Saturday, February 12, 2011

Middle East: Opinion: US Arab policy

Al Jazeera

PJ: The author has a critical look at US Middle East policies as the crisis in Egypt unfolded. From the comments following the article, it looks like the Obama administration has its work cut out for it in trying to reshape America's image in the region and around the world.

U.S.-Egypt: Cookie-Cutter Cuisine
By Eric Walberg

"Quiet tourist backwater Tunisia under its only rulers since independence -- Habib Bourghiba (1956-1987) and then Zein Al-Abidine bin Ali (1987-2011) -- was a much appreciated ally of the United States. However, as bin Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last month, U.S. leaders suddenly were hailing those who defied his U.S.-trained police with their U.S.-made tear gas and guns, including the 100 they killed.

"Two weeks later, after almost identical developments in Egypt, the U.S. found itself poised to repeat itself, praising the now millions of protesters, including at least 300 who so far have died, though stopping short of pushing Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) to follow his colleague’s steps into exile, fearing the collapse of its Middle East order.

"Now mainstream U.S. pundits strategise about how best to shape the new political playing field to continue to meet U.S. needs. In the New York Times Mark Landler worries about “potentially dangerous directions” for the U.S. He quotes United States President Barack Obama’s new special envoy to Tunisia Jeffrey Feltman on the need to “support pro-democracy forces”, though Daniel Shapiro cautions against “a cookie-cutter ideal of how to approach it”. And Aaron Miller tells Landler they must find the right balance between “identifying the U.S. too closely with these changes” (read: continuing to support the government) and at the same time “not finding ways to nurture them enough” (read: controlling the pro-democracy activists)."

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