Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama and the Muslim world

Fouad Ajami, a well-known Mideast expert, interprets Obama's TV interview on Al-Arabiya as confirming that the United States will return to its long-standing policy of getting along with Mideast dictators. "Where Mr. Bush had seen the connection between the autocratic ways in Muslim lands and the culture of terror that infected the young foot soldiers of radicalism, Mr. Obama seems ready to split the difference with their rulers. His embrace of the 'peace process' is a return to the sterile diplomacy of the Clinton years, with its belief that the terror is rooted in the grievances of the Palestinians."

Ajami acknowledges that Americans are tired of foreign problems and preoccupied with economic difficulties, but he warns: "This war was never a unilateral American war to be called off by an American calendar. The enemy, too, has a vote in how this struggle between American power and radical Islamism plays out in the years to come."

Obama, like most Americans, seems to believe reflexively that if you 'make nice' with someone, that someone will 'make nice' with you. That may often work here at home, but it can wreak havoc in foreign policy. (Just ask Bush about Putin's soul.)

Nor is it useful to assume that others are motivated by the same economic or political interests that we are: Hamas and Hezbollah don't want to cut a deal with Israel, they want to annihilate it and drive all the Jews into the sea. New special envoy George Mitchell is about to learn that there is a world of difference between the Mideast conflict and that of Northern Ireland, where he successfully brokered a peace agreement. Let's hope it doesn't take him too long.

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