Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

How do you think Barack Obama has done with regard to the uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa over the last year plus?


  1. Egypt: B- (Was behind the ball, stood by Mubarak too long, is regaining footing on the back end but still could do better)
    Tunusia: B (Small country, minimal US input)
    Libya: A- (More support on the backend, but minor complaint)
    Syria: Undecided
    Bahrain: D-

  2. I think these are areas that politically they could have hurt him but they were not likely to help him much. So given that, I think he's done rather well. Its hard for me to see how he could have done much better. In terms of the effects in that region, I think "leading from behind" isn't a bad strategy as it makes it harder for the regime in power to insist that the rebels are puppets of the U.S. which I think can make our efforts in such places a mixed bag.

  3. Mostly OK, not stellar. Syria is not looking so hot; there's a lot of people dying under what is really one of the worst of the regimes. However, Syria is fraught with more problems, vis-a-vis it looking like us doing Israel's dirty work for them.

    Honestly, like Hunter, I'm undecided on Syria. I'm not happy with it, but I'm not sure there's a better way.

  4. Pretty good all things considered. One of the big problems in our current discourse about American foreign policy is the absurd disconnect between what we expect out of the Arab world and the actual possibilities. Reminds me a lot of the lead up to the Iraq War when we were told over and over again that once we got rid of the bad guy Saddam Iraq would turn into a neo-Conservative paradise where Iraqis would vote to establish a perfect democracy, recognize Israel, embrace free market economics and privatize their natural resources. All while holding hands, and singing and endorsing George W Bush for the Nobel Peace Prize (okay that was a bit of an embellishment). Of course what happened was a little bit different: a total collapse of a society’s most basic institutions and violence that would kill hundreds of thousands of people.

    Thus we are shocked, yes shocked, when it turns out changing the political framework of a nation of 80 million odd people like Egypt is a little bit difficult and reforming a dictatorship like Bahrain is fraught with complex problems. This is nothing new, the so called “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon was pitched to us not just as an expression of Lebanese nationalism, no it was explained to us as a radical change in Lebanon that would soon result in, heard this one before, a perfect democracy that would recognize the state of Israel, privatize their resources and get rid of Hezbollah. Of course that’s not what happened. The same thing could be seen with the elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006 or the war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah (you can take this as back as far as you like).

    Greg Sargent’s colleague Jennifer Rubin has recently been on a tear denouncing the Obama Administration every time a sliver of daylight appears between the policy positions of the United States and Netanyahu then writes blog posts denouncing Obama for “not doing more” on the whole Syrian situation. The fact that the differences between what Netanyahu wants and what Syrian people “want” is totally lost on someone as smart as J Rubin says a whole lot about where we are.

  5. We've had a view here that we don't want to be the policemen for the world. When you see things like Syria, it makes it hard but where do you stop once you decide to fix everything everywhere. i think he's done fine with a difficult situation.

  6. Was skeptical of Libya at first, but we managed to topple the regime without putting troops on the ground, and therefore not having much to do with the recovery. Cost/Benefit works out.

    It seems clear that the cost/benefit isn't going to work in Syria the same way. It's a humanitarian crisis, but we're not going to topple the Assad regime with just an aircraft carrier off the coast of Syria.

    As for Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt, I don't have any real complaints. The U.S. can't just outright abandon regimes we are allied with, even if we like the democratic movement opposing them. Obama has struck a solid balance in each instance.

  7. Poorly on Egypt, well on Libya and Tunisia. Israel has been a policy disaster for 20 odd years, mostly thanks to the stupidity of Congress, which insists on regarding a strategic burden as a valuable ally. No change under the Obama administration, but it's hard to blame him completely for this sad state of affairs.

  8. Egypt and Tunesia - We looked a bit silly, but the people were determined to be masters of their own fate.

    Libya - Undeclared war. Pro: Gadhafi's gone. Con: Gadhafi's gone?

    Syria - It now seems unlikely that we will support an air campaign, much less send in ground forces, but we are supplying small arms to the rebels. The outcome will nonetheless mirror Iraq -- lot's of bloodshed and the eventual expulsion of the Christians by force and terror.

  9. could not have done better, under the circumstances.

    and btw, if democrats were as shameless as conservatives they'd be asserting his 2009 Cairo speech as pivotal in bringing democracy to the world's largest arab nation. sure, it wouldn't be any more true than the fairy tale that Reagan brought down the Berlin Wall, but it wouldn't be any less true either.

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  11. F

    We've learned nothing from the disaster in Iraq.

    One of the greatest kept secrets of American politics is that the anti-war left is actually correct about foreign policy.

    1. We don't learn from mistakes... Even really really big ones.


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