From ‘Arab Spring’ to grim Arab sum­mer

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

What a few months ago seemed an ir­re­sistible wave of ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions forc­ing a re­nais­sance in Tu­nisia, Egypt and other “mod­er­ate” Mus­lim so­ci­eties, now has been stymied. But the up­ris­ings have had eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences. Other con­se­quences, still un­fore­seen, are bound to come along, but for the mo­ment we can note these:

The blood­i­est of all ret­ro­grade Arab dic­ta­tor­ships, in Syria, is doomed, its re­luc­tant ad­vo­cates not­with­stand­ing. Saudi Ara­bia, chief ex­pos­i­tor of a see-no-evil/hear-no­evil/speak-no-evil for­eign pol­icy, ap­peases and funds it. Wash­ing­ton and Paris cower, fear­ing Bashar As­sad’s demise might lead to some­thing even worse than his sec­u­lar tyranny. Damascus’ strate­gic part­ners — Ira­nian, Le­banese and Pales­tinian Is­lamists — who are us­ing it as a tram­po­line to Mediter­ranean power, can only wring their hands. Tur­key, dream­ing of an al­liance ush­er­ing in neo-Ot­toman glory, is be­fud­dled by an on­slaught of refugees.

Egypt, long Is­lam’s cul­tural cen­ter, flops back into the lap of cor­rupt if cam­ou­flaged mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment. The col­lapse of tourism and crip­pled lo­cal in­dus­try threaten the min­i­mal growth achieved dur­ing the Mubarak era, with the coun­try still fac­ing a yawn­ing de­mo­graphic bulge of unem­ployed young Egyp­tians. Army lead­er­ship, shrewd enough to con­tinue a half-peace with a for­mi­da­ble en­emy, Is­rael, nev­er­the­less flirts with pop­ulist anti-Semitism, while en­rich­ing it­self through pro­tec­tion­ist, crony-state cap­i­tal­ism, rather than open­ing the econ­omy up to in­vest­ment, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and rapid growth.

Pak­istan, the largest self-pro­claimed Mus­lim state with nearly 200 mil­lion peo­ple (iron­i­cally, con­ceived as an Is­lamic mod­ern­iz­ing force at its found­ing in 1947), is im­plod­ing. Its mil­i­tary, the only Pak­istani “na­tional” en­tity, has suf­fered a lethal blow from the uni­lat­eral sur­gi­cal Amer­i­can strike killing Osama bin Laden. The per­cep­tion of im­po­tence and in­com­pe­tence fu­els ris­ing op­po­si­tion to the gen­er­als and their in­ces­tu­ous re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try’s greedy Pun­jabi feu­dal elite. U.S. ef­forts to fos­ter a make-be­lieve, par­al­lel, civil­ian­led demo­cratic gov­ern­ment only feed anti-Amer­i­can­ism. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, buy­ing into the mythol­ogy of Mus­lim vic­tim­iza­tion re­in­forced by the pres­i­dent’s own pseudo-Marx­ian his­tor­i­cal view, has no strat­egy for deal­ing with the Per­sian Gulf na­tions and the power they wield — how- ever hap­haz­ardly — by virtue of their en­ergy wealth.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s mud­dled “al­ter­na­tive en­ergy” poli­cies — not ex­clud­ing last week’s crassly po­lit­i­cal re­lease of Strate­gic Pe­tro­leum Re­serve oil — are ever more ir­rel­e­vant in the face of vast new fos­sil-fuel dis­cov­er­ies, from shale gas and deep­wa­ter drilling to po­ten­tial oil finds in the Arc­tic.

Libya en­cap­su­lates Mr. Obama’s fail­ing at­tempt to wind down Pres­i­dent Bush’s “war on terrorism.” Re­fus­ing to ex­tend the full weight of U.S. arms to NATOs ef­fort against Tripoli risks a re­sump­tion of Col. Gad­hafi’s long his­tory of terrorism against Amer­i­cans. In the bar­gain, the Libyan cri­sis dra­ma­tizes long-ig­nored in­ad­e­qua­cies within NATO, which has be­come in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on Amer­i­can mil­i­tary mus­cle.

Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan­with­drawal an­nounce­ment touched all the do­mes­tic 2012 elec­toral bases, but of­fered no so­lu­tion to the fun­da­men­tal

The pres­i­dent has taken a leaf from Sen. Ge­orge Aikens’ re­jected Viet­nam play­book; namely, “De­clare vic­tory and come home.”

prob­lem — hav­ing taken on Is­lamic rad­i­cals, Wash­ing­ton has not struck the lethal blow. There is no Hitler bunker sui­cide, no Ja­panese mil­i­tarists’ sur­ren­der on the deck of the USS Mis­souri, the Osama drama not­with­stand­ing.

Prob­a­bly un­con­sciously, the pres­i­dent has taken a leaf from Sen. Ge­orge Aikens’ re­jected Viet­nam play­book; namely, “De­clare vic­tory and come home.” That ap­proach, later re­cast by Pres­i­dent Nixon and Henry Kissinger as “a de­cent in­ter­val,” failed, de­mor­al­iz­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary and un­der­min­ing do­mes­tic self-es­teem for a gen­er­a­tion.

Ef­forts to con­tain the spread­ing Is­lamist virus in Ye­men with U.S. Spe­cial Forces drops armed with un­manned ve­hi­cles en­sure the fight will con­tinue long af­ter the in­sid­e­the-Belt­way “de­bate” over coun­terin­sur­gency vs. coun­tert­er­ror­ism once again goes out of fash­ion. Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, a coun­terin­sur­gency cham­pion, soon will be charged with clan­des­tine war­fare as the new head of the CIA. What­ever Gen. Pe­traeus suc­cess at Lan­g­ley, Mr. Obama or his suc­ces­sor at 1600 Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue can­not long avoid the ba­sic prob­lem, elec­tion or no elec­tion: pro­tect­ing the U.S. from rad­i­cal Is­lamic terrorism.

Among na­tions, as among in­di­vid­u­als, there are self-ev­i­dent long-term trends, of­ten cat­a­clysmic, but with un­fore­seen trip­wires for set­ting in mo­tion the de­noue­ment. At the mo­ment, notable among these trends is the con­tin­ued fail­ure of mod­ern­iza­tion in the 1.3 bil­lion-strong Arab/Mus­lim world.

Sol W. San­ders writes the 'Fol­low the Money' col­umn for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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