Arab Spring

A barren tree, once full of life
Stands leafless, brown ice in gloom
A barren tree, once full of strife
Stands not a spark, not a flower in bloom
A barren tree, once full of promise
Stands in sorrow, a promise but for tomorrow
As for today, not a leaf dares there stay

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The United States, Israel and Democracy

In an opinion piece to the Washington Post ( content/article/2007/09/20/AR2007092001959.html), Michael Gerson reflexively charged John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt with anti-Semitism for authoring the newly published “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”. In his piece, he quotes them as writing ‘the "Israeli government and pro-Israel groups" have shaped President Bush's "grand scheme for reordering the Middle East." He then goes on to show that the pro-Israel Lobby as well as Israel are both opposed to Bush’s democratization efforts in the Middle East and thus Mearsheimer and Walt must be wrong. But the authors’ assertion is, in fact, diametrical to Gerson’s presentation of their views. Mearsheimer and Walt make it clear that the Israel Lobby and the neoconservatives, which overlap considerably, both pushed for an invasion of Iraq to protect Israel’s supremacy in the region.
Gerson's commentary is disingenuous and purposefully misleading, confusing different trends during the Iraq war and immediately thereafter to create a fog in the collective memory as to what has occurred. The pro-Isreal lobby consisting of AIPAC and the many neoconservatives that have worked in this administration was at the forefront of the war on Iraq. This is Mearsheimer and Walt's main assertion. The attack on Iraq was viewed by the neocons as the emasculation of another Arab country, perhaps, the most threatening to Israel. Famous words "the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad". Talk of democracy by the Bush administration didn't start but half a year into the war when it was apparent that the sundry reasons given for the invasion of Iraq were nonexistent. No weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, no threat to American interests, the Bush administration began to tout its pro-democracy credentials. But even that has quickly stopped, at the behest of AIPAC and the Israel Lobby, when Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood made gains in their respective elections.
Precisely because of the Israel Lobby, the United States stands against democracy in every Arab country and props up important Arab regimes such as Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco with financial support as well as intelligence vital to their survival. Democratic Arab movements, both secular and Islamist, have been crushed by Arab autocrats with the help of the United States, this too arguably for Israel’s benefit. The pro-Israel lobby knows that a democratically elected Arab government can never sit idly by as Israel occupies 5 million Palestinians and subject them to mass imprisonment and starvation.
The United States support for Israel is not about a moral obligation or even a realpolitik calculation. The Palestinians have been occupied for the last 40 years by a powerful army and in full view of the international community. The synergistic mix of the conflict in the Middle East and US support of Arab Autocrats has had a detrimental effect to American interests in the Middle East and beyond.
Mr. Gerson is right about Israel and the lobby being against democracy in the Middle East but he is wrong about the reasons why the United States invaded Iraq and the timing of the pretext of democracy. The United States has always been theoretically for democracy but this administration’s actions speak louder and its special relationships with the Mubaraks, Abdullahs, and Musharrafs of the world belie a much more cynical agenda.


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