Washington's tergervisations these past several days over the Arab popular revolutions have unveiled the core American attitudes toward the Middle East. Unwittingly, we have let the veils drop one by one as we perform an artless improvised dance around the serial crises.
Here is how I sum it up.
1. The United States has been a patron power of the status quo. In the current setting, we are transformed into a reactionary power. All and sundry from the Arab 'street' to the Arab divan see that. Only the American political class doesn't. Only they believe that that jerry-built structure is seismic resistant.
2. The underlying reason is our three obsessions: Terrorism, Iran and Israel - as alluded to in an earlier post. Nothing that is happening has made the slightest qualification in that mindset. Hence, we quietly bless Mr. Saleh and the Bahraini royal family as we did Mr. Suleiman and the fading memory of the dying Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Gates did not fly to Bahrain to bid a fond farewell to anyone but rather to be in on the establishment of a GCC protectorate to keep those Iran inspired Shi'ites in their deferential place. From now all, all our rhetoric bout democracy & freedom in the region will cause acute digestive revulsion.
3. The Obama fear of the unknown is palpable in our abandonment of the Libyans to the tender mercies of Ghadaffi. We could not be moved by the surprising Anglo-French prod; we could not be moved by the shocking display of Arab League unity in calling for what we do not want to do. At ease with one's own shamelessness makes it all quite easy.
4. Most distressing to me is that we have settled on this course not through a process of deliberation but through inertia. That inertia is conceptual and temperamental. I doubt that Obama personally has the courage, imagination or personality to embark on something new and untried and risky. He just wants it all to go away - as with the BP oil spill, the financial crisis, and anything else that distracts him from the preoccupation of playing President as long as he possibly can. And there are no creative strategists within hailing distance to suggest otherwise.
5. For a decade, we have looked like players of a bizarre arcade video game where the goal is to shoot yourself in the foot as many times as possible. Extra points for a disabling injury. At this pastime, we are nonpareils.