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Monday, November 30, 2009

Hope and change Getting along

The 2009 Pew Global Survey of attitudes toward the United States has been published and - surprisingly to some - it's not a whole lot different than the 2008 survey.

Fouad Ajami notes:
It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America's decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.

Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn't seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that's reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.

Mr. Obama's election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.
By the way, Israel wasn't surveyed in 2008, but in 2007 it was 78% positive on America, and in 2009 it has dropped to 71%.

Ajami recounts a lengthy list of reasons why the Arab world has stopped applauding Obama. They include Iran (where he refuses to take sides), Iraq (where he has walked away in essence), Afghanistan (where he is trying to walk away), India and Pakistan (where he has walked away) and even the home front (where he refuses to acknowledge President Bush's achievement in keeping the United States safe from terror for seven years after 9/11, and where - Ajami doesn't mention this - he is creating the conditions for a new terror attack with the insistence on holding a civilian proceeding in New York for the 9/11 planners).

In the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl notes that discontent and disappointment with Obama go beyond the issues of war and peace in the Middle East:
For the reformers, a big signal came this month in a speech Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered in Marrakech, Morocco. Clinton was attending a session of the Forum for the Future, a body the Bush administration established at the height of its pro-reform campaign. The idea was to foster a dialogue between Western and Arab countries about political and social reform that would resemble the Helsinki process between the West and the Soviet bloc during the 1970s.

Clinton began her speech by referring to Obama's call in Cairo for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities around the world." She then said that after consulting with "local communities" the administration had "focused on three broad areas where we believe U.S. support can make a difference."

These turned out to be "entrepreneurship," "advancing science and technology" and education. As if citing the also-rans, Clinton added that "women's empowerment" was "a related priority" and that "the United States is committed to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East." The word "democracy" appeared nowhere in the speech, and there was no reference at all to the Arabs who are fighting to create independent newspapers, political parties or human rights organizations.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian who is one of the best-known Arab reformers, was part of a group who met Clinton after the speech. He told me that he tried to point out to her that "the next two years are crucial" for determining the political direction of the Middle East, in part because Egypt is approaching a major transition. Parliamentary elections are scheduled in 10 months, and their results will determine whether a presidential election scheduled for 2011 will be genuinely democratic. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's 82-year-old ruler, is under pressure to retire; if he allows it, a truly competitive race to succeed him could pit his son Gamal against diplomatic heavyweights such as former foreign minister Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- not to mention Ayman Nour, who was imprisoned for three years after challenging Mubarak in 2005.

Clinton, said Ibrahim, replied that democracy promotion had always been a centerpiece of U.S. diplomacy and that the Obama administration would not give it up -- "but that they have a lot of other things on their plate." For Arab liberals, the translation is easy, if painful: Regardless of what the president may have said in Cairo, Obama's vision for the Middle East doesn't include "a new beginning" in the old political order.
And Jennifer Rubin points out that disappointment with Obama goes far beyond the Middle East to other regions:
Arab liberals aren’t alone. “No new beginning” is really the message of the day in China, Iran, and Russia, too. Human rights have been downgraded. The message is clear that thuggish regimes need not clean up their acts to enjoy robust relations with the U.S. In fact, we won’t even embarrass them or challenge them when our president arrives. They can breathe easier as they proceed to imprison, censor, and brutalize their own people.
But Obama has probably made more of a mess between Israel and the 'Palestinians' than he has anyplace else. This is Ajami again:
Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many "peace plans" that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity—statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism—Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.

The Obama diplomacy had made a settlement freeze its starting point, when this was precisely the wrong place to begin. Israel has given up settlements before at the altar of peace—recall the historical accommodation with Egypt a quarter century ago. The right course would have set the question of settlements aside as it took up the broader challenge of radicalism in the region—the menace and swagger of Iran, the arsenal of Hamas and Hezbollah, the refusal of the Arab order of power to embrace in broad daylight the cause of peace with Israel.
Jennifer Rubin sums up:
It’s not exactly what starry-eyed Obama fans around the globe expected. They thought they were getting someone in Obama who’d motivate young people, cajole old regimes into reforming themselves, and tout the blessings of freedom. They thought all that hope-n-change stuff might apply to them. Instead they have a cynical crowd in the White House who imagines that its role is to be as inoffensive as possible with despotic regimes and avoid confrontation. “Getting along” is now the watchword. “Hope and change” are out.
Indeed they are. What could go wrong?


At 6:34 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obama's idealism has changed into the status quo. For someone with grand dreams, it hasn't changed much in the world... nor much of its contempt for America.


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