Saturday, April 2, 2011

Obama's Schizophrenia: The Divided Mind of the American People

Foreign Policy in a democracy is dictated in part by what the voters are willing to support, or in the long run, tolerate.

Meaningful interventions into foreign conflicts, however, must rely on more than the supple will of the majority. Imagine if the United States had elected to stay out of World War II? For years, isolationist sentiment gripped the American public in shunning another American foray into foreign war. Yet the outcome, the downfall of the Nazi onslaught and termination of Japanese aggression in the Pacific more than compensate for the loss of life and treasure which the United States endured as an Allied Power.

Fast forward to the first decade of the Twenty-First Century. The Jasmine Revolution is sweeping out the Arab dictators of old in a ground swell of freedom. However, the United States' interest in this massive movement is complex. We support democracy, yet we also prize stability. Reliable dictators who promise peace with allies, even though they terrorize their own people, are less objectionable than freely elected terrorists who threaten our allies and our way of life.

The uncertainty of regime change in the Middle East is rendering many Americans double-minded. Yes, democratic reform, but not with the result of radical elements taking over in the Middle East with the expressed intent of destroying the United States, Israel, and Western values in general.This tension between idealism and realism has fostered a particularly long-running strand of political schizophrenia in the American electorate, infecting even the heads of state.

Yes, protect oppressed peoples throughout the Middle East. Yes, impress upon them that the United States supports their efforts to win greater freedoms and respect for their rights. However, will our republican idealism whither away in the face of more rigged elections, another crop of cruel strongmen, and increasing menace on the Jewish State?

Now that the Egyptian people have cast off their thirty-year President Honsi Mubarak, Israel and the United States face a crisis. Egypt, one of the few Arab states to have signed and honored a peace treaty with Israel, one of the few Arab states actively fighting terrorist cells and keeping at bay Islamicist groups, may fall out of the United States allied orbit and instigate chaos throughout the region. The world has yet to see if such a dire projection will come to pass, or if the Egyptian people will hold peaceful elections and establish a stable democratic government.

For many, the record of transition from dictatorship to democracy--the democratic process itself-- in the Middle East is not promising. After nine months of infighting, the Republic of Iraq has barely established a power-sharing coalition in Baghdad. In 2009, the Iranian people endured the fraudulent "re-election" of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a political robbery which nation-wide protests could not deter; moreover, President Obama refused to speak out against the rigged results, leaving oppressed people powerless to effect any legitimate change.

Then there is the sobering 2005 elections in the Gaza Strip, which gave the illegitimate organization Hamas a legitimate mandate to rule. From its inception, throughout its campaign up to its electoral victory, Hamas has been openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish State and imposing Sharia law throughout the world, starting with their little corner of Palestine.

The American People are duly circumspect about the the political turmoil which may result from the encroaching Jasmine Revolution.

Diplomatic deliberation must bear out a coherent policy, whether of intervention or isolation. If the United States will send military personnel to Libya, then why not Syria, a more crucial player in Middle Eastern politics? If we are committed to meaningful and lasting regime change throughout the region, then why did President Obama rescind funding to support democratic reform in Egypt? How can the President separate protecting Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi, yet at the same time take off the table any interest in effecting regime change in Libya?

Then there are the calculations which factor in the domestic outcomes of extended military operations. The American people want freedom to reign supreme, yet they seem reluctant to invest more men and money on behalf of Middle Eastern freedom fighters. Are we committed to protect our own interests, too? At all? In any way possible? Are we willing to risk more American lives and dwindling resources into military expeditions with no clearly discernable end in sight?

Above all, any decisive results in the region will depend on decisive action from the United States, for the Arab states must make the moves that will make them or break them. Ultimately, Obama's foreign policy Schizophrenia is fundamentally a reflection of the ambivalence of the American people to regime change in the Middle East, whether it will bode well for worse, whether the cost of intervention is feasible of sustainable.

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