Obama, Romney Spar over Middle East
By Nidal Sakr
President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney’s final debate on foreign policy seems contrary to first one where Obama seemed more aggressive and assertive while Romney seemed more defensive and reserved.
Unlike first debate, however, Obama is not likely to bounce up in the polls as Romney did, albeit the significance of finishing debate series strong. Both candidates discussed wide foreign policy spectrum but hardly discussing any US foreign policy towards Europe, Africa, Latin America, or Asia, aside from Afghanistan and Pakistan while touching on economic relations with China.
Middle East and Muslim countries, on the other hand, captured most of 60 minutes of the 90 minutes duration of the debate.
What it Actually Means
In the Middle East both candidates mentioned Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Israel, in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while no mention was made to other volatile areas such as Myanmar, Somalia, and political instability in Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, or Yemen.
As expected this foreign policy debate seemed nothing but rhetorical, and to understand it one needs to go beyond what is said to what it actually means.
The apparent ignorance of Romney about everything and anything Middle East and grouping all "Islamists" in one "extremist fanatical" group is a reminder of Bush's complete absence from the decision making process over Mideast strategy during his tenure. Ironically, Obama's mention of Romney's endorsement of Dick Cheney tells that Romney's tenure, if it were to happen, will be no different than Bush Mideast blunder.
Both candidates disguised their intentions towards Syria with their eagerness to end human toll brought about by the Assad regime. Of course no mention was made to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
|It looks that US insists on taking the less painful road of being irrelevant to the Middle East rather than living up to the responsibility of its actions.|
Obama seemed to sugar coat US early failure in handling the Egyptian Revolution, and lied about Mubarak tanks crushing people in Tahrir, which did not happen. That is not to say that people where not shot dead in Tahrir or run by police trucks and armored vehicles elsewhere. In Egypt, it does matter who killed protestors, be it police, military, or possibly "foreign agents." Of course Obama failed to mention that the largest toll of any single incident throughout the Egyptian Revolution was none but the one in which US diplomatic van ran over protestors killing 17 and injuring 23.
US military got involved in Libya simply because it is Oil rich and Qaddafi was not as valuable to US as Assad is. Although not oil rich, Syria is much more strategically significant than Libya. Fall of Assad will put in jeopardy that calm on the Israeli borders and will also threaten the sectarian regime US installed in Iraq.
US: Irrelevant to ME
Syrian human life to Americans is a well justified price to ensure weakened divided and "harmless" Syria, so internal war of attrition is very much desired regardless to what is spoken.
Romney was courageous enough to mention US view of the emerging Muslim Brotherhood rule in Arab Spring countries as threat, thus stressing American notion of selective endorsement of democracy.
Judging on from what we have seen, it looks that US insists on taking the less painful road of being irrelevant to the Middle East rather than living up to the responsibility of its actions in destabilizing the region, and long supporting ruthless dictators.
On the other hand, the apparent lack of credibility in US intentions in the region calls on both people and the newly emerging democratic governments of the Arab Spring to be both cautious and reserved as to rushing towards warmer relations with the US.
Some suggest that a second term Obama will show more resolve towards helping in solving some regional crisis.
As an "Arab Springer" I suffice to say, America was the last thing on my mind when I put my life on the line to correct countries' path, and reshape people's future.
Nidal Sakr is board member of the International Islamic Committee for Human Rights, the US Commission on Civil Rights and ACLU, and a founding member of US Election Reform Coalition and Broward Bill of Rights Defense Coalition.