Leopards Don't Change Spots, Only Tactics
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Israel Hayom Newsletter
23 September, 2011
President Obama's September 21, 2011 speech, at the UN General Assembly, reaffirmed his world view on global affairs in general, and on the Palestinian issue in particular.
For instance, the President reiterated his, and Secretary Clinton's, assessment that the seismic turmoil on the Arab Street constitutes "transition to democracy," featuring "[non-violent] youth delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship." Obama believes that "the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart."
In reality, the stormy Arab Winter reflects intensified violent power struggles and fragmentation along tribal, religious, ethnic, ideological and geographic lines. In fact, the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood terrorists are gaining momentum in Egypt; almost all Muslim women in Egypt are victimized by female genital mutilation; Al-Qaeda is emerging as a winner in Libya; and thousands of moderate Tunisians have escaped to the Italian Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. In February, 2010, the US elevated diplomatic relations with Syria "because Assad could play a constructive role." The expectation for a near-term Arab Spring could produce another victory of wishful-thinking over experience, yielding a delusion-based policy, which would further traumatize the Middle East.
President Obama highlighted the toppling of Mubarak as a major achievement. He lumps Mubarak together with Qaddafi, Ben Ali of Tunisia and Gbagbo, the ruthless dictator of the Ivory Coast.
In reality, Obama's attitude toward Mubarak reminds pro-US Arab leaders of President Carter's stabbing in the back of the Shah of Iran and the facilitation of the rise of Khomeini. Obama's policy toward Egypt has been perceived by pro-US Arab leaders – all of whom are struggling to survive systematic subversion - as desertion/betrayal and as yet more evidence of the erosion of the US power of deterrence. Obama's yearning for democracy in Arab lands is interpreted, by the Arab Street, as a lethal threat to every pro-US Arab leader and a tailwind to anti-US insurgents.
President Obama takes pride in the pending evacuation of Iraq "at the end of this year" and Afghanistan "between now and 2014." He claims that "the tide of war is receding… we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength."
In reality, the expected evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan is seen by Muslim and Arab regimes as an extension of American retreats from Vietnam and Cambodia (1973), Lebanon (1983) and Somalia (1993), further eroding the strategic posture of the US and emboldening rogue regimes and terrorists. Moreover, the evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan could trigger a series of volcanoes, threatening the integrity of Iraq itself and the survival of regimes in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Jordan, etc. Coupled with the tectonic Arab Storm, the rise of Islamic terrorism, the threat of a nuclear Iran, the increased penetration of the Middle East by Russia and China and the 14 centuries old tradition of Arab fragmentation, violence and terrorism, the evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan may not reduce the warlike atmosphere in the region; it may add more fuel to the regional fire.
President Obama reiterated his Israeli-Palestinian strategy, considering the Palestinian issue to be "a test for American foreign policy." He insists that the issues of the 1948 Arab refugees [which refer to pre-1967 Israel] and[the repartitioning of] Jerusalem should be on the table. And, he applies moral equivalence to the Palestinians – a role model of international terrorism, hate education and alliance with US enemies – and Israelis – a role model of counter-terrorism, democracy and unconditional alliance with the US.
In reality, as evidenced by the New Arab Disorder, the Palestinian issue has never been a root cause of Middle East turbulence, of anti-US Islamic terrorism, of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the crown-jewel of Arab policy-making.Obama's strategy constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to peace. It signals to the Palestinians that they are not expected to pay – and, in fact, they are rewarded - for hate education, 100 years of terrorism and violation of commitments.
Tactically, President Obama decided (in reaction to growing public and Congressional resentment of his attitude towards the Jewish State) to highlight Israel's predicament: "Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it…"
However, one should focus on Obama's strategy rather than Obama's tactic and note that leopards don't change their spots, only their tactics.