, OK - "leading from behind" in Libya was perhaps an exception to that.  But as far as the US is concerned, Libya is so "yesterday."  And don't be surprised if Obama/Clinton work hard to distance themselves from the ever messier situation there, as the militias who fought and suffered (especially at Misrata) to eradicate Qaddafi now are proving reluctant to play nice with the Provisional Government.  Even if Libyans now seem ecstatic to see Qaddafi gone, the US may soon look back to his era as the good old days when Libya was stable, and ruled (however badly) by the devil we knew.

And as Patrick Cockburn points out, Libya was a cakewalk compared to finding some solution to the bloody mess in Syria, where (as Anthony Shadid has pointed out) sectarian war is blooming.  American/Western supremacists (like Lee Smith at Billy Kristol's the Weekly Standard) are calling out Obama, and calling for imposing a no-fly zone.  More realistic commentators (like Doug Bandow at the National Interest) point out the hubris of any proposed American attack on Syria.  Odd that Kristol's writers promote ousting a regime that Israel's leaders fear to see vanish (again, Bashar is that devil they know).

Egypt is now in its third day of liberal+Islamists protests against the military junta that imposed its control after ousting Mubarak.  The elections there - which were set to begin this week - are imperiled.  Liberal/progressives may want them held up anyway, as the Muslim Brotherhood stands ready to dominate them.  In any event, it's all beyond the US's ability to control events.  And if the SCAF junta is ousted somehow, and a government more responsive to popular will takes charge, the US will be largely reduced to the role of a window shopper with nose pressed to the glass, looking in, but most assuredly from the outside, even as such a government takes steps to distance itself from Israel - and the 1979 peace treaty - even more.

Same goes for Iraq, where the mess that George W. made in Mesopotamia gets even messier as US troops continue a withdrawal much lamented by Kaganites and other neocons.  The US military's departure from its base near Kirkuk has ratcheted up tensions between the militaries of the Baghdad central government  and the Kurdish Regional Government - while (bless their hearts) our intrepid entrepreneurs at ExxonMobil have stirred the pot even more by signing oil production deals with the Kurds, despite the fact that Iraq's government has yet to conclude a national oil law that will govern the distribution of oil profits.  Leave it to US Big Oil to undermine the efforts of US troops who teamed with Arab and Kurd forces over the last couple of years  in order to promote cooperation between them.  The same corporations who poured big bucks into the election campaigns of the Bush-Cheney team that got so many American soldiers (and Iraqi people) killed in Iraq while helping install "democracy" (or did they?) under Maliki and his predecessors now thumb their noses at that same (still fledgling) government, whose own prospects (Exxon knows) hinge on Exxon's participation in developing the southern Qurna oilfields. 

And now (as Nicholas Pelham suggests), is America's most steadfast pal in the Arab world - king Abdullah II of Jordan - poised for a fall?

Elizabeth Monroe once wrote of Britain's "moment in the Middle East" as spanning 1914-1971.  It may not be premature to plan a companion piece, on America's moment, 1945-2011.

No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)