What Was He Thinking?

zogbyI do not make a practice of using this space to express my disagreements with other columnists, but a piece last week by Abdul Rahman al Rashid was so off the mark that I cannot let it pass without comment.
Writing in al Sharq al Awsat, al Rashid takes US President, Barack Obama, to task for being indecisive and giving the impression of being weak. Where has Obama exhibited these traits? Al Rashid, not unlike former US Vice-President Dick Cheney and other neo-conservative critics, identifies both the President’s delay in deciding on future US troop levels in Afghanistan, and demonstrations of what he calls signs of weakness in the face of North Korean and Iranian intransigence. To be fair, unlike Cheney and company, al Rashid throws into his mix criticism of Obama’s failure to stand up to Israel’s settlement program.

But mention of Afghanistan and Israel appear to serve as mere punctuation marks designed to give emphasis to al Rashid’s main concern and that is Obama’s supposed failure to stand up to Iran’s efforts to play games with demands regarding their nuclear program. Now, al Rashid is justified in finding Iran’s behavior frustrating and irksome, and he can, as an expression of his irritation, criticize the US President’s performance on this issue and others. That is fine by me.

What is unacceptable and wrong, and even bizarre, is for al Rashid to make the claim that Iran would not be getting away with this type of behavior if George Bush were still US President!

During the past month, we were all forced to endure a flood of press commentary claiming to evaluate Obama’s performance at yet another supposed milestone – this being the one year anniversary since his election. Words like “disappointing” and “fading star” were all too often used to describe the first 10 months of the new President’s term. In commentaries of this type that appeared across the Arab World there was growing, and some justifiable concern, that the “change” Arabs had hoped for and that Obama’s Cairo speech seemed to promise, might not be in the offing any time soon.

But with the exception of Dick Cheney and Co., and now Abdul Rahman al Rashid, no one with a straight face has dared make the comment that anything might be better if George Bush were still in office.

It is more than fair to offer criticisms of President Obama’s handling of a range of foreign policy issues. But the criticism should, at least, make an effort to be sober and reality-based.

To begin with, it is important to acknowledge that when Obama won the election last November and took the oath of office 10 weeks later he was not handed a magic wand. Instead, he was handed the shovel his predecessor had used all too vigorously to dig deep holes in many parts of the world. George W. Bush’s neglect of some critical issues and the reckless adventurism displayed in his approach to others, created the world Obama inherited.

What the new US President has to contend with is a world where precisely because of the rigid ideologically-based policies pursued by Bush in the Middle East and beyond we face:

- two ongoing wars that have taken thousands of lives and drained over one trillion dollars from the US treasury. And despite being unfinished, there a growing sense among analysts and the public, alike, that at least one of these wars (Afghanistan) may be unfinishable;

- an emboldened Iran whose tentacles now reach into Iraq and more deeply than before into Lebanon, Palestine and even, it appears, Yemen;

- an equally emboldened and increasingly hard-line Israel which feels entitled to obstruct US efforts at peace-making and feels confident that it had sufficient support in the US Congress to withstand the pressures of any US President;

- the bitter fruits of a reckless “victor/vanquished” approach to resolving rivalries between our allies and their foes, wherein our allies came out defeated and/or weakened; and

- a US more isolated in the world and facing a resentful Europe, an ascendant China, a resurgent Russia, and a veritable revolt across the Americas.

And so I think it is only too appropriate to ask what exactly is it that George Bush would do to confront the damage he has done, other than to dig a deeper hole?

Would he launch another war, in a region where we have our hands full with two, and the US military leadership is warning that they are hard pressed to find sufficient troops to fight the wars we are in? Would he attempt to mobilize the international community to support pressure leading, if necessary, to sanctions – and would he be any more successful at this than Obama, who is working to earn the support needed to make this happen? Or would he merely talk tough, make threats, and then pursue policies that only embolden Iran’s hardliners and inflame anti-American passions?

What Obama has done is to eschew hollow tough talk and chart, instead, a different course. But changing direction takes time: time to assess the damage done and plot a new strategy; time to rebuild trust and mend frayed relationships with needed allies; and time to break the back of adversaries’ bad behavior.

When he became President, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas didn’t surrender their hard line views, nor did Benjamin Netanyahu. The Taliban didn’t put down their arms nor did the US public fall in love with a war they want to end. The economic crisis continues to grow as do federal deficits, putting constraints on new spending.

The point, in other words, is that Obama inherited a mess that was largely the creation of George Bush. What on earth could possess anyone to suggest that they would want him back?



Washington Watch is written by AAI President James Zogby. You can share your views on the topics by emailing jzogby@aaiusa.org




Comments (5)  

0 #1 COMMENT_TITLE_R E What Was He Thinking?Morceli 2009-11-30 00:38
As a Moroccan, I think that George Bush did more for Morocco than any other US president. Bush was the first president who clearly favored the Moroccan proposal for autonomy. Remember " Serious and Credible"?
Bush always used Morocco in speeches as model of Arab in the Arab world.
Bush handed Morocco the Free trade Agreement that Algeria and others can only dream of
Bush handed Morocco a billion dollar via the millennium challenge.
Bush made Morocco non member Nato Ally.

Why did Obama do for Morocco? nothing, zero, zilch.

So far he sent couple of letter to M6 and that's it.

Do we also remember that Bush was the first US president who clearly stated that that the Palestinians should have their own state?

Of course Bush screwed up taking Cheney and Ramsfeld advice, but what do you expect a C average president to do. One day on a beautiful Tuesday, 2 planes hit the world trade center killing 3000 innocent people, one hit the pentagon and the 4th was on its way to the white house??
Do you expect him to sit and wait for Bin Laden to kill more innocent people?
Bush rid the people of Iraq of a brutal dictator and his two killers sons , the baat party, that's a good thing for Iraq.
Bush reacted to what happened to America, and America was pissed that's the reason American voted for him for a second term. I voted for Clinton, Gore and Obama.

Yes, if Bush was still in power he would eventually had given the Green light to the Israelis to bombard Iran. I would rather have Natanyahu on my side than some freak called Ahmadinajad?
Do you know that Iran was and still arming the Polisario? Since Morocco was the host of the Shah of Iran? Thanks to Israel, Morocco is getting information that would otherwise had never brought to light.

As for the Palestinians, they need to form a united government, they cannot have a Hamas government and Fatah government expect something good comes out of it. For as long as they are killing each other, that gives more time to the Israelis to build more settlements and take more Palestinian lands.

In regard to Afghanistan, I don't see why Obama will be sending more troops when he voted against the war in Iraq. This only mean one thing, Decisions are not taken by him, he is under pressure to do what others are telling him. He is delaying sending the troops to tell American people that he thought very hard before making this hard decision.
I think that The Pakistanis government is weakened and the reason the US troops are there is not Al qaida but to prevent the nuclear weapons from falling in the wrong hands. That's a short term solution, the US will need to look for long term solution and find a way to let the 100 million Pakistanis that the US is not against Islam.
Making a speech in Cairo is not the solution.

Moroccan Patriot
0 #2 Obama is no different than Bush. That is NOT a complimentMoroccan Patriot 2009-12-02 03:02
Obama was elected on a platform of change.

A year after his election, we can all clearly see that nothing has changed.

Guantanimo is still open. He promised to close it.

The illegal war in Afghanistan continues, and instead of withdrawing our men and women from this quagmire, he has committed 30,000 more soldiers. There are no US national Security interests in Afghanistan. Men and women are dying so that we can maintain the drug trade, build an oil pipeline and continue the fight against Islam. None of these actions is truly in the interests of the United States. We are simply wasting money and resources, continuing a war that was started because of the false flag attacks of 911.

The economy is still a mess. Unemployment is over 10%. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Billions in Tarp money have been wasted. Billions have gone to prop up the very companies that have all but destroyed the US economy. The dollar is in free fall. Countries and institutions all over the world continue to divest from the United States because of our wars without end policy.

Tuition has gone up in most Universities, making higher education unaffordable to almost everyone who is not willing to join the military and go murder Muslim women and children.

Our consitution lies in tatters. The Patriot act is still on the books. It has not been repealled. The US is still something of a facsist state. Police continue to murder minorities in cold blood all over the country with impunity. The fourth amendment has all but been striken from the bill of rights. Americans are subject to intrusive police actions in the form of seat belt laws, cell phone laws and even no smoking laws. Judges who try to halt the advances of facsism are ostricized.

The media has been co opted. There is no longer a fourth estate to keep the rest of society in line. The enquirer is the most read newspaper in the United States. If you want to know what the lie of the week is, going to CNN or Fox news is the place to go. Nothing written by either of this organizations is based upon fact, nothing is vetted. Journalism is dead.

We continue to have the highest number of citizens in jail of any developed nation. Instead of building schools, we are busy building jails. Instead of drug treatment, the CIA is in the business of securing access to areas where drugs are grown. In Columbia and Afghanistan, we are actively selling illegal drugs.

We have all but declared war in Pakistan. The poor pakistani people are being murdered by their own govts. armed forces, and those that escape pakistani forces are murdered by American drones.

Nothing has changed.
Faris Ben Abdel-Allah
0 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E What Was He Thinking?Faris Ben Abdel-Allah 2009-12-02 03:05
The president Obama was elected to bring the medical care to all citizens and was not elected to send young people to war.
Faris Ben Abdel-Allah
0 #4 COMMENT_TITLE_R E What Was He Thinking?Faris Ben Abdel-Allah 2009-12-02 03:11
The president of United States Mr Obama was elected to bring the medical cover to all citizens and was not elected to send young people to war.
0 #5 Obama needs more time B.Rahali 2009-12-26 19:15
President Obama is not Bush.He is clearly and incomparably more intelligent than his predecessor.Oba ma has inherited massive challenges domestically and internationally .He is dedicated to change but he needs time as he is a realist not a magician.
Now people like this Adul Rahman al Rashid are pro-Saudi regime and obviously hoped that Bush was still here to start another unnecessary war on Iran.Al Rashid still does not understand that no president in America is for life.They come and go and that is why change is necessary in life.His daily Al sharq Al Awsat is still being published because it has the backing of the Saudi royals.If it was really independent it would go busted ages ago.This al Rashid is certainly no wise judging by his name.He is one of the key figures that dragging the free press backwards and will never say a bad word about his masters in Saudi Arabia.Thanks God, a tiny small country called Qatar is courageously refusing to be bullied by its big but impotent neighbour .Their media empire is admired worldwide for its true and unique crusade in endeavouring to bring Arab officials out of darkness into modern world.Al Rashid is definitely seeing green.

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