The Arab Spring and US Credibility in the Region

Occurring within a week of each other, two recent deaths illustrate gracefully the Janus-faced nature of American political ethos.

I am writing of the deaths of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, and Libyan dictator Mouammar Ghadafi. The former was a 16-year old American citizen, the latter a one-time client of the United States.  Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the son of Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki, who died from an American drone attack a few weeks ago. Abdulrahman died the same way. On the other hand, Ghadafi was captured by the rebel forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC). He later died under rather mysterious circumstances.

The Obama administration claimed victory in both cases. In reality, both deaths illustrate on different levels the extent of American paranoia and deception. Enough has been said about its inexplicable execution of the teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Washington Post obtained his birth certificate to confirm his age. Barack Obama has successfully gained for himself the most radical executive power of all, more than the Constitution or the Bill of Rights ever sought to prevent.

Mouammar Ghadhafi was once the friend of the United States. Human Rights Watch’s Johanne Mariner pointed out the obvious:

“One remembers Reagan’s efforts to confront Qaddafi decades ago: the 1986 missile strikes, the skirmishes in the Gulf of Sidra, the labeling of Libya’s leader as the “mad dog of the Middle East,” and of Libya as a rogue state.

But the line that one is tempted to draw between U.S./Libyan relations then and U.S./Libyan relations now isn’t straight.  While Qaddafi is now despised as an enemy, for much of the past decade he was treated as a friend.

In 2006, announcing that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held up Libya’s leadership as ‘a model’ for others to follow. Qaddafi’s glaring violations of human rights—which, in 2011, gave the U.S. cause for military intervention—were not simply overlooked during the Bush years; they were exploited.”

I’ve written about the implications of such exploitation, as have others. So where is the United States headed? The Arab Spring, among its list of impressive achievements, has also circumvented much of the rhetoric of the War on Terror. Not only has it made Al Qaeda almost irrelevant, it has exposed the hypocritical nature of U.S. policy vis a vis the popular uprisings.

After all, the U.S. claimed Mubarak’s regime as “stable” when it was under severe pressure in February. The U.S. continue to back the corrupt and violent regimes of Bahrain and Yemen, only to see the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to one of the most vocal leaders of the latter country’s opposition movement. It is starting to lose its hold on the region altogether.

And let us not forget the biggest time bomb of all. Every year, the United States gives more than $3,000,000,000 US to the state of Israel. It is a practice in aid-giving that has even established pundits scratching their heads. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, along with its burgeoning demography problem may force it to enter a serious national crisis within a decade.

How will the United States deal with these changes?


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