Shadowboxing the Bush Doctrine
Part three of a three-part series
"We seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," proclaimed newly inaugurated President Obama to the world. Specifically, Obama prefaced this statement by addressing "the Muslim world." If Obama can turn his words into policy, then the next four years will be a stark contrast to the last eight. The neocons at the helm of the Bush administration were too focused on their Middle East domino-democracy theory to consider whether their grand plan was respected or in the interest of the people whose countries they occupied. If Obama wants to win the war against the "far-reaching network of violence and hatred" referenced in his speech, then he will have to reclaim the respect our country has lost in the global community, especially in the Muslim world, since our invasion of Iraq.
The cycle of violence and charged rhetoric promulgated by the Bush Doctrine cannot be easily undone. For seven years we have forced our agenda on the world without asking. Our war on terror has pushed the attacks from our shores to the streets of Kabul and Baghdad. The Bush Doctrine has set in motion a cycle of violence that needs to be completely thrown off course, not just held in abeyance, if we are to be safe from the Sword of Damocles that demented men such as Osama bin Laden hold over the free world. If we continue down our current path, there may never be an end to the acts of reprisal, and we may never regain our moral standing in the global theater.
The perfect example of the cyclical war that could continue between the United States and the militant jihadi organizations can be found in the Holy Land. Hamas terrorizes Israel through rockets; Israel bombs Gaza, so Hamas lobs more rockets - rinse and repeat while civilian deaths mount. Israelis insist they are just defending themselves, but killing Gazan civilians only leads to more street-level support for Hamas' defiance of Israel and galvanizes Hamas' recruitment efforts. Israel's pre-emptive and disproportionate responses aren't going to end the cycle of violence; it only adds fuel to the fire.
The United States' foreign policy toward the Middle East must rebrand itself. If Obama's administration aims to truly "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," then it's time we stop paying mere lip-service to the ideals of freedom, equality, and tolerance in our foreign policy. The Bush administration promised democracy and freedom in Afghanistan; now, we are considering giving the Taliban back at least a portion of control in the government. As soon as the neocons could fabricate WMD in Iraq, we abandoned a poor and war-torn Afghan populace to their own fate.
We heralded our policy as progress and a battle against evil; meanwhile, we continue to pay the oppressive Saudi government billions. We consider an Egyptian government that has been in "a state of emergency" for decades, led by an "elected president" who aims to pass on the office of president through nepotism, a democratic ally in the region. We snuffed out the democratically elected government in Iran, ushering in the Islamic Revolution.
If we want the people of the Middle East to believe that the United States is more than the "Great Satan," then Obama must follow through on his promise to promote mutual respect and mutual interests. We must supplant hypocrisy with accountability. The Bush administration chastised - even threatened military force - against Iran and Syria for supporting terrorism, yet we continually fail to hold Saudi Arabia and Pakistan accountable for the Salafi and Wahhabist factions within their borders that provide aid to such terrorist groups as Al Qaeda. Why should the Muslim world trust us when we left the Afghans to the warlords, arm Israel's use of disproportionate force, and turn a blind eye to some corrupt governments while admonishing and sanctioning others?
In the end, however, change in the Middle East must be a homegrown movement; it cannot be forced upon the region. Appealing to the virtues and elements that are established in Islamic jurisprudence or a Qur'anic Sura will foment support faster than forcing Western enlightenment philosophy onto the region. Islamic scholars have written volumes on the importance of acting just and fighting corruption. The Prophet Muhammad wrote one of the world's first constitutions in Medina. Democratic principles should be repackaged as the Islamic concepts of ijma (consensus) and shurah (consultation). The rhetoric must be refocused on local terminology and should embrace Islamic values and culture instead of promoting a clash of civilizations.
Hopefully, Obama will heed his own words, "our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead … our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause."
Originally published in The Daily Iowan
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