Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Revolutions Restate Region's Priorities
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 29, 2011
As the Arab Spring continues to challenge dictators, demolish
old structures and ponder roadmaps for a better future, the US remains
committed to its failed policies, misconceptions and selfish interests.
Arabs may disagree on many things, but few disagree on the fact
that there is now no turning back. The age of the dictator, the Mubaraks
and Ben Alis is fading.
A new dawn with a whole new set of
challenges is upon us. Debates in the region are now concerned with
democracy, civil society and citizenship.
The only Arab
intellectuals who still speak of terrorism and nuclear weapons are those
commissioned by Washington-based think tanks or a few desperate to appear
on Fox News.
Put simply, Arab priorities are no longer US
priorities, as they may have been when Hosni Mubarak was still president
Leading a group of "Arab moderates," Mubarak's main
responsibility was portraying US foreign policy as if it was at the core
of Egypt's national interest as well.
Meanwhile, in Syria, Bashar
al-Assad was caught in the realm of contradiction. While desperate to
receive high marks on his performance in the so-called war on terror, he
still sold himself as a guardian of Arab resistance.
When the US
took on Afghanistan in late 2001, the term "war on terror" became a staple
in Arab culture.
Ordinary Arabs were forced to take stances on
issues that mattered little to them but which served as the backbone of US
military and political strategy in the region.
The Arab man and
woman - both denied rights, dignity and even a semblance of hope - were
mere subjects of opinion polls concerning Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and
other issues that hardly registered on their daily radar of suffering and
The Arab dictator exploited the US obsession with its
security. Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh had to choose between a hostile
takeover by the US - to "defeat al-Qaida" - or carrying out the dirty war
He opted for the latter and was soon to discover the
perks of such a role.
When the Yemeni people took to the streets
demanding freedom and democracy, Saleh sent a loyal army and republican
guards units to kill al-Qaida fighters, whose numbers suddenly exploded,
and also to kill unarmed democracy protesters.
straightforward but shrewd act was the equivalent of an unspoken bargain
with the US - I will fight your bad guys, as long as I am allowed to
Libya's Muammar Gadaffi exploited US priorities as
well. His regime's constant emphasis on the presence of al-Qaida fighters
in the rank of the opposition received a fair amount of validation in
Gadaffi went for the jugular in his desperate
attempts at wowing the West, even suggesting that his war against the
rebels was no different to Israel's war against Palestinian "extremists."
The strange thing is that the language spoken by the US and that
by Arab dictators is largely absent from the lexicon of oppressed,
ordinary Arabs aspiring for their long-denied basic rights.
are not unified by the narratives of al-Qaida or the US. They are united
by other factors that often escape Western commentators and officials.
Aside from shared histories, religions, language and a collective
sense of belonging, they also have in common their experiences of
oppression, alienation, injustice and inequality.
The third UN
Arab Development Report, published in 2005, surmised that in a modern Arab
state "the executive apparatus resembles a black hole which converts its
surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and
from which nothing escapes."
Things didn't fare much better for
Arab states in 2009, when the fifth volume in the series stated: "While
the state is expected to guarantee human security, it has been, in several
Arab countries, a source of threat undermining both international charters
and national constitutional provisions."
A Time magazine story
published in May was entitled How The Arab Spring Made Bin Laden An
Afterthought. It seemed to celebrate the collective, secular nature of
Arab revolutions when it reminded readers that "there were no banners
hailing Osama bin Laden in Egypt's Tahrir Square, no photos of his deputy
Ayman al-Zawahiri at anti-government protests in Tunisia, Libya or even
The truthful depiction, reproduced in hundreds of reports
throughout Western media, is still deceitful at best.
The fact is
that the al-Qaida model never captured the imagination of mainstream Arab
Arab revolutions didn't challenge Arab society's
perception of al-Qaida, for the latter had barely occupied even a tiny
space of the collective Arab imagination.
revolutions are yet to truly challenge the official US perception of the
An Arab Attitudes 2011 survey was published last July by
Zogby International. It communicated unsurprising views of six Arab
nations, including the fact that Barack Obama's popularity among Arabs had
sunk to a new low of 10 per cent.
When Obama delivered his famous
Cairo University speech in 2009, many Arabs saw that US-Arab priorities
were finally meeting at some points.
But the fact that US policy
didn't go on to shift an iota in any favourable direction made Arabs
realise that US policies were fixed.
The US continued with its
wars, its support of Israel, and its old alliance with the most corrupt
Arabs discovered - or rediscovered - that not only
were there no meeting points between their aspirations and US policy, the
two were actually on a collision course.
It is normal for the US
to conduct its policies in an oil-rich region like the Middle East based
on a set of clear interests and objectives.
But what has in fact
been taking place is the complete hijacking of Arab aspirations and the
national interests of most Arab countries to fit US priorities.
With the help of Arab dictators, Washington's unclear, misguided policies
brought untold harm to Arab nations. Now millions of ordinary Arabs, whose
priorities and expectations were so completely discounted, are showing
they are no longer willing to accept that reality.
- Ramzy Baroud
(www.ramzybaroud.net) is an
internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom
Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on