Monday, December 04, 2006

Tipping point: Coming to grips with failure in the Middle East

David Seaton's News Links
Today, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, "If I were an average Iraqi, obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying: 'Am I going to see my child again?' The society needs security and a secure environment for it to get on. Without security, not much can be done - not recovery or reconstruction." There is a moment when failure becomes 'official', a moment when Paul Krugman asks, "How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bully’s ego?" This moment is called the "tipping point", when people start running for the doors. Many Americans have trouble realizing how bad things really are at this moment; the American managerial class, mostly lives cocooned in the comfortable banality of the suburbs, . But in the Middle East, where rich and poor... they are all of them staring death and chaos straight in the face, every day... for them, all this is all very real. At bottom I think both Americans and the people of the Middle East thought the USA was much more powerful than it really is. All of us still lived with the image of the omnipotent America of the 1950s and 1960 in our heads and together we are having to face the truth. Only facing that truth is a much more serious business in the Middle East than in an American suburb. DS
Mideast allies near a state of panic - Los Angeles Times
Abstract: Instead of flaunting stronger ties and steadfast American influence, the president's journey found friends both old and new near a state of panic. Mideast leaders expressed soaring concern over upheavals across the region that the United States helped ignite through its invasion of Iraq and push for democracy — and fear that the Bush administration may make things worse. President Bush's summit in Jordan with the Iraqi prime minister proved an awkward encounter that deepened doubts about the relationship. Vice President Dick Cheney's stop in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, yielded a blunt warning from the kingdom's leaders. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's swing through the West Bank and Israel, intended to build Arab support by showing a new U.S. push for peace, found little to work with. In all, visits designed to show the American team in charge ended instead in diplomatic embarrassment and disappointment, with U.S. leaders rebuked and lectured by Arab counterparts. The trips demonstrated that U.S. allies in the region were struggling to understand what to make of the difficult relationship, and to figure whether, with a new Democratic majority taking over Congress, Bush even had control over his nation's Mideast policy. Arabs are "trying to figure out what the Americans are going to do, and trying develop their own plans," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), one of his party's point men on Iraq. "They're trying to figure out their Plan B." The allies' predicament was described by Jordan's King Abdullah II last week, before Bush arrived in Amman, the capital. Abdullah, one of America's steadiest friends in the region, warned that the Mideast faced the threat of three simultaneous civil wars — in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. And he made clear that the burden of dealing with it rested largely with the United States. "Something dramatic" needed to come out of Bush's meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to defuse the three-way threat, Abdullah said, because "I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and visit the problem in early 2007."(...) Expressing deeper unhappiness with the United States, leaders from Jordan, Egypt and Persian Gulf countries told Rice during her trip to an economic development conference in Jordan on Friday that the U.S. had a responsibility to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which they and many analysts viewed as the key to regional stability. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, urged greater U.S. action, warning that the Middle East was becoming "an abyss…. The region is facing real failure." READ IT ALL

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