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Obama: A Clay Pigeon?

11:22, March 01, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

Isn't Barack Obama the most powerful figure on the globe? Yes, considering that he has the strongest nuclear arsenal, the most effective military, the best technology, and a tantalizing commitment to the noble goals of liberty, democracy, and individual rights.

But there are limits to his power, as is discovered by the White House itself in dealing with the insurrections in Egypt---- it could be that something completely unforeseen will occur: whether the resignation of Hosni Mubarak will spawn more turmoil, and whether a more democratic government will take over or anti-American forces of radical Islam will exert more influence and cause even more instability in an already volatile region in the post-Mubarak days.

In reality, what the protest movements sweeping the Mideast will turn out, and what will be the outcome of the dynamic situation in the region, seems all beyond the control of the Obama administration. The problem for Obama, as for any president, is that events have a way of outrunning the power and preferences of the White House. No matter how savvy and wise Obama may be, he is inevitably bogged down into the morass of his foreign policy, or more specifically, the U.S. ambitious "Greater Middle East Initiative" (GMEI).

As expected, Washington is wavering between the Left and Medium Line, and in the process trying to shrug off the color of being Left and turn to the Middle road in an effort to secure its image as the defender of American values. President Obama is facing the similar dilemma in his domestic and foreign strategies, now that he intends to seek after his second term and is preparing his presidency defensive campaign next year.

On the one hand, he fears to be accused of standing on the wrong side of history, or standing on the opposite side of "democracy" and "human rights"; while on the other, he fully realizes the fact that if Egypt became another Iran, his presidency would embrace a natural death.

Meanwhile, what is more noteworthy is that some "White elements" are still working in the so-called Western Civilization----namely aggressiveness, interference and the controlling, if not bullying, mindset. Just take a glance at the scenes of overjoyed American reporters swarming the Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate Mubarak's fall, you will believe the Western Civilization did play an insidious role in the upheavals of Egypt, and it is the mentality of Might-is-Right that churned the River of Nile.

Then back to America's "Gretaer Middle East Initiative", the GMEI is part of the U.S. endeavor proposed by the former president George W. Bush and his administration to further U.S. and Israeli interests in the region. The thinking behind the GMEI is that if the governments of the region are more "democratic," "open" and "free," their populations will more readily accept US policies and, perhaps, Israeli policies.

But if given it a closer look, this initiative is found actually based on two false assumptions. The first is that widespread distrust of and hostility toward the United States is based on ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding. In fact, anti-American sentiment is an entirely understandable consequence of, and reaction to, destructive and inhumane U.S. policies in the Middle East. Not only in the Middle East, but around the world, distrust of the United States has been growing because U.S. policies, especially in the Middle East, increasingly conflict with the interests of other countries. Put it in other words, the U.S. has long built its gains upon others' loss, and secured its own interests at the cost of others in the region and elsewhere.

The second false premise of the "Greater Middle East Initiative" is that "free," "democratic" and "open" societies will automatically be more friendly to the U.S., and more accepting of American and Israeli policies.

Recent experience suggests that the opposite is true. In countries where popular sentiment has been able to express itself politically, the government is usually more anti-American. This is true not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

It is time for the U.S. to flinch, as the super power's preeminence over the Middle East region, an area that it has been coaxing, scolding and spending, and still remains vital to its national interests, has been dramatically shrinking. It might be a bitter perception for the U.S. to realize that this is also an area where the superpower has actually few friends beyond Israel and a coterie of authoritarian Arab rulers.

The dwindled American clout can be clearly seen in the embattled streets of Cairo and elsewhere. Amid all the upheavals, references to the United States have been conspicuously absent, a sign of what some analysts are already calling a "post-American Middle East" of diminished U.S. influence and far greater uncertainty about America's role.

Some analysts describe the ongoing upheavals as the "Second Arab Revolt", after the first Uprising of Arab nationalists against the Ottoman Empire 1916-1918 during World War I. But this time, the uprisings in the Arab world is not merely to overthrow the authoritarian rule, but to get rid off the U.S. shackles of hegemony and imperialism.

The Obama administration's initial, tepid response to the crisis, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling Mubarak's regime "stable" and Vice President Biden declaring that he didn't regard Mubarak as a dictator, did little to endear Washington to a region that has long yearned for its independence of the U.S. influence.

Thierry Meyssan, a renowned French political commentator, and also author of the famous book "Big Lie", was invited recently to the top three political shows on Russian television to present his analysis on the insurrections in the Arab world.

He believed it is incorrect to liken these movements to "Color Revolutions", which the U.S. incited respectively in Georgia and Ukraine. And he added such manipulations are not bearing fruit on the ground. "The demonstrators are standing firm on their demands. What is more, we are witnessing the emergence of a pan-Arab sentiment in opposition to imperialism…At the most, the US can still manage to manipulate the western media to conceal to the world its rapidly declining influence," he was quoted as saying.

It might be too early to predict what the new structure could be like after the revolt recedes in the roaring Arab world. But one thing is almost certain: U.S. would cease to be the dominant power presiding over the region, and its GMEI conception would collapse, and President Obama would prove to be a clay pigeon, or a sitting duck, braving the bitter storms at the Arabian Sea.


The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.

Columnists

Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

John 
Milligan-Whyte 
and
Dai MinJohn
Milligan-Whyte
and
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."

http://english.people.com.cn/90002/96417/7304243.pdf