FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The US Elections and the Middle East

by RAMZY BAROUD

US elections are manifestly linked to the Middle East, at least rhetorically. In practical terms, however, US foreign policies in the region are compelled by the Middle East’s own dynamics and the US’ own political climate, economic woes, or ambitions. There is little historic evidence that US foreign policy in the Arab world has been guided by moral compulsion.

When it comes to the Middle East – and much of the world – it is mostly about style. The country’s two leading political parties have proven equally to be interventionists. In the last two decades Democrats seemed to lean more towards unilateralism in foreign policy as in war, while Republicans, as highlighted by the administration of George W. Bush, are much less worried about the mere definitions of their conducts. The US administration of Bill Clinton (1993-2001) maintained a draconian siege on Iraq that caused what former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark described as ‘genocide.’ Two years later, W. Bush chose the direct war path, which simply rebranded the ongoing ‘genocide’. In both cases, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died.

Despite the warrior-like saber-rattling by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney about his intentions to transform the Middle East to suit US interests shall he be elected, few would take that as more than despairing attempts at reaching out to the most zealous members and groups of his party, especially those who wield political influence, media access and, of course, funds. The pro-Israeli gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson is referenced more than others, but there are many others who demand such satisfactory rhetoric before reaching out for their checkbooks.

Ultimately, “it’s the economy, stupid” – a phrase that reached legendary eminence after it was coined for Bill Clinton as he unleashed his successful presidential campaign in 1992. Once again, the phrase is likely to be the determinant factor come November 6.

American voters will decide whether to extend President Barack Obama’s mandate by four more years or hand a more impulsive, but equally opportunistic Romney the fate of a country that has long crossed the line of economic recession into uncharted territories since the Great Depression in 1929. Romney, the archetypal American elite with ample wealth, lifestyle and language so detached from the average American is doing his very best to exploit Obama’s failing to rescue the currently tattered, and largely struggling economy. The recovery, despite the hype, is still lacking at best. With a large and growing deficit, and unrelenting government borrowing, prospects for the future remain dim.

“Economic growth has never been weaker in a post-war recovery. Consumer spending has never been so slack. Only once has job growth been slower,” wrote Paul Wiseman, in the Huffington Post (August 15). These were his thoughts on a thorough analysis produced by the Associated Press, which concluded that Obama-championed recovery since 2009 has been the weakest of all 10 US recessions since World War II.

The recession which dates back to 2007-2008, scaled back economic growth, caused massive cuts and cost numerous jobs. Republicans often wish to omit the eight-year legacy of George W. Bush and his colossal military expenditure. It is in these instances that the Middle East becomes a victim of omission, for heedless wars and an unprecedented strain on the economy as a result of them seem too trivial to mention. Listening to Romney rambling about his prospected foreign policy, one gets the impression that another war is already in the making. Destination doesn’t matter, what matters is that Romney appears strong, decisive and ready for a combat at a moment’s notice.

Democrats are focusing their strategy on dividing their campaign messages between the economy (placing the recovery within generally upbeat news of positive economic indicators) and other issues that matter to large sectors of American society: health care, abortion, immigration, civil rights questions, and so on. With the economy continuing to follow an impulsive line of logic, both parties are still busy defining the very problems facing their nation, leaving the task of devising real solutions, if any, to a later date.

The heavy sense of disappointment felt by many Americans is unmistakable. Long gone is the ‘hope and change’ fervor of Obama’s last election campaign. Democrats are no longer offering sensational answers; it’s mostly about braving the difficult journey ahead. Republicans seem more united by their own aversion of Obama than their affinity to Romney. The latter’s lack of consistency, inability to form and staunchly defend a cohesive vision, and clearly expressed disinterest in 47 per cent of American voters (per a leaked video recording) makes him hardly the long-awaited savior. Moreover, disorganized and divided Republicans between traditional conservatives, Tea Party supporters and religious zealots among others are hardly ready for the coveted ‘landslide’, as boldly anticipated by Keith Edwards in the American Thinker (October 02).

The importance of the elections is barely accentuated by the political forte or aptitudes of its main candidates, but by the historic transition that the United States is currently undergoing. This not just within the realm of the devastated economy, but in its global standing as well. Here is where the Middle East mostly fits in: The timing of the region’s own transition – exemplified by ongoing revolutions, political upheavals and civil wars – couldn’t be any more challenging or inopportune. Just as US foreign policy was reconsidering neoconservative war wisdom, momentous events throughout the Middle East are wreaking havoc on an already disorderly American retreat. Unable to completely shift from its militant policy of old, the Obama administration is trying to weather the storm until the elections are over.

In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed on October 1, Romney recharged, with the hope of challenging mounting accusations that see his foreign policy expertise as deficient and misguided. “Our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them,” he wrote, once more demanding action against Iran, even more US support of Israel, and greater intervention in Syria, Libya and elsewhere. His administration, he said, will “encourage liberty and opportunity” to replace extremism in the Middle East.

Although some real differences may be underscored between both candidates on various issues in the Middle East, both are strong supporters of Israel, both tirelessly vying for the backing of the strong pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Obama, however, until now at least, refuses to concede to Israeli demands of agreeing on ‘redlines’ on Iran’s supposed quest for a nuclear bomb. Romney is exploiting that diversion to the maximum.

There is little that Middle Eastern countries can expect from the outcome of the upcoming elections. The region seems propelled by its own dynamics, despite insistent US attempts at intervening or meddling to ‘shape outcomes’ of ongoing conflicts. Equally important, regardless of who will reside in the White House, the sluggish economy and the fear of getting entangled in new military adventures, will likely redefine future US relations to the region.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of PalestineChronicle.com. He is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle  and  “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).


Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail